Making It Matter



Type: News

Maker Saturday was started with the goal of empowering students with making and tinkering. In an earlier post, we wrote how this year we are focusing specifically on developing a set of “maker skills and dispositions”. One thing we’ve noticed is that some families or children tend to develop an affinity for certain activities. As opposed to varying all of the activities each time, we’re seeing what happens when we use the same activities but alter the challenge.

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Lego Mindstorms
Building robots and tools using Lego Mindstorms is an activity both parents and students love. For the first Maker Saturday we ran an exploratory activity and encouraged free play. We noticed some new interest in Mindstorms and some experimental play from the students and parents that had used Mindstorms before. In addition, one little boy made a controller for his robot which inspired our next activity.

October’s Lego Mindstorms activity involved using prebuilt robots and instead focused on creating and programming ways to control the robot. This activity had very different results. While some focused on creating a controller for their robot, most decided to use a controller that was already built to get their robot through the track. While this developed some interest in robots, it missed the mark on making an impact on maker skill development.

Moving forward, we’re looking towards printing our own manuals and build guides to increase the amount of building that happens with Lego Mindstorms.

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Ozobots
Ozobots are another crowd favorite. September’s Maker Saturday was the first time we unveiled these awesome, line-following robots. We printed out sheets for the commands, covered a big table with white paper, and placed out bins of markers letting parents and students explore. There was a lot of doodling as well as some commands being successfully issued but it needed something.

The next time we held the Ozobots activity we printed out a lot more sheets. This time we not only provided  sheets with commands but examples of racetracks, mazes, and two laptops ready for those willing to code their bots using a Scratch-like programming language. The activity had many visitors with many attempts at different types of racetracks. In addition, a handful of students and parents teamed up to program their Ozobots to move and dance.

We’d like to stress the programming of the Ozobots a little more in future activities.

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Paper Circuits
The first Paper Circuits activity was again, very exploratory. Students and parents experimented with creating circuits using the Circuit Stickers Kit. Different types of circuits were created from greeting cards to glowing robot eyes. The engagement was there but some creations were very similar. With experience running the station and a love of stars,John Kilbane had a great idea for the next iteration.

LED Constellations directed students and parents to create their favorite Astronomic images. This activity was made to show a different way of using the circuits to create things. It inspired many constellations with some students experimenting in creating tiaras. There was even a student who was so engaged they spent their entire 2 hours at the activity.

This activity is becoming a lot more popular and we’re looking into how to incorporate it into activities that help students use these circuits in more novel ways. We also think this may help generate an interest in soldering.

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Keeping Some Variety
While we varied the ways we challenged our students and parents in our other activities we still feel it is important to add new activities. We’re keen on incorporating soldering into a Maker Saturday activity as well as different activities that promote robotics, programming, engineering and so on. In addition, this past Maker Saturday had an activity encouraging the use of creativity by building with cardboard as part of The Global Cardboard Challenge.

For more information about Maker Saturday, how it is organized, and the activities we run, check out our chapter in Future Forwards Vol 3.