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Creating Design Challenge Workshop in Ann Arbor

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This morning from 10am to noon we had 7 participants from southeastern Michigan attend our inaugural workshop on Creating Design Challenges. We had a good mix of both school and public librarians as well as experience levels.

A collection of documents (rubrics, methods, and slides + a shopping list of materials we used!) is located here!

DesignChallengeGame

We started the day off with a short (or “tiny”) Design Challenge based on our Making in Michigan Libraries-created Design Thinking Game. By chance, we were creating something to help a mermaid organize — but wait, we also had to make sure to not introduce new things as our particular mermaid’s constraint was that she didn’t like new things!

MermaidLegoDesignChallenge

In small groups our participants used a material they were familiar with — Legos — to create organizational inventions for our hypothetical mermaid. As we debriefed and continued to think about the why and the how of design challenges, we also discussed best practices for implementing them and different lengths for different focuses.

BenExplainsDesignChallenges

We then introduced a second Design Challenge with a less familiar — but still inexpensive — material: Strawbees! We changed up our groups for variety’s sake and had participants consider the challenge, prototype, and finally pitch a commercial for the “something to help a fisherman relax”!

StrawbeeDesignChallenge

We had a great time pitching, even showing off a Strawbee umbrella! Look at our complete album of photos here.

StrawbeeUmbrella

If this sounds interesting (or just downright fun) check out our other events coming up this summer!

Frankenmuth Maker Idea Swap and Gathering Financial Support

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On May 8th, we had the pleasure of going to the Frankenmuth Wickson District Library to do a Maker Idea Swap. It was so great to hear about the great programs people are running in their libraries, and learn from their experiences! We accompanied the discussion with a Toy Takeapart activity, so with busy hands and active minds we got to work!

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Our notes from the event can be found here. Thanks to all of the librarians and educators who came out to participate in a fantastic discussion!  33690775884_8b38a6be73_oThen, we spend the afternoon discussing ways to gather financial support for activities or programs that our participants would like to implement in their libraries! The materials for that session can be found here.
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If you are interested in our other events this summer, you can register here!

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Cardboard Challenge @ Benzonia Public Library

The Benzonia Public Library held a cardboard challenge on Saturday, 18th February.

Benzonia Cardboard Challenge

Publicizing Cardboard Challenge

Kids and adults alike went to town on the piles of cardboard stocked up in the Mills Auditorium. This wonderful community showed us that thinking outside the box came naturally to them.

Here are some of the cardboard creations from the event:

Cardbord Giraffe
Cardbord Giraffe
A Cardboard Robot
A Cardboard Robot in the making

It was great to see so much creativity in one place. For more photos, checkout the flickr album.

Decorative: Photo of inside of toy electronic guitar

Toy Takeapart

{Cross-posted from MakerBridge blog}

Over the past few months, we’ve been piloting Toy Takeapart at our statewide MakerFest events and Michigan Makers after-school program. It’s pretty close to a sure-fire hit.

MM Toy Take Apart 11/22/2016

We visit our favorite end-of-the-line thrift store outlet, where we can buy electronic toys for less than a dollar and know that if we did not buy the toy, it would be dumpster-bound within the hour. (That saves us from the guilt of thinking we have grabbed a toy that a needy child otherwise could have used.)

MM Toy Take Apart 11/22/2016

We avoid any toys with a screen — I’m a little anxious about what chemicals could be released if the screen was cracked.

MM Toy Take Apart 11/22/2016

Why toys and not appliances? Toys tend to run on 6 volts or fewer of electricity. Anything that plugs in gets 120V, and that means there can be energy stored up inside that could be unsafe for kids.

MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016

If it’s a public event, we generally set out the toys with a handful of screwdrivers, googles, pliers, and this handout. Without a doubt, when we clean up at the end of the night, the take apart table looks like a tornado has hit. Even though we tell kids and families that they can keep We scoop up anything that is left over. Anything cool and electronic gets saved for future digital jewelry-making. Anything else gets added to the junk box, where it will get a second life inspiring a new invention or creation.

MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016

This year, we are working with third graders after school, and we notice that they have new discoveries and needs different from the 4th and 5th graders we’ve worked with previously. Here is some of what they are learning (and what we are learning about them!):

  1. Many third graders have never used hand tools before. They love the tiny precision screwdrivers and don’t intuitively recognize that they need to pick a right-sized screwdriver for the screw. Tinier isn’t always better — a standard No. 1 Philips screwdriver is often our go-to. (What made us realize this was that we had lost one or two of these over the summer and suddenly we were scrambling to share!)
  2. They’ve never heard “lefty loosy, righty tighty.”
  3. The simultaneous push-down-while-turning dual action of screwdrivers is tough for them to master, especially when they are tackling a new screw. We sometimes have to get them started for them. However, they tend to have high levels of perseverance for removing multiple screws. What facilitates this is that we try to put at least two kids on a toy at a time so they can take turns.
  4. They are less interested in the science of circuitry and more in the wonder of the stuff they find inside. They reacted with enormous wonder to polyfill inside stuff animated creatures.
  5. Speakers are magnetic and much more interesting to them than circuits, capacitors, or resistors.
  6. Cutting wires is more awesome than discovering what components are connected by the wires.

Taking parts home is part of the fun.

I’m tickled to see how many life skills these kids are acquiring as they go on. It’s empowering to master the art of driving (or, in this case, “undriving”) screws. And fascinating to realize we’ve now been in this making and tinkering business long enough to see the different ways kids react depending on their age and experience.

Have you hosted a takepart, wreck lab, or appliance autopsy event?

Kristin

Blank cover for Made magazine

Things Learned On The Road This Summer, Part II

Blank Cover for Made Magazine

Last month, I wrote about some of the things we had learned traveling the state with maker professional development.

This month, I’d like to focus in on one finding in particular: the relative lack of awareness of Make magazine and the ensuing implications in rural and underserved communities.

Partway through the summer, we changed our summative activity that the end of the three-day workshop. Our colleague Amber created a blank parody cover of Make magazine called Made, and we invited participants to imagine that Made was going to create a special issue focused solely on their makerspace. They were asked to provide the cover headlines that would relate to the vision they had worked on during the workshop.

And that’s where things got interesting. Overwhelmingly, only one or two attendees had ever heard of Make magazine.

So what are the implications of this? What does making look like when the flagship publication isn’t a reference point?

Our observations are that without that supposedly canonical reference point, making in libraries and K-12 schools (our two primary audiences) tends to be:

  • the STEM tinkering model of commercial kits, not raw materials put to work to create a personal vision
  • more focus on soft skills
  • less focus on drones and more integration of stereotypically female activities like sewing, quilting, and knitting
  • more focused on low-cost activities that can scale up for groups rather than individual activities that cost $50+
  • less focused on Arduino and professional-grade coding

Do you notice anything similar in your space?

Kristin

Cross-posted from the MakerBridge blog

Photo of maker area at Frankenmuth Wickson District Library

Hello, Frankenmuth!

Edit:

Frankenmuth, a place so beautiful that we were glad it rained one of the days, making us feel better about not missing out on anything. From Bronner’s to the newly opened farmer’s market, there was so much to see and do in this place. We were right in saving it for the grand finale it turned out to be.

On day one, we covered the big picture about making and wrapped the day up with wonderful Hanoch Piven style creations about makerspaces. Day two started with rain on the outside, but it was all sunny in our workshop. Taking inspiration from the cafeteria chairs( which were never meant for a day long session) we designed the chairs of our dreams. We walked through the design thinking process and created prototypes with legos. A fun activity where the creativity and resourcefulness of the participants shined through. We spent the afternoon exploring some hands on activities, tools and the STEM exploration bus from Delta College. We also had the Makerfest at the Frankenmuth Public Library that evening. Thanks to Mary, Pam and Cora(of the Library) and Cindy (who had participated in the workshop at Alpena), we had the library filled to the brim with activities and had the Delta college bus outside(which was a hit among the children). Was very exciting to see the school Lego team and their creations as well as the hack/takeapart station hosted by a member of the community.

On the third day,  we visited the classrooms of elementary school teachers Julie Leach and Tosha Miller (of the TwoSassyApples fame). It was interesting to see the amount of exposure their students were getting and the kind activities being done in the space. They were also kind enough to have a surprise giveaway for one of our participants! After that, we went to the classrooms of the High school teachers Mr. VanArsdale and Mr. Culver. They showed us some great examples of 3D modelling coupled with 3D printing to optimize the casings of the motors on their underwater ROVs. They also had made attachments for a microscope that allowed a student with disability to do her lab work independently. In Mr. VanArsdale classroom, it was reassuring to see the students’ designs and engineering drawings being given the center stage, showing us that the true strength of 3D printing or other fabrication tools lies in 3D modelling skills. A special thanks to both their students who took out the time to come show us their work and the 3D printer they had modified and built from scratch. We ended the day by sharing some strategies on assessment and revisiting the mission from day one.

Working with Pam, Cora and Mary was a truly wonderful experience, and that basement of amazing stuff(not calling it junk) keeps us awake at night with envy. The commitment towards the community you have shows us the true charm of Frankenmuth lies in its people.

Here are some resources that may be helpful:

Photo: Maker Area at Frankenmuth Wickson District Library, Aug. 2016

Houghton Lake

It’s been a couple weeks since our workshop at Houghton Lake ended – but we are still riding high off the thrill of our interactions with the educators and librarians we met there. We were so pleased with how the workshop went, and with the great ideas that were shared there.

We loved the energy of our participants, and their willingness to engage deeply with ideas. The small size of the group allowed for personal conversation and relationship-building and networking with participants. We expect that the great relationships and enthusiastic attitudes we saw during the workshop are going to translate into some exciting new maker initiatives in local schools and libraries!

One of the many highlights of this workshop were the small group activities. We were particularly impressed with the thoughtful, thorough designs we saw during the design-a-bag activity.  The board game activity also allowed the groups’ creativity to shine.

A huge thank you to the Houghton Lake Public Library and our hosts Sarah and Kimberley, and to all the amazing folks who attended and helped make this event a success!

Pickford

Update:

We thank our host Ann Marie at the Pickford Community Library for arranging the workshop. And a special thanks to Chris Smith for the fun session on microcontrollers (and light sabers!) We had a wonderful time in Pickford.

Here are the materials we used:

 

 

Good morning everyone! We can’t wait to see you all again for a great day full of making and experimentation. We will upload the slides later (today is mostly a day of hands-on activities, so there won’t be many slides).

See you soon!

Amber