Learning with maker Spaces at MacICT

Last Thursday I attended Learning with Maker Spaces at Macquarie University’s MacICT Innovations Centre. The workshop was presented by John Burfoot, who also led last week’s EV3 Robotics workshop.

This day was all about maker spaces and covered many different topics:

  • What makes a good maker space?
  • What equipment is needed?
  • Storage methods
  • Suppliers
  • Activities and strategies

We began by talking about what a maker space is and what the Maker movement is. The Maker Movement is all about making things, mainly to do with technology. It incorporates making things from new or used materials, incorporating electronics, 3D printing, computers and coding. This day did not include 3D printing, but we did get to work with electronics and coding.

John showed us lots of photos of maker spaces he had seen on a recent trip to the USA, and many of them were very impressive. Certain things that stood out for me were the amount of tools and equipment these spaces had. From hand tools, machines, 3D printers, computers and furniture, these spaces had it all. Furniture ranged from basic work tables, tables with wheels, curved sofas and mobile tables. Spaces were organised into different areas, such as the 3D printing area, design area, tools area, and they kind of had their own identity. They were lacking in student work, and it would have been nice to see some of things things that they had been working on. Nevertheless, we got some great tips for setting up our own spaces.

The main part of the day was spent creating an interactive leg, and we made the first part, the leg, next. We had to cut 2 pieces of cardboard, around 500mm x 150mm, this was the easy part. We then had to join the 2 parts of the leg together using a LEGO WeDo hinge, which was pretty easy to do. We also fixed a LEGO WeDo ultrasonic sensor to the leg, and the reason for this will soon become apparent.

As well as ‘making’ we also looked at some computer coding resources for primary school children. The main resources we looked at were Scratch, Tynker and Kodable. I am very familiar with Scratch and Tynker but not kodable, so it was great to find a new resource that I really liked and would be ideal for children in years K – 2. We used Scratch today to create a penalty kick game. John talked us through how to create the game, including creating the background, sprites and how to make the football move. He then showed us how to connect the LEGO WeDo sensor to Scratch, something I had not done before. This whole process was pretty easy as I am an experienced Scratch user, but it was nice to learn something new and see how Scratch can connect to the real world. The point of this process was that now when you make the leg do a kicking action, the sensor reads the movement and the action is the ball is kicked in the Scratch game, pretty clever really.

The final part of our maker day was to use Little Bits to create a circuit that would kick the leg for us. To do this we had to use a servo motor, and something like a button to activate the motor. This was the hardest part of the challenge, attaching the motor to the leg in a way that when activated it would make the leg move. This is where trial and error came into play, and it did take many trials to get some movement happening. We were forced to take risks, see what happens and to expect failure, something we expect of our students. It is not nice failing, but we were all determined to try again, try something different to see what would happen, which is the beauty of maker and coding, working towards the end goal and getting there no matter what. It is exciting to work like this, designing and evaluating solutions on the fly, incorporating ‘just in time learning’ to help us on our journey.

We documented the process of making the leg and the final activity was to use the app PicPlayPost to make a small movie out of our photos and then upload to the Maker Google+ community page.

As well as working through this cool activity we were shown access to a Maker website with further resources to access, as well as being signed up to the Google+ community, another valuable resource.

This was an awesome day and a big thanks go out to John Burfoot and MacICT for hosting us. Back to school now to work out how to incorporate the Maker Movement into our school culture and classrooms.

Maker Day product

Maker Day product

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