Focus and Dedication: A Multi-week Inventive Effort

This is one cool invention. The inventor has taken the GNAG Inventors Workshop for several sessions. This session, instead of following along with the usual projects, this young inventor took the materials from each project and added on to this creation. Here's a breakdown of the features and what projects they come from:

  • Storage compartment access flap (around the back) has a circuit "puzzle" on the back that both lights and buzzes when successfully completed. This is from two projects, Quiz Cards and Design Your Own Game.
  • Voice recorder that captures and records instructions is hidden under the nose. This is from the Talking Stuffie project. As is the design and decoration of the head!
  • Jointed elbows and shoulders come from the Articulated Hand project (and yes, one hand is fully articulated).
  • Treads. That was the tough part. We tried several different ideas using wheels and bicycle inner tubes during the weeks we use for Inventions. During the last week we came up with using pool noodles and dowels. The inventor was very satisfied with this solution!

Myself, I'm thrilled with this invention! I completely respect the amount of focus and dedication required to put this together. Not to mention the attention to detail!

Inventor Workshop Creations, 6-8 yr olds

We're wrapping up our latest session of the GNAG Inventors Workshop and we've started working on our inventions.

This year we started an afterschool class for the  6-8 year olds. It has been very popular! It is a very different class from the 9-12 year olds. More spontaneous. Some of the kids are really interested in the inventors notebook we keep and fill it up with ideas. I explain that we're creating prototypes. I bring in the tech we've worked with (motors/LEDs/etc), materials I've found, and pieces we've discovered during a Make and Break.

One of my youngest inventors wanted to make a tablet computer and kept their focus on that all year. This is the result (it's currently running a Minecraft "app"):

Other creations are more spontaneous. This one combines an LED and battery with some of the found parts.

Other inventions solve problems. This is a money hat, you can carry your money with you in a concealed pocket and look fashionable too!

And some are just following artistic expression and the joy of working with your hands. With this creation he wasn't sure what it was until the very end, he was just enjoying creating a pattern and working with the materials. It wasn't until the very last minute he decided it was a picture frame!


Making with Magnets: The 'gators

I was at an event this winter and the wonderful Phonesavanh Thongsouksanoumane from Agoralab gifted me with the Curt Gabrielson book Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff. This was a very timely gift, I was running out of renewals at the library! 

There's a section on magnets in the book and I thought it looked like fun. So I found a reasonably priced bag of magnets and took it in to my primary inventors workshop with a bunch of craft supplies. We had a lot fun! And so, I'd like to introduce, Attractigator and Repelligator.

I liked Repelligator the best. I like the way his jaws hovered open. But the kids were way more interested in Attractigator. They found it much more satisfying to have his jaws snap shut! 


May 27, 2015


Inspiration › News ›

uOttawa Mobile Makerspace

We love visiting the uOttawa Makerspace. Have you been yet? It's open to the community on Sundays and it's free to register and use their equipment. The people who work there are great! They are welcoming and happy to help you get started using one of their 3D printers. This is a fantastic resource to have in our community.

We were excited to learn that the Makerspace is going Mobile!


They had a prototype of the Maker Mobile at the university Alumni Week. Nanik and I went downtown to check it out May 9. All of the equipment from the makerspace was loaded inside the truck and outside on tables.

They were even showing off their new laser cutter! (Totally hard to see, but it says "Science Rocks!")

So why a mobile makerspace? The goal of the uOttawa Mobile Makerspace is outreach. In their first year of operations they aim to reach 1,000 kids in the Ottawa region from September 2015 - June 2016. The year after they want to take it across Eastern Ontario. Outreach to K-12 is a key factor in increasing enrollment in science and engineering. The more kids exposed to making (and science and engineering) the better! We're happy to support this initiative.

And the best news? I met Hanan Anis, Associate Professor and Faculty Coordinator in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, at an event yesterday and she showed me a photo of the new truck! It's happening. I can't wait!


February 28, 2015


Ideas › Inspiration ›

Our 3D Printing Adventure

Last summer we were very lucky to borrow a 3D printer from Young Maker to demo on our library workshop visits. Nanik enjoyed working with this technology and quickly became our resident expert. It was interesting to watch his progression as he explored this technology. We were using a Makerbot Replicator 2. I showed him how to print from the SD card and how to level the print bed. And then he was off!

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I did what I wanted to do - success!

A while back I was invited to a meeting of the 113th Ottawa Girl Guides.  Their leader thought they would enjoy making some doodling robots.  We covered a couple of tables in brown paper and spread out some basic supplies like duct tape and scissors.  Without showing them a sample, I handed out cups, markers, motors, batteries, wire and corks and I issued them a challenge.  I told them they had everything they needed to make a robot that doodled.  At first, they didn't quite believe me.  Before we sat down I had shown them how to hook up the wires to the motor and make a circuit with the battery.  Now it was time to try it themselves.

Girl Guides are girls in grades 4 - 6.  The 113th are the local troop, meaning most of these girls are in school with my sons.  It was fun to spend some with them and watch them work.  And they did such a great job!  I saw lots of great thinking and new ideas.

One girl flipped up the bottom of her cup to make a face:

Another girl took the time to work out some plans on the paper before she began:

As the evening went on, lots of girls began experimenting with what was used to offset the motor.  Some girls started using electrical tape.  One girl started making something a little more elaborate:

Every robot was unique.  And they all doodled.  I loved seeing all the different designs they came up with.  And I loved hearing this most of all.  (Make sure you've got your sound on to hear this!)

February 24, 2014


Ideas › Inspiration › School ›

Create: Use what you know to make something new

My son is a maker.  We knew this from an early age.  He has always had good fine motor control and loved to work with his hands.  When he was younger, he enjoyed traditional arts and crafts activities.  He knits, sews, weaves, and needle felts but never uses a pattern.  I think that's what inspires me most about his work - if he wants to knit a dog, he just knits one.  He know how to read a pattern now, but he finds it awkward and slow to try and figure out what someone else wants him to do. ... View full article →
January 24, 2014


Ideas › Inspiration ›

Inspiration at the Smithsonian

Over the winter break we had an adventure. Winter started early here and we wanted to escape for a bit. Airfare was daunting so we pulled out the map and asked ourselves, how far south could we drive in one day? And that is how we ended up in Washington D.C.

D.C. is the perfect vacation place for my family. Pedestrian friendly, warmer weather than home, and no snow made for long days spent outside exploring. We were 15 minutes from the National Zoo and enjoyed their Zoo Lights program. The Friends of the National Zoo volunteers were fantastic and wonderfully patient answering all of our questions. It took us three visits to the zoo see everything we wanted to see.  In the Invertebrate House I was fascinated by these comb jellies. They reminded me of some of my favourite LED projects but they don't light up. The changing colour you see is light refracted from tiny hairs that are moving. So graceful and elegant.

At the National Air and Space Museum, we all touched a piece of the moon.

As we toured through the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History I was inspired by the stories of three different makers. The first makers that caught my attention were brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. The exhibit did a great job of describing Wilbur and Orville's different characters and unconventional educational paths. Orville took things apart as a child and loved to create. Wilbur was more interested in books and academics. Both were continually learning. They were bicycle mechanics. Looking at the restored Wright Flyer that anchored the exhibit, I could see the chain and spoke mechanics that came out of their bike shop.

The second maker was the famous inventor Thomas Edison, who was quoted by his private secretary, A. O. Tate as saying "Well, I'm not a scientist, I'm an inventor." I liked the way the exhibit was organized. Starting with the preconditions for invention, it then walked you through the inventive process, the importance of promotion, how success brings competition and the consequences of an important invention. I love any glimpses I can get into how someone works and I was excited to see Edison's quote from his 1880 testimony "In 1877 ... I commenced the practice of placing notebooks all over my laboratory." I have always been an obsessive note taker, I wonder what happened to convince Edison to leave them in multiple places?

But my favourite exhibit, by far, took me completely by surprise. In the Museum of American History they had completely recreated the workshop of a famous televised maker. I was taken away by the functionality and practicality of the space. Tools were lovingly displayed on pegboard and larger appliances were given dedicated counter space. It was Julia Child's kitchen! I had never thought of my kitchen as a workshop, even though I spend a lot of time each day making food for my family. But Julia Child's kitchen was so obviously a workshop I was inspired. I love workshops, now I just have to figure out how to love my kitchen.