* This is an article I sent out in our March Maker Club newsletter. Have you signed up for our newsletter yet? It comes out monthly with news, events and project ideas. You can sign up for our newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/GMbrX *
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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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.
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.
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 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!
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:
— Allison Burnett (@OrgChaos_allibu) August 22, 2015
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
I love Quiz Cards. They are such a simple project. It's a simple circuit with an LED that lights up when you pick the right answer.
I first introduced them to a group of 9-12 year olds. They had a blast! They quickly figured out how to change the correct answer and had a great time making what they called "troll" questions. I was thrilled. By changing the circuit to change the answer, they were demonstrating a great working knowledge of circuits.
Then they wanted to add a red light. This consistently comes up in every group I work with. Now that they have the green light working, how can they add a red light for a wrong answer. No problem - I always have red LEDs on hand so the kids who finish first can give this a try. It's a bit tricky. And I don't hand out extra batteries to make it work. That's always the first request that comes up. (BTW I've tried conductive tape with this - I like conductive thread better. It's easier for the kids to change their answers.)
When I started introducing this project to the younger kids, ages 6-8, again I was surprised. Yes, it was harder to knot the conductive thread on the battery. (HINT: Practice tying knots first. I usually bring a ball of yarn and we practice tying knots before we start working.) But I almost never had to help with the circuit itself. They figured how to get it working themselves. For this age group, the circuit is a lot easier than writing the question.
We started off the latest session of the GNAG Inventors Workshop for 9-12 yr olds making Quiz Cards. But a couple of weeks later, I put in two weeks for Game Design. I gave them a few weeks notice that it was coming and a few of them started working on designs. For the games, they could use batteries, red or green LEDs, and buzzers. A few of them started working on Operation-style games. And I also had a few really cool light up games.
This first one is called Help Me. The original idea was to have a person behind the board lighting up the different LEDs. Depending on which LED was lit, the player needed to come up with a cure for an ailment.
But we wanted to automate it. We didn't want to have someone hiding behind the board. So we came up with this. We made a circle of connections to the LEDs with paper fasteners. Then we cut out a circle of cardboard and made one slice of it conductive. (Yay, tin foil!) Then we connected the battery to the conductive "slice". Now when you spin the wheel, different LEDs light up.
This next game blew me away. This was one of the kids who started planning early. There are 12 green LEDs and 4 wire leads. One 3V battery. Not to mention imagination, dedication and focus. It all works exactly as expected.
Yes - the tinfoil is part of the circuit too! Pretty impressive.
All of this was inspired by one simple project. Want to get started? You can pick up a Quiz Card kit in our online store. They're also part of the Makers Workshop. Contact me directly if you need enough for a class - I have bulk pricing for educators.