Sunday, August 28, 2016

Makerspace Resources

I created this Smore for my school so that our students and teachers can become familiar with some of the items in our makerspace.  While this is mostly a list of "stuff", I have also included photos and videos of student-created work to help inspire and ignite new ideas.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Making of a Makerspace - Part 3 The Purchase Orders are Approved!

Part 3 in a continuing series which chronicles the evolution of a makerspace

The Purchase Orders Are Approved!

By mid-October STEAM Middle School had finally settled into a routine, and the makerspace was becoming a regular stop for many of our students. The World Clock Challenge was keeping the students busy, and the inviting atmosphere gave the students a place to work and collaborate on class assignments.

Because we are a new school, we had a start-up budget that allowed me to purchase more than I would be able to in a normal year. After many hours of research and consideration, I submitted purchase orders for items that I thought would provide a good foundation on which we could build over the next few years. The purchase orders were approved and then it was just a matter of waiting. 

In the meantime, we made the best with what we had. Students enjoyed "unmaking" old electronics, pulling copper wire out of ethernet cords, painting phone cases, making pressure plates, and exploring circuits using led lights and coin cell batteries. 

Every day is Christmas

Eventually, packages started arriving. For a while, every day was like Christmas. It was very exciting to open boxes full of shiny new possibilities.

LaQ Building Blocks  (large set of 5000) - LaQ blocks consist of flat squares and triangles, various connectors, wheels and axels. LaQ allows builds to have curved edges and right angles. Initially, the students used the guide to build cars, helicopters, and dragons. Eventually, LaQ blocks would become an essential item in our makerspace (stay tuned for that post). 

Google Cardboard - The challenge was putting them together! I bought 10 of the low-cost viewers on Amazon because I wanted the students to put them together. The instructions were not adequate, so YouTube and ingenuity were required. I would highly recommend spending a little more to get better quality viewers.

Sphero (2) - I was very excited to receive these little robotic balls. Unfortunately, we wouldn't receive our tablets for another month, so I allowed students to use their phones to control them using the Sphero app on Android and iOS. This posed a few problems when multiple students tried connecting with the same Sphero, but we worked it out by sharing. 

Makey Makey (4) - the invention tool that is used with the students' Chromebooks. 

 Little Bits (Basic, Arduino, and space) - magnetic components that help teach the basics of circuitry.

Snap Circuits (Basic, Light, and Sound) - another fun tool for learning circuitry. 


Two iPad minis and two Nexus 7 table - ordered from CDWG through district.

And finally, a cabinet to keep it all safe.

Now what do we do?
So now that we had the "stuff", the key would be to how to best utilize these items in our come-and-go atmosphere. Students generally spend about 15-20 minutes in the makerspace - which is a good time for tinkering, but not really enough time for doing full-scale projects. This is an ongoing dilemma that I have been working and have partially solved by holding afterschool sessions. More on that in a future post.

This video captures the essence of what our makerspace is about: Collaboration, creation, exploration, creativity, and innovation! 

Next up: Our amazing Hour of Code week

Previous posts in this series: 

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Making of a Makerspace - Part 2 The World Clock Challenge

The second in a series which chronicles the evolution of The STEAM Makerspace.


As mentioned in the first post of this series, the Makerspace at STEAM Middle School started with nothing more than cardboard (a lot of cardboard) and donations of craft items. As we were nearing the end of September, I wanted to come up with an event that would highlight the makerspace and its purpose at STEAM.

For the past several years in October, The Imagination Foundation has hosted a Global Cardboard Challenge for schools and communities to come together and create - using cardboard! I decided to host our own cardboard challenge - The STEAM World Clock Challenge. I got the inspiration from Michael Buist's Instagram. Early in the school year, his students were creating all kinds of cardboard creations and this clock stood out to me - a real working clock made out of cardboard!
Visit Michael Buist's Instagram for more inspiration!

I set up a webpage detailing the rules and guidelines, students made posters, and we got to work!


One of the things the students struggled with was the design process. They want to jump in and start hacking at the cardboard without laying it out on graph paper first. I required an initial sketch-up of their plan but then allowed them to change and modify as they went along. Many were surprised at how difficult cardboard is to work with:

  •  It's hard to cut with our limited collection of tools so they had to keep it simple. 
  • Cardboard can be strong or weak, depending on where and how you cut it. 
  • When it's painted it curls and shrinks. 

The clocks were constructed entirely of cardboard, but the clock works were purchased at a local hobby store for less than $10.00. Many students bought their own. 

This project spurred a lot of interest in the makerspace and brought a lot of new faces throughout the day. Students were curious about all of the construction going on. 

The final display looked great! All of the clocks were set to the time zone of their city/country that their clock represented.

Finally, we had parents, teachers, and staff vote to determine 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Our PTO donated gift cards to the local hobby store.


The object of the challenge was to create a clock that represents a city or country. We had several countries represented, but a few of the students chose to stay closer to home with Texas-themed clocks. The overall participation was low for several reasons:
  • Some didn't have enough time to work on it at school
  • Some were afraid to take risks and try
Future events like this might be more successful if parents are involved. They could help after school or we might do a  special family Saturday work day. Also, the makerspace was a new concept to our students and they really didn't understand that there was a place in our school where they could make and create. These are things to think about and make it better for next year. 


Stay tuned...

The Making a Makerspace - Part 3:  The purchase orders are approved! 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Making of a Makerspace - Part 1 Getting Started

The first in a series which chronicles the evolution of The STEAM Makerspace.


The 2015-16 school year has been a year of change and growth for me. Moving from my 2nd grade classroom to a brand new STEAM Middle School has proved to be both exciting and challenging. As the Integration Technologist, my job includes duties such as: Chromebook repairs, instructional technology, and media specialist. Early on, my principal shared his vision of our makerspace which would eventually include all of the popular makerspace gizmos and gadgets, as well as, several 3D printers. But...I am getting ahead of myself. We started the school year in an unused wing of a high school. My "area" was a desk under a stairwell and my budget was $0. I knew that we would be moving to our permanent location after our winter break and that I would eventually be given a budget, but in the meantime, I was determined to get the makerspace up and running so it would be part of our evolving school culture.
A desk in a many possibilities...

Getting started

Did I mention that I started with $0 budget?  Good thing I am "The Frugal Teacher" and after years of being a 2nd grade teacher/home crafter, I was able to raid my garage for art supplies and paper. My dad made me a few shelves and $10 at Dollar Tree helped with the storage issue. The school was receiving daily shipments of supplies, books, etc... so we had an overabundance of cardboard. We also relied on donations. Our school is divided into houses (think Harry Potter), so I set up a house challenge and points were given as donations came in. We received tools, plastic lace, craft supplies, and old electronics. 

Build it and they will come?

Not really. The students did not know the function of a makerspace. They came from traditional schools and had not experienced this type of space. They looked with curiosity as they walked through on their way to class or lunch, but they weren't sure what to make of it. Eventually, students found their way to the area during class time to work and collaborate. Some would shyly ask to use the craft supplies for a poster or a project. Some found their way during intervention time (i.e. study hall). I also had a small group of teacher's aids during 5th period who would tinker and try out the newest additions. By mid-September, I was getting a regular crowd. My desk and a folding table became our workspace for crafts like origami, wonder looms, and plastic lace lanyards. Students also started tinkering with the cardboard and old electronics. Teachers would send kids  for cardboard and other supplies so they could create models or products for class projects. 

By October, the STEAM Makerspace had become a hub for gathering and creating, but with limited resources, I had to figure out a way to sustain the interest. The World Clock Challenge fit the bill for drumming up more interest in the makerspace and for using up the excessive amounts of cardboard we had accumulated. 

Stay tuned for part 2

 Stay tuned for the next post detailing our World Clock Challenge.

At first it was a comfortable spot for studying...

and then it became a place for making!