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: