Northumberland Makers: Building Confidence through Teaching Electronics

The makerspace class at Northumberland Christian School is on mission to explore the world of technology and innovation. We seek to be part of ideas that collide with real-world opportunities. We don’t just want our students to create. We want our students to create with purpose. The things we make, the ideas we are exploring, and a little bit of chaos… All these will be part of our monthly student blog series. The goal is to let the students speak for themselves. Each post will include the work and observations of a student at Northumberland Christian School. They are the makers, reviewers, and tinkerers.

This post was written by Mia Epley.

I began working with littleBits at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. I’m a junior, so at this point I am looking into colleges or tech schools. I realized that I want to be involved with engineering. Taking up a computer programming class would look good on my transcript. However, it turned out to be more involved than I thought. I thought having a small class would make it a breeze. I quickly found out different when my teacher told us we would be presenting to the elementary classes. I found it easy to follow plans giving to me, but I struggled to make plans for these kids.

My teacher gave a presentation to the kindergarteners, while my class and I got to see an example of how we were gonna do this.


I had little experience with littleBits, but I used this opportunity to teach other kids while learning myself. I started off my presentation explaining what littleBits are and the meaning of each color of the parts. The kids were very eager to play with them, which was exciting for me. After I explained how they worked magnetically together, I gave the kids one of each part and let them see what they could do. They were very excited to switch parts with their friends to see what they could create.

Here, two of the girls I worked with had switched parts with each other and were seeing how they could use their power to control their outputs.


I had put the class into groups and this group of boys were working on how to make a circuit to make the fan go. They switched parts with other friends to find the right ones they needed to complete the challenge I gave them.


It was so great to see how smart these kids were and how interested they became in these electronics. Introducing littleBits to this class was a learning opportunity for both me and the kids.

Youth Project: Raspberry Pi Time-Lapse Camera

Hi! I’m Bella Palumbi. I’ve been a member of the Tech Center for almost four years now, ever since I was eleven. In that time, I’ve worked on lots of different projects, including iPhone apps, websites, virtual reality experiences, and much more.

Recently, I made a Raspberry Pi Time Lapse Camera. A Raspberry Pi is little computer that you can program to do almost anything you want. They’re great for small projects because they are cheap, light, and versatile. For my project, the idea was to make a camera that takes a picture every few seconds. You can play all the pictures in a row to see a time-lapse of the user’s day.


The first step in the project was to burn the correct .img file onto the SD Card, which would be inserted into the Pi. An .img is an operating system. I used a program called ApplePi Baker because I was using a Mac computer.

The next step was to prepare all the wiring. I needed to solder together many different components including a button, a switch, a battery, and, of course, the Pi itself. All the wires and components had to be connected in the right way. The Raspberry Pi is very small, and I was actually using the Pi Zero, which is even smaller. So it was hard to be extremely accurate with the soldering iron. I probably spent most of my time soldering and re-soldering the wires!

It’s cumbersome to carry around a jumble of electronics and wires, so the tutorial came with a 3D design file to print a case for the time-lapse camera. The easy part was printing the case. The hard part was fitting all the pieces inside. I spent about an hour rearranging little tiny components in a little tiny plastic box. A couple times, the solder holding the wires together broke and I had to re-solder them. When I finally got the box closed, I was praying that it would work.

It did! When I turned the device on, after it booted up, it started taking pictures every 15 seconds. That didn’t seem often enough, so I took out the SD card, plugged it into my laptop, and brought up the code. By changing just one number, I was able to set the time interval to 10 seconds. Then, I booted up the Pi again. Still too slow. So I set it to 5 seconds. That seemed about right. Just for fun, I also tried a 1 second interval. The LED that blinked whenever a picture was taken was solidly lit now. The Pi couldn’t process fast enough, and was barely able to shut down. Finally, I set the interval back to 5, the number that worked the best.


All in all, it was a fun project. I’m sure there will be some really amazing time-lapse videos of projects that we work on at the Tech Center.

Northumberland Makers: LEGO and LittleBits Birthday Parade Float

The makerspace class at Northumberland Christian School is on mission to explore the world of technology and innovation. We seek to be part of ideas that collide with real-world opportunities. We don’t just want our students to create. We want our students to create with purpose. The things we make, the ideas we are exploring, and a little bit of chaos… All these will be part of our monthly student blog series. The goal is to let the students speak for themselves. Each post will include the work and observations of a student at Northumberland Christian School. They are the makers, reviewers, and tinkerers.

This post was written by Ian Weirick.

Ever since I was very little, I have been fascinated with building things. As a result, I got into LEGO products at a young age. That interest has stayed with me throughout my childhood and remains prevalent in my life to this day. Earlier this month, my class learned that we were entered in a competition and that we had to work on a birthday-themed project. When we decided on the concept to build a celebratory parade, it did not take long for me to decide that these building blocks were the best material for me to use to complete my part.


I began my work soon thereafter, primarily selecting pieces from the large bag pictured on the right. Although I had a few different design variations in my mind, they all shared the same basic features. I would construct a long, thin platform out of the biggest plates I could find, then add wheels under it. Next, I would use pieces to spell “Happy Birthday!” twice to be visible on both sides of the float. I planned ideally to use translucent pieces so I could shine lights through them, and a surprisingly convenient visit to the LEGO store in Philadelphia supplied me with plenty of 1×1 translucent red pieces to use. Below is the result of experimenting with them.


My work to prepare the two sets of words at home stalled because of the lack of sufficient bricks to fill in the gaps. Meanwhile, in school, the float itself was coming along well. The platform and first set of wheels were finished within the first session of work. The picture on the left shows the status of the float after a couple days of building. The platform and the eight wheels necessary to support it are ready to go but still need some tweaking.


By the time I was this far on the float, I had also gotten enough white pieces that I could begin filling in the words for the float. Following several hours of tedious, frustrating manipulation of pieces, each of the two birthday messages look like this:


This second portion of work began when I brought together the two separate LEGO builds at school. I had added walls around the two LEGO phrases to form a three dimensional structure that would fit over the float that had been waiting. Unfortunately, this process became much more complicated than I had expected.


The workspace eventually came to look like the above picture on the right. Several of us worked together to figure out this struggle. Everything was going according to plan until I realized the circuit intended to produce the light would not stretch the length of the entire phrase. This sparked a long series of experiments to see what might possibly diffuse the light most effectively. The two most effective were the ideas of wrapping the middle Lego wall in aluminum foil and cutting up CDs to tape them inside the walls. Below are two pictures of the project “looking sharp” with all its reflective surfaces.



With crisis averted as efficiently as possible, we pressed on to fit the top onto the base of the float, which proved to be much easier said than done. Adding another layer of baseplates did not help much. We soon resorted to duct tape for aid. After several minutes of frustrated pressing, however, the pieces finally stayed together, and our test of the circuit was successful. Now the only part remaining was to connect all our floats to make one big parade.


My class completed the procession and submitted it for our competition. While I am interested in finding out how we did, I am satisfied anyway because of the unique opportunities I had in this project. It is not often that a high school student gets to play with LEGOs in school and actually say he is being productive. The LittleBits were fun to work with as well. Even though I was totally new to them at the beginning of the year, I got used to them quickly and enjoyed being able to combine them with the Legos I have been using for years. This project was very fun for me, and I look forward to the chance to build using these materials again.
To see the whole parade in action check out these 2 videos:

Exploring Electronics during Circuit Adventures


We had a fun time with our Mini Makers this fall as we explored circuits and electronics in the Circuit Adventures course!

We kicked off the program by exploring objects that contain electrical circuits and identifying what exactly was making them work. On our first day we broke apart thrift store electronics like toys, remotes, phones radio’s etc. Youth had a blast tearing these objects apart and were able to identify some of the main components of the electrical circuits.

ca-collage1From there, youth began constructing their first basic circuits in the program. We talked about open and closed circuits and, very importantly, how to avoid a short circuit. Mini Makers also learned what voltage, current, insulators, conductors, and grounds are and why they are important aspects of successful circuits.

These simple LED circuits were also a fun way to try out a variety of switches including push/button switches, toggle switches, and flip switches.


Mini Makers then embarked on an exciting journey into electromagnets and DC motors. Youth used their new skills to make fishing games using paper clip fish and electromagnet fishing poles, shimmying vibrobots, and personal spin art machines using DC motors. In these units we discussed questions like, “What is the difference between direct current and alternating current?”, How does an electromagnet work?”, and  “What is happening inside a motor to make it run?”. We loved seeing kids get to express their creativity and show of their new electronics skills!



Later on in the course, youth had the chance to explore innovative and alternative materials for creating circuits. Mini Makers used conductive ink, LED stickers, and copper tape to make cards for various occasions that could light up at the press of a button.



Now for the fun part, Makey Makey! Over several weeks, groups of youth worked together to develop designs for multiplayer boardgames powered by Makey Makey programmable circuit boards. After collaboratively planning out their game on paper, then constructing the components from cardboard and aluminum foil, students programmed the Makey Makey’s to create a “don’t complete the circuit” game. These games were variations on the classic game “Operation”, but with their own unique twist. Once all the games were completed, we invited older DHF youth, staff, and visitors to come play-test the games.

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For the final project in Circuit Adventures, youth worked together to create a Circuit City. Together, they all planned out what would be included in their city and each individually took responsibility for building different components. Depending on what they were making, students incorporated lights, switches, buzzers, sound, and spinners to bring their cities to life.



Overall, this was an exciting course for us to run with our Mini Makers and we look forward to iterating on it and bringing it back in the future!