An arts-integrated way to study the stars and planets?! Yes, please!
|(And I made a gif?)|
This Makey Makey water piano was rigged up by my amazing friend Tracy Truzansky, of Vermont Afterschool. She is in charge of integrating STEM education and professional development for afterschool staff, and was inspired to rig up this marvel in time for her daughter's birthday.
Her enthusiasm is completely contagious!
Okay, I hear you- So, this looks an awful lot like play... what serious, scholarly learning did you do?
The crux of the week was about Design Thinking. Design Thinking has been written about extensively, but what it distills down to is thinking about solving problems empathetically and creatively. We began our week by considering the needs of a specific person, and designing a chair for that person's needs. One group designed for an astronaut, another for an elderly person, another for a rambunctious toddler, and so on. The group was given a list of the user's needs, and followed precise steps to define the needs, develop ideas, and quickly prototype designs. The end goal is to eventually test out a design, then go back and tweak it for the user.
|The Chair exercise.|
|Three ideas for a chair for Maggie Simpson.|
After that initial all-group morning, we broke off into several days of amazing workshops on tools, materials, and approaches. The first I attended was learning to use a Makey Makey board, which serves as a conduit for attaching everyday stuff to the computer. Anything that is conductive, like Tracy's water cups, or the fruits in the photo below, can be used essentially as a controller to run the computer.
|Playing virtual bongos by tapping an apple and a banana!|
First, taking a class like this inspires lots of play and creative thinking. So at night, my sons and I played with the tools I acquired and tried to figure out what was possible. Here, my son made a controller out of paper, pipe cleaners, aluminum foil, and graphite. Graphite, as in pencils.
Watch carefully, and you'll see that when he taps the word "Piano," written in pencil on his paper, it actually plays the virtual piano on the computer. Crazy. So students would be able to make elaborate drawings and tie them into a circuit to control anything on their computer.
The week was actually full of toys and play. There was a toy-hacking session, which yielded beeping, whirling oddities like this one:
Ben Matchstick, co-deisgner of Pinbox 3000, led us in making our own working pinball machines, out of cardboard. Learning engineering through play? How natural, and very how missing from our curriculum.
|My own city-themed pinball game underway.|
The most outstanding quote from the week was from this slide Ben showed:
"Cut twice, measure once. Fail faster."
There is strong focus in my class on flexible thinking and failure as a path to building creative solutions, so this is a brilliant phrase to repeat often to my students. Cardboard is cheap, easy enough to cut, and a perfect avenue to fail-and-try-again.
Did you say cardboard is easy to cut? Baloney!
The biggest personal learning experience for me during this course was a vastly deepened understanding of parallel circuits. Stop yawning. Yes, you. Electricity adds an undeniable wow-factor to everything students make. A simple circuit with one battery and one LED can light up a single bulb, and in a series circuit you would quickly need more power. But with one battery and a parallel circuit, look what you can do!
|"Press to light up Orion"|