Makerspace @ Traf in the Caf: Week 4, Paper Circuits

Paper circuits was by far the most popular activity of the month. Indeed, it was so popular I still am getting students asking me if they can make a card!

Materials Needed:

  • Craft supplies (paper, glue, scissors, tracing paper and tape)
  • 3v lithium coin batteries
  • Circuit sticker LEDs (Chibitronics makes them)
  • Copper tape

To begin with I made a prototype using a guide created by the Exploratorium in San Francisco:


I used a simple parallel circuit:


Lessons learned:

  • Make sure to not rip the tape, which is finicky. TIP: take the backing off gradually as you go.
  • Also make sure the tape is as smooth as possible and the LEDS are properly glued to both tracks.
  • LEDS also have to be facing the same direction (+ side all on one track, – side on the other)
  • If it doesn’t seem to work at first, try flipping the batter over. Not sure why this is. It feels a little like magic.

Once I had an idea of what I was doing, I brought it to the students (and Staff got into it as well!)

Here was the result:


There were some happy mothers on Mother’s day!


Paper circuits was a great introduction to the concept of Makerspace. It combines a simple technology that the girls can simply copy or take farther (circuits) with the fun of crafts to produce a magical result. The girls were thrilled with their cards and want to do more.

Personally- I want to make more too! I have some ideas about how to use it with silhouettes…

Makerspace @ Traf in the Caf: Week 3, Little Bits

LittleBits is a set of easy-to-use electronic building blocks. They are a fun, practical way for students to understand how circuits work:

Our lunchtime forays into Littlebits did not, alas, gender a whole lot of enthusiasm among the students. The teachers however, had a great time!

I am not sure if there were simply too many things going on that week, or if the littlest were not that exciting, or if the activity I had planned – a simple, colour some wings and tape them to the servo with a buzzer to make it buzz like an insect – was just too you and unexciting:


Here is a link to a five second video that gives you an idea of how annoying the buzzer is.

It’s true that Littlebits are geared towards more of a younger crowd, but as you can see from the video above, there are some pretty sophisticated things you can do with it.


Makerspace@ Traf in the Caf Week 2

Makey Makey! If you haven’t had the privilege of trying out a Makey Makey, watch this video to give you an idea of all the wonderful things you can do with it:

Week 2 of the Makerspace launch was aided and abetted by Mr. Scruton, who helped us make pianos out of cafeteria fruits and vegetables,  take selfies by pressing down a sensor (sort of like the cat in the video) as well as playing Pacman using celery as a joystick and fist-bump pausing videos.

Here are some photos of the fun we had:

This was by far one of the most popular activity. The students were fascinated by  how they could conduct energy through an orange or a pickle. Heck, I’m fascinated by this. The students were the ones to ask how the cat could take a selfie and wanted to figure it out.

I found that at first, you have to let the students play with something that is already set up. Once they get over the fear of “breaking it”, they are then in a better place to try new things out. This starts slow- at first they simply change the type of vegetable. Or, in the case of the Pacman video game, start to move the wires when they find that they can’t move left for some reason.

But then, all of a sudden, the what-ifs start to externalize: What if we used this instead of this? What happens when…?

Although we don’t have a whole lot of time at lunch and the process could be taken much further, it was gratifying to see how students quickly get over their internal barriers to play and begin to lean in to their curiosity.



My First Real Makerspace Experience

Last Saturday I attended my first un-conference at McGill called ReMixEd Camp. Hosted by Learn Quebec, it was a free event for educators.

What is an un-conference, you ask? Good question. I asked myself the same thing. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

An unconference, also called an Open Space conference, is a participant-driven meeting. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization.[1]Wikipedia contributors. “Unconference.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Basically, they had organized sessions that you could attend or not. If you didn’t like what was being presented, you could add a session to the board.If you started out at a session and didn’t like it, you could leave and go join another.

My reason for attending the conference was all the Makerspace activities they had listed. I was hoping to get some ideas on how to promote it, some useful tips on how to set it up and hear about some best practices and lessons learned.

Instead, I made something.

It was really uncomfortable at first. I had no idea what I was doing. I kept apologizing for my lack of craft skills, as if the whole room was judging my worth as a human being on how I cut through felt. But then, after a few attempts and a lot of playing, I started to get an idea, a vision that would match my beginner skills.

I spent most of the day in their Makerspace, fiddling with felt, sewing my felt flower into place and learning more about circuits than I have ever known before.I made a circuit with a battery, a LED light, a resistor (now I know what that does!) and conductive thread. I got so into it, I would have skipped lunch if I had not already skipped breakfast.

It dawned on me that I have been so busy coordinating a Makerspace for others, that I was missing out on the true experience of it – how I can lose myself in a project, how learning felt organic and not forced, how satisfying it felt when my project succeeded after many attempts of it not succeeding! How the only thing that mattered, was figuring it out. There were no stakes, no judgment, no pressure. (Honestly, I am inordinately proud of my poor little light-up felt flower).

It made me think of the Brain from The Breakfast Club –  remember his storyline? How he was in detention because he thought he would take shop and get an easy A but he couldn’t get his lamp to work? How he couldn’t cope with a lower grade point average and that the obvious solution was to bring a flare gun to school in order to commit suicide?


What if he was graded on his attempt and not on the final result? On his iterations? On the fact that he kept trying and didn’t give up?

I didn’t want to go to this unconference. I was giving up my Saturday for this. I was tired. November was busy and well, November (ugh). Nobody was expecting me to go, it didn’t matter if I showed up or not. But I forced myself and sat down at the stool in front of materials I had never played with before and had no idea how they worked and ended up having a great time and feeling energized by the end of it.

For the first time, I truly experienced the benefits of Maker culture instead of simply talking about it.

Here is my flower:

More than ever I want to promote the Maker concept in our school. The difference now though is instead of always being on the side of coordinating and organizing, I am going to sit down beside the students and embrace all my failed attempts and celebrate my successes along with them.

Wednesday Session: Makerspace@Traf

In case you missed today’s presentation, here are the slides:

We discussed our vision of the Makerspace concept at Traf, which has three components to it:

  • Curricular
  • Co-curricular
  • Tinker stations

The meeting today was to get some ideas for all three components, but mainly for the tinker tables we would like to make available through out the school on a regular basis.

First though, we asked Staff to write down what kind of “Making” they engage in. Here’s a snapshot of the post-its they put up:


Responses ranged from cooking to ceramic painting, from lego to quilting. So many hidden skills!

Then we asked the staff to think of a skill they would like to learn:


Again the responses were very diverse from knitting to robotics, from learning how to draw to how to make a spice rack.

Luckily the Makerspace concept has room for all of this!

Then we asked the teachers to gather in their departments and think of three ideas for tinker tables in their department. We asked them to use Padlet, a virtual corkboard – very easy to use and gives a nice visual. Here is a screenshot:

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 3.04.50 PM

Sone great ideas came out of today’s discussion – a lot of which I will follow up with in the coming weeks!


Teachers Using Trello: How To Foster Genius In The Classroom

This is a different take on the post about “innovation day” I posted yesterday: genius hour. I have to admit though, it reminds me a lot of my kids’ alternative elementary school, where they would always have a few periods a week to work on a personal project.

I also like the use of Trello, which has been on my radar ever since Melanie showed me her attempts to use it with the Yearbook team (they were a little resistant, but I wonder if it is because our seniors are one of the last classes to not all have iPads…) In Fact, now that I think about it, Trell might be a good tool to use for the Integrative Project class!

See how one 5th grade teacher is working on Genius Hour with his students, with a little help from Trello.


See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

What Schools Can Learn from Google About Nurturing Creativity | Edudemic

I have been seeing this article kick around for a few days now and have had a hard time clicking on it as it references yet again the monolith that is Google and using it as an example for schools, which I think is problematic at best, terrifying at worst.

But…yes. There are some interesting ideas that have come out of the big G. Like the idea of 20% of employee’s time being devoted to personal projects (that align with Google’s business goals of course.)

The article below gives the case for implanting an “Innovation Day” at the school once a term where students work on a project of their own choosing (that aligns with the school’s chosen theme of course).

The first thing that came to mind was a way to launch our Makerspace, or at least a way to introduce the tools and resources available at the school outside of the context of the rigid curriculum demands.

What do you think? Let me know!

Google participates in a practice called Innovation Time Off, in which employees can work on projects so long as they align with Google’s mission and goals.


See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

How to Turn Any Classroom Into a Makerspace | Edudemic

This article comes right on the heels of a meeting I just had with a certain science teacher, who is very interested in incorporating Makerspace ideas into her classroom. She is also going to attend a conference in June with a huge Makerspace component.

I have also been trying to think of how I add some Make components to my library. The tools would all have to be things that weren’t too messy and easily put away, but I think that could  include many things, from knitting needles and yarn to a button maker to circuit bits and robotics materials.

We are also thinking of having an extra-curricular Makerspace series, where each month would be a different theme. We would like to include a very practical aspect to it as well – workshops on how to change a bike tire, or cook a meal – skills our students may not be learning in this fast-paced world.

Of course, many courses already include hands-on activities (I am thinking art class especially, but also science). I think where the Makerspace mission differs a little is the idea of having the tools on hand so that people can use them on their own time for their own, self-guided project (necessarily as their is only so much self-guidance that can happen in a school environment). Makerspace is above all about people. You need to have someone who knows how to use the power tool, how to change a bicycle tire tube, how to use a 3D printer. It is about people helping people learn and ultimately giving back to our community. Perfect for a school!

The article below gives some ideas of projects that could be used in the classroom. They range from low budget and low tech to lessons using a#D printers (higher end of the budget).

There is magic found in rolling up your sleeves & tackling a project, a sense of empowerment that results from solving problems and manifesting big ideas.


See on Scoop.itipadyoupad