Behind the Scenes with La Machine

On Sunday the 23rd, Maker Junior visited the Space and Aviation museum where La Machine set up their massive animatronic puppets to roam the streets. Join us as we get a behind the scenes tour to learn more about these fantastic machines.

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Meet a Maker: Randy Glenn

Hello!  Recently, the team over at Maker Junior, put me in charge of writing blog posts. We collaboratively decided to start a new blog series called “Meet a Maker”, where we ask makers in or around our community about how they started making and about what they make. Our first interview is with Randy Glenn.

Randy Glenn

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If I Built A House: Sparking Creativity with Kids

Sometimes I like to start my workshops with books that spark creativity. "If I Built a House" by Chris Van Dusen is one of my favourites.

If I Built A House by Chris Van Dusen

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Meet Ottawa Maker, Andrew Pelling

Andrew Pelling's opening talk at TED Live 2016. Using unprocessed natural cellulose, i.e. plants, as scaffolding for muscle growth is definitely out of the box thinking. Here in Ottawa, we've been lucky enough to watch as this thinking takes shape.

Ottawa maker, Andrew Pelling

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Bubble Maker Challenge: What else can I do with a motor?

One of the first projects we start our makers off with is the Doodlebot. Also known as a scribble bot or an art bot, this is a fun project that uses the wobbly motion created from offsetting a motor to create fun doodles. But what else can you do with an Educators Pack of Doodlebots?


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February 03, 2016


ideas › Inspiration ›

It's All About The Space: What Works When You're Making With Kids

We can make any space work, but some spaces I like better than other. Over time I've definitely come up with a list of things that work. Read more for my favourite room features when working with kids.

My favourite space

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Halloween Hoodies

Nanik and Hari's latest video is a DIY Tutorial on making your own Halloween costume out of a hoodie. I love making Halloween costumes!

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Summer Camp: Cardboard Arcade Challenge

One of the things we did at camp this summer was a cardboard arcade challenge.

Early in the week, the 9-12 yr olds watched the Caine's Arcade video. This is a great video. Out of 4 camps worth of kids, only one of them had seen it before!

We spent the next couple of days working on various projects with motors and LEDs. I encouraged the kids to work on their plans for the games. Our camp was two 1/2 day sessions. One group was 9-12 years old, the other 6-8 years old. While I spent a 1/2 day making with one group, the others were out doing recreation activities with two awesome GNAG counselors. For the cardboard arcade challenge, the idea was for the older kids, the 9-12 year olds, to make the arcade games and host an arcade for the younger kids. 

Target Hitter. A cardboard arcade game with an automatic ball return and light up targets.

I was totally and completely blown away by the complexity of the games and how much care they took setting everything up.

I was primarily focused on making the games. And the games were impressive. We had water games, pinball games, ball throws, basketball games. Even spinning games of chance! The kids worked with rubber bands and angles and levers to get the movement they wanted. Some of them started introducing the tech we were working with earlier in the week.

A photo collage of a pinball game, a spinning game of chance, a different target game, a game where a ball has to get by a spinning fan, and a water game.

The games were awesome. But so was the prize table! The kids who were done their games first made prizes to give away to the little kids. They set up a structure and some rules about prizes, and even made tickets. (The second week I brought tickets in - mistake! It's more fun to make your tickets.)

The prize table

The younger kids made games too. We watched Caine's Arcade and they spent a shorter amount of time working on their games. Some games were simple - a cup, a spoon, and a ball. Some games got really complex. Motors were very popular!

A photo collage of the 6-8 yr old arcade games. Many involving getting a ball into a cup.

What I didn't expect was how long after camp the activity would stick with them. My first hint was this tweet: 

Which was followed by: 

And then I started hearing about Will's Arcade. Will was one of the older kids in the 6-8 year old camp. He's attended a few workshops with me before and exhibited his work at the GYA Science Hack we took part in. When Will's mom started emailing me a couple of weeks ago with pictures of Will's Arcade, I wasn't that surprised.

Will standing in front of his cardboard arcade.

But the cool thing was, he kept going! Will's has now been working on his arcade since camp, six weeks. He has it open on the weekend for customers. And he's made enough money to refill his prize wall - twice!

 The only problem is - it's getting colder. And soon Will's Mom and Dad are going to need to use their garage for their car.

Awesome job, Will! 

Another shot of Will's Cardboard Arcade, looking into the garage.

The 2015 Global Cardboard Challenge is October 10. You can find out more about the challenge, the Imagination Foundation, and what's going on in Ottawa that day at their website.


A Summer Project: Starting a YouTube Channel

The boys have been talking about starting a YouTube channel for ages. Both of them choose to spend most of their screen time on YouTube. They are usually doing research. Nanik likes fish videos (he loves The King of DIY, full of aquarium projects) and Hari splits his time between BookTubers, GMM and Cole and Marmalade. It's funny, this generation is growing up on video. I've always been better with words and reading. But both boys start their research on YouTube.

When school ends they always choose a couple of projects to work on during the summer. This summer one of the projects they chose was to work together on starting a YouTube channel for Maker Junior. I was more than happy to have them take this on. They obviously know more about this medium than I do. 

Through their involvement with Youth Ottawa, they discovered Youth Active Media. YAM runs multi-week programs during the school year. This summer they started one-week programs at various libraries and community centres around the city. Nanik took the program early in the summer. (You can see his video The Book Quest on YouTube.) Hari's just finished his week. (Hari's video is Searching for Sasquatch.) They spent several weeks researching camera equipment. Maker Junior provided the budget.

[Note on summer projects: I discovered, this summer, that if you ask your kids to do something, and you agree with what they're doing, you gotta provide a budget to go with it. ]

They worked hard to get the equipment ready for Maker Festival in Toronto. They wanted to interview people and ask them some questions they've been thinking about: "What is a maker?" and "Do makers have to use tech?" I am thrilled with the end result.

 Working on the video at the Maker Festival helped them meet new people and explore more of the event. Asking the questions started some great conversations! From my perspective, Mom's perspective, I thought this project helped them:

  • discover their strengths (So, um, Hari is a natural in front of the camera. Nanik loves research and equipment. Video editing software has been a challenge for both of them but Nanik is doing a great job of it so far!)
  • continue to build their research skills, with real world results 
  • gain confidence in their abilities to learn something new and apply it
  • reach out and meet a community of people

And they've only just begun! It's been a pretty fantastic beginning though. On their first day of filming, ever, they managed to get an interview with John Tory, Mayor of Toronto. What a scoop! And John Tory has my gratitude for gracefully sharing his tips for conducting a professional interview and providing thoughtful answers to their questions. And for signing their release form agreeing to appear in the video.

Why is making with kids so important?

I know intuitively just how important it is. I've seen my own sons learn and grow with the projects they've been working on. Agency by Design is a multi-year research project that is specifically looking at maker-centered learning practices. They released a whitepaper of their initial findings in January 2015. View full article →