Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reflections from World Maker Faire

On Saturday, September 26th, 2015, a great group of Pioneer teachers had the privilege of attending World Maker Faire at the NY Hall of Science in Queens, NY.  To say that this was a wonderful experience would be an understatement.  We left with many great ideas to bring back to the district and our middle school Maker Club.
Mrs. Hogan, Mr. LoBianco, me, and Ms. McKenzie on our 5:45 AM flight to NYC.
After a quick breakfast (and coffee!) stop, we were ready to tackle the day.
When we entered the Maker Faire area, we were greeted by men playing musical instruments while walking on stilts, a metal robot shooting flames from his palms, and an adult-sized cardboard velociraptor.  This was overwhelming, in the best way possible!

Our feeling of being overwhelmed continued throughout the day.  There were so many things to see and do, it was dizzying.  There were certain aspects of World Maker Faire (WMF) that stuck with us, so I will share those items below.

Probably our favorite takeaway from WMF was finding KitRex, a company dedicated to creating dinosaur puzzle crafts.  We were able to speak to Lisa Glover, the inventor behind KitRex.  The idea began as a college project turned Halloween costume.  Lisa created a 15-foot velociraptor costume using industrial origami techniques.  Others saw the promise in this creation and she then began marketing smaller dinosaur kits for craft purposes.  We bought two small velociraptor kits to use during Maker Club this year.  We hope the students will love KitRex as much as we do!
Our group posing with Mouse, the original Kit Rex design.

Tucking our velociraptor kits away for safe keeping.
While we're on the subject of dinosaurs, another sweet WMF find was Woolbuddy, a company owned by Jackie Huang.  Jackie was looking for safe, unique toys for his newborn.  After coming up empty-handed, he began creating toys by using a needle felting technique.  I was particularly interested in this because my mother is an avid spinner and crafter.  My favorite Woolbuddy creations were, of course, the dinosaurs!  At a future Maker Club meeting, we would love to introduce needle felting to our students.
A wool dinosaur from Woolbuddy.

Other Woolbuddy creations.
It was really interesting to see the large numbers of young makers exhibiting their creations.  We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Ahmed Mohamed, a Texas student garnering worldwide support for the clock he made.  It was great to see that Ahmed was getting celebrity treatment at WMF!
Ahmed posing for a photo with other Makers.
Another young maker we can't stop talking about is Alex.  Alex constructed an Arduino-controlled replica of Times Square, complete with a New Years Eve ball drop.  As the ball descends, the model is programmed to play Auld Lang Syne.  The work that went into this was incredible.  The design included woodworking, stained glass (for the ball), and computer coding.  Alex has graciously agreed to set up a virtual visit with our Maker Club later this year.  We hope that our makers will be inspired by Alex's work and creativity.
The Ball Drop Model.

Great display board outlining the project's craftsmanship and coding.
We came away from WMF with ideas to use within the classroom setting.  I especially liked the idea to use dioramas as prompts for storytelling.  Students could build a diorama, then other students could create stories to describe the action taking place inside the diorama.  This is a great way to combine making with written/verbal language.
An example of a diorama to be used in storytelling.
The FabNavi Team provided an interesting tool which may have a place in school instruction.  This Japan-based company shared their product, in which physical instructions are projected onto a workspace.  The invention allows for visual instructions to be sent to remote locations.  Creating visual instructions might be a fun project for our makers at Pioneer.  It would help students to hone their communication skills through pictures and diagrams, rather than just through words.
Working to assemble a monster by using the FabNavi visual instructions.
Of course, I couldn't leave WMF without thinking of the cool things we could replicate within the Pioneer Middle School library space.  Some of these ideas included cardboard pinball machines, a reading nook made out of chicken wire, a compact garden tended by LEDs, and a giant Connect Four game!  Who wouldn't want a giant game of Connect Four in the library?!
Working pinball machines made out of cardboard.

Chicken wire, wood, and fabric could be made into a cozy reading nook!

A compact garden powered with LEDs.

Giant Connect Four!
There were also many interesting techie takeaways from the day.  Many of these creations still have me in awe!  One of our favorites was a Plinko Poetry machine.  This device displayed recent news headlines.  When a person deposits a plinko chip into the top of the machine, it falls upon different words from the headlines.  The machine then prints out a copy of your poem.  We couldn't resist trying this out.
Plinko Poetry was a Pioneer favorite.
The Sandwriter Skryf was another amazing invention.  As sand was fed into the top of the machine, the device was programmed to write specific letters on the ground.  We watched in amazement as messages appeared right before our eyes.
The Sandwriter Skryf writing along a walkway.

Words left behind by the Sandwriter Skryf.
While inside the NY Hall of Science, we enjoyed visiting a virtual habitat.  Equipped with projectors and sensors, participants were invited to interact with the exhibit.  Any human interaction with the exhibit created a ripple effect, which meant consequences (both positive and negative) for other biome areas depicted in the exhibit space.  It was fun to participate in this activity, but even more interesting to try to figure out how it worked!
The virtual biome display inside the NY Hall of Science.

Any human interaction causes a ripple effect in the exhibit.
A relaxing portion of our day was spent outside at the Gamelatron.  This was a gamelon orchestra fully powered by robots.  The soothing sounds were exactly what we needed after a full day of learning.
The Gamelatron and beanbag chairs provided the perfect area for relaxation.
Last but not least, we ran into The Museum of Interesting Things on the way out of WMF.  This group collects and displays cool stuff.  We are thinking of having a "Maker" theme for this year's district-wide Pioneer Family Reading Night.  We will definitely be reaching out to this group about our event!
An example of the items displayed by The Museum of Interesting Things.
Our trip to WMF was nothing short of an amazing experience.  The best part, however, is yet to come.  We can't wait to share what we learned with our students and put many of these great ideas into practice at Pioneer.

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