It’s Black Friday. You know what that means…
No, not braving the hordes of consumers descending on stores around the country. It means it’s MAKER DAY! Instead of a day of shopping, I enjoyed a day of sharing ideas, learning from other educators, and making cool stuff. What more could a STEM teacher ask for?
My friend Kevin Jarrett has been working on an amazing project: creating a student centered ‘digital shop’ class in Northfield Community School. He’s been chronicling this process in a blog, and we’ve all be following along avidly. Now that the project is complete and open for students, he invited fellow Maker Educators such as myself to come spend the day for a Maker Playdate. I’ve been looking forward to this event for ages.
After sleeping off Thanksgiving dinner, I was up early this morning to meet Kevin and Dave Zirkle for breakfast before Maker Day began. After a tasty meal on the waterfront, it was time to start the main event. We arrived at Northfield, shouldered our bags and boxes of Maker supplies, and headed inside for a tour of the Digital Shop. It’s an amazing space, with slatboard walls for hanging supplies and student work on, a television studio, walls covered in whiteboard paint for sketching out ideas, 3D printers, electronic bits and bobs, and much more. Give me a sleeping bag and some space under one of the custom shop tables, and I could happily live there!
Kevin, Dave, and I were soon joined by many others. We had a wonderful group that ran the gamut from teachers to administrators, parents to children. There was something for everyone. People were encouraged to bring projects they were working on, and to both share ideas with others and pick the brains of those attending. We spread out and covered all the tables within minutes, working on everything from robotics to hydraulics, eTextiles, virtual reality, programming, and much more.
In no time at all, the room was packed and the energy was flowing. People were sharing ideas, bouncing problems off each other, and coming up with new lesson and project ideas. Creativity was everywhere, in all different forms. I could have easily spent more than a day with this group of enthusiastic, collaborative, creative people!
In between checking out all the cool projects other attendees were working on, I also spent some time on projects of my own. I worked on version 2 of the lightsaber – this time using EL wire instead of LED bulbs. It looks like it’ll turn out much nicer that way once my purple tubes come in and I work out a new hilt design. I also tried a new lightsaber build using 3D printed parts I found on Thingiverse and a small flashlight from Harbor Freight (OK, my one shopping trip of the day) to make a flashlightsaber. It turned out great, and I can’t wait to make a few more with translucent filament for the blade.
I also worked on a GoPiGo robot kit that I had picked up a few months ago. It went swimmingly, until the time came to test the power pack. Suddenly, everything came to a grinding halt as the power connection failed. Thanks to my friend Jackie, and another attendee Kevin (Not KJ) we were able to determine that the issue was a faulty power switch on the board. Guess I’ll contact the company about getting a replacement. In the meantime, Dave Z. stole the chassis and modded it up with some arduino parts to make it work until I get a new board! Sweet!
After setting aside the GoPiGo, I decided to work on a kit I picked up at Hobby Lobby the other day – a hydraulic arm. The arm itself is made of pre-cut wood parts, and the hydraulics consist of a connection of plastic syringes and tubing. This project went smoothly, and was almost completely assembled by the end of the day. All it needs is to have the hydraulics connected once the glue dries, and it will be ready to go!
At the end of the day, we finally wrapped things up before heading to a local restaurant for dinner and more conversation. It was an amazing day. I loved the chance to not only work on some projects of my own, but also to talk to fellow educators and learn from them. I have so many great ideas to take back to my lab now, I can’t wait to get back to school Monday and start planning some of them out. Many, many thanks to Kevin for planning this event and opening up his space to us, and also to the educators, administrators, parents, and students who joined us for this day of making and learning.
Want to see more of what went on at Maker Day? Check out KJ’s Flickr album!