Two years ago I bought a MAKE magazine from Shoppers. Looking through it, I was blown away that people of all ages were creating such cool interactive things using 3D printers and microcontrollers in conjunction with more standard DIY tools. Having already spent the last three years of my spare time remodelling my house, I had come to truly appreciate the internet as a source for learning, and then applying that through physically creating something. But MAKE magazine made my tiling backsplash, cabinet building and rewiring look boring; MAKE was showing how to build fun and creative projects that were INTERACTIVE!
Praying that all my house renos would soon be over, I ordered an Arduino kit from the makerstore (visit this store now!). The Arduino is a microcontroller that you plug in a variety of different sensors into. Based on the simple programming you input into the Arduino, the sensors will create situations such as telling an attached motor to turn on, or a light to blink. Watch this video for a great introduction and a run down on the applications the Arduino is capable of.
I will admit that a young child paired with house renos do not make for a lot of sit down time tinkering with the Arduino, so unfortunately I have only spent a minimal time using it. But, while I was, I kept thinking of how amazing this would be to share with my son when he got older, and YES, of course my students.
The big drawback to this was how I could present this into my classroom of 26 students. Several years ago the Arduino cost closer to $70. At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to justify getting a set of microcontrollers for my classroom, as I truly thought my bringing it into the classroom would be seen as an aside by the administration.
Sylvia’s lecture had me so excited, and at the same time, so envious at what teachers are doing with their students across the states. Clearly many schools and school divisions have prioritized technology as a key asset to learning, so it isn’t a huge push to get a 3D printer, or better yet enough computers for a class set, without worrying that a good 1/4 of them won’t work.
That said, I suppose one won’t get anywhere by complaining about the lack of resources, and instead I should focus on how to start getting these experiences into my classroom. I truly pride myself on making my classes relevant and worthwhile for my students’ futures, and after seeing all the amazing examples Sylvia has shown, unless I can do a better job of integrating maker culture in my classroom, I’m letting myself and my students down.
Currently we are using DIY as a platform for constructivist activities in the classroom, which has been a blast. I have also been planning on starting my class on CODE later in the year. The idea was that once students had a better concept of code, we could then take it to the next step by introducing the Arduino microcontrollers, and in small groups, building a coffee can robot, or COFFEEBOT. The plans for making such a robot are free on the MAKE magazine website.
From there students could integrate this knowledge to create other interesting projects.
I’m going to have to pick up a copy of Sylvia’s book ‘Invent To Learn,‘ which she described as being a means for integrating maker culture into current school practices and beyond. I’m excited to see where this book might help in solidifying my own plans.
Sylvia shared a ton of resources, which I want to share below:
Super Awesome Silvia’s Maker Show – Inspiring for both teachers and students, Silvia blows the lid off the idea that programming and tinkering with soldering and breadboards aren’t possible for younger students.
Caine’s arcade – kid build’s cardboard arcade in dad’s shop, overnight becomes one of the poster children for the maker movement. Cardboard is everywhere, so no excuse not to start building!
Maker faire – The greatest show and tell on Earth! Tons of Makers get together to show off their creations. School should be more like maker faire!!!
Thingiverse – Digital Designs for Physical Objects – Essentially a hub for 3D printer files to be uploaded and shared
Raspberry pi – 35 dollar microcomputer. Runs on Linux. Plug in a monitor and a mouse/keyboard, and you’re set! The video on their website is great!
Flora – A Programmable Wearable Microcontroller that you can use in tandem with a whole array of special materials to create clothing that interacts with your environment. FUN!
Scratch programming – Very simple way of understanding the code process. Blocks clip together to create functions. Likely the best introduction of programming to students.
CODE – Amazing website full of pre-made lessons for use in the classroom!
makeymakey.com and conductive materials – Using conductive materials, the makeymakey microcontroller allows one to turn anything into an interactive controller.
Creating these links had me salivating over how much fun I would have with my class!!!!! Now to figure out how to convince my admin we need to start getting in some of this stuff!!!!