DHF Youth Profile: Sierra Seabrease

When Sierra Seabrease first enrolled in programs at DHF in the fall of 2013, she wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in tech. “I wanted to be a traveling photographer for National Geographic,” said Sierra, “I thought tech jobs were boring desk jobs with Microsoft Office. My mom sort of pushed me into it.”

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The group of youth that started with Sierra that fall comprised DHF’s first Maker Foundations cohort. There were sixteen youth in the cohort, only three of which were female. “Me, Steph, and Amber [DHF’s Director of Education and Operations Manager, respectively] wanted to try to increase female retention in programs and sat down to brainstorm different ideas,” Sierra said, “I knew that I had stayed as long as I did because I’d formed a bond with Steph and wanted to find opportunities for other girls to collaborate with staff.” These preliminary meetings led to the formation of the Makerettes, a group of female youth and staff at DHF who meet twice monthly to collaborate on a variety of different projects.

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“I fell off one summer because I was going through some transitional changes in my life and it was hard to come in and do something without knowing what to do,” said Sierra. The Makerettes were a support system that guided Sierra and other girls as they explored different projects. Many of the projects Sierra created have become long-term installations at DHF.

“My final project in Maker Foundations was the Jukebox Piano,” said Sierra, “It’s a piano hacked with Raspberry Pi and MaKey MaKeys to play a song from a selection according to what key is pressed.” The Jukebox Piano was selected for the White House Science Fair in 2014. “It was a huge achievement for me,” said Sierra, “because it was the first time I was getting recognized for the work I was doing.”

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When Sierra became a Member at DHF, she started working on other projects with CNC machine and 3D printing photographs. She also built a photobooth and created an egg bot – a robot that draws on small round objects such as ping pong balls, light bulbs, and eggs. Her jukebox piano, too, went through several different iterations.

“Now, in my internship at Fearless Solutions, I’m doing a lot of software testing and coding,” said Sierra, “We made a map for Hubzones around the world with the small business administration. Hubzones are disaster areas or economic stress areas – if you’re in a hubzone, the government can give you money. I’ve been testing the software with another intern and am learning Ruby to test on my own.”

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This fall, Sierra has begun her freshman year at the University of Maryland where she plans to study mechanical engineering. “My mom says that when I was younger I used to build stuff out of nothing,” said Sierra, “I would make structures out of cardboard and straws and call them UFOs. Now I can build things as a career and I wouldn’t have known that without the support I had at DHF.”

Read more about Sierra in this feature of her work in POLITICO Magazine: How a Young Woman’s DIY Jukebox Caught the Eye of the White House

DHF Youth Organize A Youth Hackathon

We are excited to announce that this year our youth are bringing a hackathon like no other to Digital Harbor Foundation. This hackathon, officially titled Harbor Hacks, is a hackathon organized by youth for youth. For more information and to register visit: http://harborhacks.org

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Harbor Hacks, the Back Story

After participating in several local hackathons, one DHF youth, Bella, noticed that something was missing from these events. Where were all the young makers?

Bella thought that many youth may not be participating in community hackathons because they might not know what to expect at a hackathon. She remembered back to her first hackathon and how her Mom had to keep encouraging her to attend because she was so nervous, she even wanted to back out briefly during the walk to the space. Now, Bella participates in numerous hackathons (and has won a few!) all over Baltimore and came up with an idea to create a hackathon just for youth. This would give young people new to the idea or concept of a hackathon a safe place to experience a hackathon that was designed just for them.

In February, Bella presented her idea for a Youth Hackathon to the Youth Steering Committee at DHF. Our youth split into different committees for the event and went to work planning. Their hard work will be a reality next weekend August 11th – 13th at DHF when the inaugural Harbor Hacks Youth Hackathon takes place.

Register Now for Harbor Hacks 2017
 

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Who Can Participate?

Any youth between the ages of 12 – 18 who like to solve problems, create new inventions, or dream big! Hurry, registration ends August 7th.

We are also looking for a few adult tech coaches to help teams out throughout the weekend, so if you think you might be a good fit, get a coach ticket.

What does it cost?

Registration for students is Pay-What-You-Can and includes a weekend of fun, a t-shirt, meals and snacks all weekend, and some awesome giveaways!

Are there prizes?

Yes! Awesome tech prizes are waiting for the teams or individuals who impress the judges.

Register Now for Harbor Hacks 2017
 

We hope you will be able to join us for a fun weekend!

Baltimore Youth Solve Transportation Problems with Digital Fabrication

Last week, DHF hosted our 6th FabSLAM Showcase as the culminating event for this cycle of the annual digital fabrication challenge. This year, during FabSLAM, Baltimore-area youth were prompted to identify a problem they might encounter using any form of transportation and then use digital fabrication methods, like 3D printing or laser cutting, to create a solution.

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On May 4th, 10 teams of youth in grades 5-11 from Baltimore and DC gathered at the DHF Tech Center to showcase their work to judges and each other. The finale showcase for FabSLAM is always exciting and inspiring and this year proved to be more of the same. Teams arrived ready to share their work with our equally enthusiastic team of judges who have the difficult task of selecting winners.

Our First Place prize was awarded to the Western High School TinkerDoves, for their high-tech bus stop design of improvements that could be made to the Penn North stop in Baltimore City. The judges were very impressed by their proposed solution to a hyper-local problem and one that they encounter on a daily basis on their commute to and from school.

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WHS team receiving 1st place prizes

Last year, second place was awarded to a Bryn Mawr School high school team, and this year Second Place was awarded to Mawrtian Nation 1, a Bryn Mawr School middle school team. Their project, The Seasick-Free Seat, used 3D printing to fabricate a prototype of a self-leveling chair that would be used on boats to allow “all people to have the most enjoyable sea-faring voyage possible.”

Bryn Mawr School team describes project to FabSLAM judge

Bryn Mawr School team with prize package and FabSLAM judge

Judges awarded Third Place to a DHF team, The Filamentors, for their Trash Collection Boat. The goal of their solution was to attach a fabricated net contraption to boats that are already traveling in the harbor to collect more trash.

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Filamentors presenting project to FabSLAM judge

Team Tabby Fab won the Fan Favorite vote from the audience for their Foldable Skateboard that they laser cut for easy storage in a backpack.

The remaining teams who participated had a great showing and we hope to have them all back next year! You can check out their projects here:

Ridgely Middle School FabSLAM team

Team: Ridgely 3D        School / Organization: Ridgely Middle School        Project: Console Trash Can

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Team: Mawrtian Nation 2        School / Organization: Bryn Mawr School        Project: The Greenhouse Turbine Train

Fed Hill Prep team describing their FabSLAM project

Team: FabDestroyers        School / Organization: Federal Hill Prep Elementary        Project: Graphene Powered Hover Car

TGR Learning Lab sharing FabSLAM project with judge

Team: TGR Learning Lab        School / Organization: Cesar Chavez Public Charter School       Project: Fabulous Hovercar

Team Square One presents FabSLAM project

Team: Team Square One        School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Key Collector with Breathalyzer

Bikers United sharing modified bike helmet

Team: Bikers United       School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Casco Fresco Helmet

 

A giant thank you goes out to our 2017 panel of Judges, without whom we could not run this program! We were honored to have so many judges representing many facets of a variety of industries.

In addition to our awesome panel of judges and enthusiastic teams, we are also grateful for our FabSLAM 2017 Sponsors who provided prizes for the teams! Thank you to MatterHackers, HatchboxBuildTak, LulzBot, DHF Print Shop, Direct Dimensions, and The Foundery for the generous donations of products, materials, and experiences that were awarded to all our teams.

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Thank you to everyone who participated in FabSLAM 2017! We hope to have you participate again next year! If you would like to see all our photos from the event, you can check them out here: FabSLAM 2017 Flickr Album

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.

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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.

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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.

Maker Camp Recap: Circuit Circus

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The MiniMakers have been busy this summer making and creating!  We just finished our Circuit Circus Maker Camp and had a blast learning all about Circuits.  We started off camp by creating closed circuits to light up our bugs for our Flee Circus.

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Once we became familiar with closed circuits we added switches and buttons, creating open and closed circuits to our creations.

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You can’t talk about motors without creating Electromagnets for your Acrobats to swing from!

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Continuing into DC Motors we created Wiggling Animals to perform in our Circus.  Turning up all kinds of animals only seen in the NanoLab Circus!

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MiniMakers can’t get enough of Motors, especially when we combine them with paint!  We put our skills to the test to create Spin Art Boxes, creating a circuit that can be turned on and off, has multiple wires to connect, and not to mention all the cardboard and hot glue to make the box itself.

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Spin Art 2

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We had the misfortune of extreme heat and no AC in the Tech Center causing us to miss out on two days of camp, but we were lucky enough to still sneak in circuit boards using a Makey Makey.  We decided to create games based on the rule, “Don’t Complete the Circuit.”  Think of the game Operation, where you are trying to get the object out without causing the nose to light up.  Same concept with our games.  We had Mazes, we had throwing games, fishing games, quiz games, and more!

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The best part was being able to show off our Games the last day of camp with our Family and Friends!

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We had so much fun during our Circuit Circus Camp we can’t wait to see what else the MiniMakers will create in the months to come!

Meet Our Summer 2016 YouthWorks Employees

Each year DHF employs youth who are members in our space through Baltimore City’s YouthWorks program. This year we are excited to have the most YouthWorkers that we have ever hired and are thrilled about the projects that they’ve been working on.

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blog_YW_01Immanuel is a 15 year old who has been involved in DHF programs for 2 years now. He chose to work at DHF this summer because it is a familiar place and he knew that he would get the chance to learn new technology. His position this summer is a Maker Assistant and he is working on projects such as laser-cutting tiles and creating a hydroponic gardening system. Immanuel chose to work in this position because he felt like he fit best into this role and knew the most about it.
blog_YW_02Ben has been coming to DHF for 3 years and he is 15 years old. He applied to work here this summer because he loves working with technology and solving problems. His position this summer is a Web Specialist and he is working on the dashboard website. Ben chose to be a Web Specialist because it seemed like the hardest position and he wanted a challenge, plus he enjoys programming.

 

blog_YW_03Aidan is 15 years old and has been at DHF for 3 years. He chose to work here because he feels comfortable here and already knows his way around. Aidan is working alongside 3D Assistance as an Assistant and chose to work in this position because he completed the internship and previously learned everything about it.

 

blog_YW_04Claire has been with DHF since last fall and she is 16 years old. She wanted to work with us this summer because she wants to eventually work in a tech related field, and knows that this will help her work towards that goal. She is working as a Maker Assistant and Program Planner. While in these roles, Claire is assisting in laser-cutting projects and helping to plan projects for The Makerettes group.

 

blog_YW_05Ian is 16 years old and has been coming to DHF for a little over a year. He wanted to work here because he loves DHF and has the opportunity to work on many different things. Ian’s position this summer is a Product Tester which means that he is testing products in order to write reviews and how-to guides. He chose this position because he enjoys reviewing things and felt like it would be perfect for him.

 

blog_YW_06Larson has been a part of DHF programs for 3 years and is 15 years old. He wanted a job this summer that would give him a good opportunity, but would also be a familiar place, and he felt like DHF was perfect for that. He is working as a Program Assistant in the Nano Lab and is helping to teach the first two Maker Camps of the summer. Larson wanted to work in this role because he enjoys working with kids and knew that it would be fun.

 

blog_YW_07Amiri has been involved with DHF for 3 years and is 18 years old. He wanted to spend his summer working at DHF because it is a fun place to be and has a friendly environment. This summer he is working as an Assistant for 3D Assistance as well as working on a compost project. He chose these roles because he has experience working with 3DA and he wants to help to better the environment.

 

blog_YW_08Jalen is 16 years old and has been coming to DHF for a little over a year. He worked here last summer and had a great experience, so he chose to do it again this summer. Jalen is working as a Product Tester which has him testing gadgets to write a review and see if they would be useful to have in our tech center. He wanted to work in this role because it is something different that he doesn’t have experience with and it allows him to use new technology.

 

blog_YW_10Thomas has been coming to the tech center for 2 years and is 15 years old. He wanted to work here this summer because he is a member here and wanted something to do throughout the summer months. He is working with 3D Assistance and is helping to fix 3D printers and manage prints. Thomas chose to work in this area because he enjoyed his internship with 3DA this spring and wanted it to continue into the summer.

 

blog_YW_11Nick is 15 years old and has been involved in DHF programs for about 3 years. He chose to work here this summer because it is a community that he is comfortable with and it provides him with the opportunity to work in an area that he is interested in. Nick is working with 3D Assistance and is helping to perform maintenance and repair, as well as construction, on 3D printers for the tech center. He chose to work with 3DA because he had an internship with them this spring and was presented the opportunity to continue his work with them this summer.

Youth builds new DHF website

Digital Harbor Foundation is very excited to announce that we have launched a new website! On Friday, June 16th our newly designed website went live to the public. We are very happy with how it turned out and excited to share it with the world! This relaunch was taken on as a project by one of our own youth, 17-year-old Sierra Seabrease. Despite her struggles, Sierra can’t help but to be extremely proud of herself and the work that she’s done for us.

“I loved every second of this because it was all a learning experience. My favorite moment was when I looked back and saw the finished site. I was extremely proud when I realized that I had made that”, Sierra shared.

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The website highlights all of the programs that we offer for youth, as well as educators. It also showcases many of the projects we have at DHF, such as 3D Assistance, Pay What You Can, FabSLAM, Family Make Night, and our most recent endeavor, the Innovation Access Program. There are also links to our blog and our calendar of upcoming events so that you can keep up with all things new at DHF.

We feel as though this new website gives more insight into what life is like here at DHF and can help others in the community to get to know us better. We are extremely excited about this, and we hope that you are too! You can check it out for yourself here.

3D Printing for Solving Baltimore’s Problems

Each year, DHF hosts our FabSLAM Challenge, where we invite teams of youth to use 3D printing and digital fabrication to create solutions to problems issued during the challenge. This year we had a great showing at our FabSLAM Finale Showcase with teams putting their fabrication skills and imagination to the test to solve problems they found in their city.

Our challenge theme this year was Cities to focus on very local problems youth might experience or be aware of, and to celebrate the fact that this year FabSLAM expanded to two new regions – Idaho State and Pittsburgh. Participating teams in each of those regions also responded to the same challenge. We will share more about those competitions in the coming weeks.

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This year, we had 10 teams from Maryland and DC competing who were eager to share their work at the showcase and meet the judges to share the work they’ve done over the last six weeks. Each team was asked to present their project, which should have used 3D printing and other digital fabrication techniques, as well as a website documenting their project and progress.

The finale showcase is always inspiring, energetic, and filled with anticipation as teams come together to share their projects, talk about the work they’ve done over the last six weeks, and anxiously await the results to see if their hard work pays off by placing in the competition. We had 7 teams from around the state competing in this cycle, eager to meet our judges and share all their project and all their supporting documentation to compete for a top placement.

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Our First Place prize was awarded to Digital Oyster Foundation, a middle school team representing Digital Harbor Foundation. In response to the challenge, they worked to create a solution to the problem of a dwindling oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay. 3D Printed reef balls were the centerpiece of the oyster habitats they created, which also included an artificial wetland. They received kudos from the judges on the practical and possible nature of their design, recommending that they could get started right away with implementing this solution.

This is the very first time that any DHF team has placed in the competition and we were very proud of their effort.

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For the second year in a row, Second Place was awarded to Innovation Nation, a Bryn Mawr School team. Their project, Home Grown, used 3D printing to help imagine what could be done to solve the problem of vacant and abandoned buildings in Baltimore. This team of young ladies took on the challenge of “converting abandoned homes into places of growth” by turning vacant row houses into greenhouses where community gardens could thrive. Innovation Nation also won the Fan Favorite award!

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Third Place was awarded to another Bryn Mawr School team, Team Amasek, for their Storm Drain Filter. This project aimed to solve the problem of potentially toxic water runoff in Baltimore City storm drains thus contaminating the Chesapeake Bay. The product uses a simple design and a piece of charcoal for filtering the water as it enters the storm drain.

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For the very first time in 4 years, we had elementary school teams participate in FabSLAM! In fact, we had three elementary school teams participate and they did a great job for their first time! One of those teams, FHP Team from Federal Hill Prep Elementary, took home an Honorable Mention from the judges for their ‘R’ Treat Machine aimed at helping to reduce the amount of cigarette butts and gum found on the streets in their neighborhood.

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The remaining teams who participated had a great showing and we hope to have them all back in the future! You can check out their projects here:

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Team: Adventure Print        School / Organization: Bryn Mawr School        Project: Battery Box

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Team: Science Lions 3.0        School / Organization: Lakeland Elementary Middle School        Project: Rebuilding Abandoned Homes / Spikey Ice Crushers

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Team: TWLC        School / Organization: Tiger Woods Learning Center        Project: The New Utensil

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Team: Team Filter        School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Water Bottle for Homeless

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Team: Neiva        School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Trash Collecting Tree

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Team: Sleepless in Baltimore        School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Sleeping Bag Cart for Homeless

 

In addition to all of our awesome youth teams and coaches, we would like to thank our incredible panel of judges for this 2016 cycle of FabSLAM! We couldn’t do this without your support and involvement and we are grateful for all the ways you make this program better!

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In addition to our awesome panel of judges and enthusiastic teams, we are also grateful for our FabSLAM 2016 Sponsors who provided prizes for the teams! Thank you to HatchboxPrintrbot, Proto-Pasta, Filabot, and Occipital for the generous donations of products and materials that were awarded to all our teams.

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Thank you to everyone who participated in FabSLAM 2016! We hope to have you participate again next year! If you would like to see all our photos from the event, you can check them out here: FabSLAM 2016 Flickr Album

Young Eyes on a Young Field

This post is written by Luke Fisher, one of DHF’s Program Specialists. This was originally intended as Luke’s presentation for the Progressive Ed Summit, which was, unfortunately snowed out and rescheduled for a time when Luke will be living in Japan. We thought everyone should hear his thoughts any way. Enjoy! 

 

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No one is going to be shocked when I say this next statement: students today are used to having an endless supply of information and entertainment via their cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. But I am not here to complain, in fact, I think it’s a really wonderful thing and I am happy to be apart of this generation. What I am here to talk about is the disconnect that I see with students when they talk about school as they are walking into the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center. Everyday I ask kids about their experiences at school and, as to be expected, the replies are generally a mix of “It was fine,” “Alright,” “Boring,” and the list of unenthused adjectives goes on and on, until I stop asking them questions and they can start telling me about the thing they are really excited about: whether it be, architecture, a new anime series they are watching, or their latest play through of Five Nights At Freddy’s. With an entire world of information out there that students are excited about, talking about studying the same 5 subjects for 12 years is the conversational equivalent of watching paint dry. I love learning and I plan on expanding my noggin’ until the day I die, but that kind of excitement is difficult to translate to youth. This is a sentiment that has to be learned on one’s own.

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STEM education is in a special place. It’s a field of eternal change and growth, therefore, making it a subject that requires constant tweaking and understanding. And much like the rest of education, it has no boundaries. You can apply STEM education to history, or english, or mathematics, etc.  but. . .  THAT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING TO KIDS.  Kids don’t care that you can make a program that helps them remember historical dates, or that they can create a game that is based off of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. Why? Because every interaction that kids have with technology is in the realm of their interests, not what the government sanctioned necessary to become a functional adult in America. If you tie STEM education back to the subjects that they are already forced to know, educators all over are missing a powerful learning opportunity.

I’d say about 2 times a week I have a conversation that follows this similar pattern:

*Student Sitting Behind Computer Looking Discouraged/Frustrated/Tired etc*

Me: Hey, what’s up?

Student: I don’t know what to do.

Me: Well, what do you like? What are you interested in?

Student: (Insert Anime/Video Game/Fan Fiction Title Here/Subject/Culture)*

Me: Oh, well then just make something about that then.

It’s interesting to see how students react to this suggestion. Some are skeptical, some are hesitant, others are overjoyed. I think this suggestion takes so many off-guard because in the traditional education system, students are seldom taught that they can use what they care about to aid their education and not be something that’s distracting them from “an education”.

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We’re at a special time in education. While it’s not necessary to know historical dates or who is the Id, Ego, or Id in Lord of the Flies (although I think it will benefit you as a human) as time moves forward it’s becoming more and more clear that it is necessary to be technologically literate. We, as educators in the tech field, are wielding an incredible amount of power. Are we going to revert back to the tired ways of education’s stale formulaic past? Or are we going to take charge, push ourselves to learn as much as our students, and reshape how we teach in the classroom?

 

Mini Makers Learn to Make Toys

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This past winter, we ran a course for our Mini Maker program called Tinkering Toys, which aimed to teach our youngest makers a variety of manufacturing techniques for creating toys. Any chance the Mini Makers have to 3D print they take it, so when they found out that we would be creating toys by not only 3D printing, but by hand and using a laser cutter they were beyond excited!

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This course covered a variety of topics related to toy manufacturing, from coming up with the design to the different processes for fabrication.  For each project, we worked through the design process and then turned our designs into actual toys using a different technique each time.

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Each Mini Maker started out by designing their own Toy Company.  Here we practiced the process of Screen Printing.  Each Mini Maker created a logo image for their company and screen printed it using embroidery hoops and vinyl cutting.

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From there we moved on to Mold Making, another process that can be mass produced.  Each Mini Maker designed a mold using Tinkercad to be 3D printed and filled with, what we like to call, sticky toy solution. This solution works great for creating window clings and toys like those sticky hands found in quarter machines.

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As we created each toy, Mini Makers would go through the design process, come up with how their toy would look, prototype, rework the design, and produce their product. Some toys we produced directly focused on different steps of the design process, whether that was specifically designing their logo, prototyping with their 3D printed parachute toys, or fabrication through sewing or laser cutting, they still had to go through the whole process.

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Testing our 3D Printed Parachute Toys
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Painting our Laser Cut Memory Game tiles
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Spinning Tops

At the end of the cycle we had our very own Toy Fair where the Mini Makers pitched their company and ideas to the public. They showcased each of the products they made and talked about the processes used to create each one. It was so rewarding to see the Mini Makers really grasp the concepts they learned and be able to show off their work confidently.

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And the cherry on top of this sundae, is that one of our Mini Makers, Jacob, was invited to the White House Science Fair to share his line of toy products and talk about what he learned about manufacturing with President Obama! If you like, you can read more about that here: Jacob Goes to the White House

This was an enjoyable course for all our Mini Makers, educators, and staff and definitely something we would like to run again in the future.