Love to Code & Paper Circuit workshop with Jie Qi at #ISTE17

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This summer I was stoked to be a part of a programmable paper circuit workshop for educators at ISTE. Jie Qi of Chibitronics (and MIT Lifelong Kindergarten group!) asked me to assist at this workshop for educators in San Antonio.

Jie is a huge proponent of adding art to Science and Engineering concepts, and that’s why she is so passionate to develop paper circuit products that are accessible for all learners.

Plus, she knows that blending literacy concepts with art make it engaging and meaningful for learners.

During this 3 hour workshop, participants created their first simple circuit, played with pressure sensors, and programmed LEDS with Make Code ( and beginner Arduino coding). The coolest thing was that these teachers who might’ve been new to paper circuits or coding (or BOTH!) even started to tinker with coding by the end of the workshop!

The magic board in this workshop is Chibitronics new Love to Code board.  It is programmed through the audio jack and NO SOFTWARE is needed to program the board, so that makes it super AWESOME for teachers with different devices and/or teachers who can’t download software to devices.

Check out all the awesome stuff participants made during this ISTE workshop:

Participants even had time to test out the Chibiscope!

I’m hoping I can assist Jie with this workshop again because it combines my love of tinkering with circuits and the Chibi clip makes it so accessible for makers of all backgrounds.

Thanks to Patrick Ferrell, for inspiring me to write this post.  Check out one of his Chibi Clip experiments (and his other 98 ways to blink an LED):

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2nd Grade Design Challenges

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Brown Bag Challenge

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I saw a tweet that encompassed some of my favorite concepts of a maker mindset. In the tweet, Angie O’ Malley, a STEAM educator in Washington(and a FABLearn Fellow), challenged her #elemakers to make robots with super powers ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. (High five, Angie!) By handing kids a simple bag of random materials, students were challenged to create a robot with the everyday materials in front of them.  I loved how she added the context of super powers, because it gave the students just enough direction (and constraint) to all make completely different and amazing robots.

I knew that I had to see what our Mason students would make with this fun challenge, but I also wanted to do this with FIVE different 2nd grade classes. So and I decided to add teaching the importance of recycling and re-use, and told students up front that they would build robots, snap a picture, and then dis-assemble after building so the next group could re-use the same materials.

The robots they made were super adorable. I took pictures and stored them in a Googledoc for each teacher with the intent that students could write about their robots in the future. (I’m also thinking if time allowed, it would be fun to have students make a Chatterpix of their robot describing its super powers.)

Here are some of their amazing creations!

Mrs. Denny’s sweet students wrote me thank you notes for “letting” them make robots in the library.

Designing an Accessible Playground

After seeing Angie’s great tweet about robots, I delved further into her work and discovered her amazing blog: Elementary Innovators.  She has so many great ideas posted, but one that really stuck out was a post about designing accessible playground equipment. Since we might be getting new playground equipment at Mason, I thought it would be great for our 2nd graders to design a new playground that is accessible for ALL of our students.

Using the design thinking process, we discussed user needs and the concept of accessibility. We asked students to brainstorm ideas out loud and on paper, and then sketch out accessible playground ideas.

Ideas included:

  • Lower Monkey bars so a student in a wheelchair could use them
  • Lower Monkey bars with a platform underneath that would move the wheelchair as the user “swung” across the bars
  • Zip line swings
  • An elevator to the slide
  • A moving sidewalk to the Playscape
  • A computer talker – A student wanted a computer so that one of our nonverbal students could tap on the computer to have it speak and tell others where he wants to play.
  • A Wheelchair zipline that lifts the chair safely
  • A lift to put a child in a swing
  • An accessible trampoline- a platform for a wheelchair that bounces the rider while they are safely in their chair.
  • And some students had super complicated ideas that were just plain awesome like this dinosaur with a slide coming out of it’s mouth!

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Listen to this student talk about her design:

A 1st grader's idea for making a wheelchair accessible swing. HT Angie O'Malley ! #storyofmason #designthinking

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Little people have pretty amazing ideas! I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!