BAME Meet-Up Scratch & Makey Makey


Last Thursday, we hosted a Bay Area Maker Educator Meet-Up (BAMEM) at the Exploratorium with the theme of tinkering with Scratch and Makey Makey. Nicole and I set up several half-baked (or less) prototypes that we hoped would inspire the group to think about possibilities for tinkering with these tools and suggest ways to combine the physical and digital realm. The stations included light and shadow, paper circuit storytelling, sound and music, a few really rough ideas, and a 'scratch lounge' for beginners. As a follow-up to the workshop, I wanted to share links to the hardware and websites that we used as well as some notes from the reflection discussion at the end of the workshop. IMG_1215

At BAME meet-up, we used a combination of hardware that we've been messing around with that move toward lowering the threshold for the electronics portion of the activity. These tools include the following items:

Seed Studio Grove Kit (http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/Grove-Starter-Kit-V3-p-1855.html) - This shield connects to the top of an arduino and lets learners plug and play outputs like LEDs and sensors for light and sound without worrying about wires, resistors, or breadboarding. We also used the relay block that allows the arduino to switch on and off an element with a separate power source with more voltage. Nicole mounted these elements on wooden blocks a la circuit boards which we think makes them easier to use and more approachable.
Makey Makey (http://makeymakey.com/) - Makey Makey acts like a computer keyboard and allows learners to build switches out of familiar materials to control a wide range of programs including Scratch projects.
Mesh Sensors (http://meshprj.com/en/) - Ryoko has been experimenting with these sensors which are programmed through an Ipad app and can control motors, lights, and sensors that can all be triggered wirelessly. We're interested in incorporating these small components into projects like chain reaction, light play, or other tinkering activities.


For the programming element of the activity, we used Scratch based visual programming language both through the regular site as well as ScratchX, an experimental space for the Scratch team to experiment with adding new extensions to the system. Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) - The regular Scratch site allows users to create all types of projects, share, and remix them. It's developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten team at MIT media lab and is something that is a great introduction to programming for people of all ages. ScratchX (http://scratchx.org/) - This experimental site adds blocks that control arduino pins. It's a little bit clunky with the grove sensors but once you start with programming you can create patterns, if/then statements, and projects that interact with the digital and physical world. Scratch Educator Guide (https://scratch.mit.edu/educators/) - There are tons of resources on the scratch site for teachers and educators. IMG_1219

As a way to get started thinking about tinkering in the digital world, we've been testing out ways of adapting pre-existing tinkering activities including Light Play and Paper Circuits. We have a few resources for starting point materials and prompts for those basic activities that can be a springboard for explorations into the digital world and programming.

Paper Circuits (http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/sites/default/files/Instructions/paper_circuits.pdf) - For paper circuits, we created a few example projects like an alarm clock, firefly, heart, and sunset that we thought would encourage participants to try to make blinking, fading and rhythmic patterns when connected to the LED outputs.
Light Play Instructable (http://www.instructables.com/id/Light-Play-Set/) - Light play is something that we spend some time with the LLK team experimenting with a few months ago. For the BAME meet-up we just used relays to switch the lights on and off but we are imagining that in the future we could find ways to make color changing, fading, and sensing lights with help from our colleagues at MIT.


Specifically for some of the activities or prototypes, we've added a couple extra things for explorations of music and motion that we think are specifically good for Scratch and Makey Makey experiments. Servos (https://www.servocity.com/html/hs-322hd_standard_deluxe.html#.Vx_GUj_LNaQ) - Nicole built version 2.0 of a arduino powered xylophone that essentially has the same mechanism as her bubble blowing machine, two servo motors hot glued together. In Scratch, you can program each motor to move a set number of degrees and pattern to create a wide range of movements to play instruments or accomplish other tasks. These motors were also used in the Robot Petting Zoo workshop that Nicole and I participated in a few months ago. Bluetooth Speaker (http://www.amazon.com/OrigAudio-Bumpster-Bluetooth-Wireless-Speaker/dp/B00MV6X2M4) - We think there's a lot of potential in creating musical instruments with homemade switches and Makey Makey and it seemed like and interesting path to include a small bluetooth speaker in the cardboard creation. This speaker seemed to work well but I think any small wireless speaker would be great to try. IMG_1185

At the end of the session, we used the 'compass points' Project Zero thinking routine where we analyze the experience with four prompts representing each of the cardinal directions. For east, we identified things that EXCITE us about tinkering with Scratch and Makey Makey projects. Some of the participants mentioned things like the collaborative aspect of the activities, the amount of variables to explore and the chance to be playful with these ideas. For west, we shared WORRIES that we have about Scratch and Makey Makey, including the cost and accessibility of the tools, providing enough professional development for colleagues and getting buy in from schools and institutions. North stands for the things we NEED TO KNOW before trying the activity. Some of the questions people had were around where to get the materials, what they cost, and well as questions about assessment and how to scaffold deeper investigations. At the southern point of the compass was a STANCE or a SUGGESTION to others after trying these prototypes. I loved the group's ideas, to keep the activity focused on immediate feedback, the power of hands-on experiences, that you can do plenty of 'programming' without computers, and that we can balance open-ended and guided provocations to create diverse entry points to these computational tinkering experiments.


Love Tools? Here's the list...

Open MAKE: Tools

Photo of cardboard tools created by Scout Tran-Caffee as part of OpenMAKE:Tools

Last month several members of the ASTC Community of Practice (CoP) for Making and Tinkering had a G+hangout dedicated to TOOLS used in our making & tinkering spaces and why we love them.  Since the hangout aired, we've received requests for a list of tools that were mentioned - so here they are as a comprehensive list (see below)!  You'll have to watch the recording of the hangout to learn why we love each one of them, but the list makes for a handy reference guide or cheat sheet.  For some reason there seem to be a disproportionate amount of cutters on this list - not sure what that says about us, other than we like to cut things, but we all came away with new insights and ideas regarding tools and tool use.  We hope you find familiar favorites on the list as well as a few new ones you might wanna check out!  We've already ordered 2 items from the list for the Tinkering Studio. 


Leo Palombo, Dana Schloss from ScienceWorks 
Sara Bolduc
from CEC Makerspace
Rebekah Nelson, Prinda Wanakule
from The Tech
Reid Bingham, Annalise Phillips, David Wells
from NYSci
Mike Cook & Bill 
from Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
Nicole Catrett, Karen Wilkinson
from Exploratorium

Here's the recording of the hangout 



Klever Koncept Safety Cutter By ULINE
(David Wells, Keith Braafladt)

Vinyl cutter
By Silhouette Cameo
(Annalise Phillips, Keith Braafladt)

Medical scissors (with the blade 3” long)
(Dana Schloss)

Box cutter
Rotary cutter
(Sara Bolduc)

Hack saw
(Rebekah Nelson)

Japanese saw (Nicole Catrett)

Oscillating power tool (cordless)
By Milwaukee
(Mike Cook)

12V cordless powered jig saw
By Milwaukee
(Reid Bingham)

Electric rotary fabric mini cutter
(Dana Shloss)

Bonsai scissors
(Dana Schloss, Leo Palombo)

Screw punch tool (also known as the Martha Stewart Tool or Japanese Book Drill)
(Summer Brandon)

Hole puncher with spring By Fiskars
(Rebekah Nelso)

Cutting tool for popsicle sticks with certain angles By Mid-west / teachergeek.com
(Annalise Phillips)

Laser cutter
By Universal, Epilog
(Karen Wilkinson, Nicole Catrett, Summer Brandon)

Bone folder (Karen Wilkinson)

Multi meter with the volume setting
(Nicole Catrett)

Apps: Adobe Capture CC By Adobe
(Prinda Wanakule)
(for laser cutter, shape function will vectorize of objects from photos)

Battery powered soldering iron By Hakko
(Betty Brinn)

Apps: Spin Turntable (Sara Bolduc)

Apps: Shadow Puppet

Web: Build in Progress (Karen Wilkinson)

Youtube video to a gif (Dana Schloss)

Attention getter
made of bamboo from Thailand
(David Wells)

Small impact driver
By Makita
(Rebekah Nelson, Nicole Catrett)

Hot glue gun “the universal connector”
(Nicole Catrett)

TIG welder “glue gun for metal”
(Tim Hunkin)

Digital Caliper
(Reid Bingham)

Handheld 3D scanner (Mike Cook)

Structure sensor on iPad
By David Wells

Micro screwdrivers By Wera
(Dana Schloss, Nicole Catrett)

Watercolor bot By Evil Mad
(Karen Wilkinson)

Jewelry plier (Karen Wilkinson)

Good scissors
By Fiskars
(Lianna Kali)

Pico cricket By Playful Invention Company
(Luigi Anzivino)

EMT Scissors
Klever Kutters
Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter
Button maker (Keith Braafladt)

Makita drill little battery drivers
Safety goggles,
Japanese saw,
Metric/ SAE tape measure,
Cutter with sharp blades


Alien Salvation by Tim Hunkin

Last month, during his yearly residency with us, Tim Hunkin worked on a cam-timed series of tiny theater boxes that told a story, narrated (with sound effects!) on a recordable sound chip. Ryan shared a blog post about it, along with a roughly recorded video. Here is a nicer video giving a sense of what the contraption looked like, the intended use, and better video and sound. Enjoy!


Tops Kit

The latest addition to our Tinkering Studio vending machine is a “Tops Kit,” meant to encourage playful exploration of spinning tops! The video above is a quick series of ideas and provocation for things you can try with our kit, but it is really meant to be a starting point and a way to rapidly start messing about with some ideas about balance, size, and weight distribution.

Tops kit

The kit is intentionally minimal: like most good tinkering activities it is easy to get started and have an initial success, while allowing you to go deeper and explore more complex variables.

Tops kit

We've included a nicely square piece of cardboard with a perfect center pre-marked for you to get started with no guesswork. A pencil and a piece of string allow you to create an impromptu compass to make very large scale circles, or experiment with string-powered starting mechanisms!

Tops kit

Everything else is up to your imagination and willingness to explore. If you play with this kit and create interesting tops, please let us know in the comments below!


Research + Practice

This spring we have the privilege of working with the After School Program at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland to explore tinkering and making in after school time, and how it has the potential to make connections with learning in outside experiences (you can read more about the project here). Since we have the week off of program for spring break Jean and I thought it could be fun to try an "experiment in blogging" and share our reflections on how things have been going so far.

Lianna: One of my favorite aspects of this project is that it's a research and practice partnership between the Exploratorium, Lighthouse, and the University of Washington. For me, I've had lots of opportunities to be on the development and implementation end of workshops, and this experience is a great learning opportunity in another lens to examine our work. One example is re-reading the fieldnotes Jean takes each week. As a facilitator, I get a glimpse into interactions that are happening in other parts of the room. It's an opportunity to "see" techniques my co-facilitators are using, and the impact it has on students.

lighthouse 2

Jean: Yes! The collaboration across organizations and blending of research with educational practice are some of my favorite aspects of the project too! I am learning so much as a researcher conducting ethnographic observations in Lianna's afterschool program led with Sarah and other Tinkering Studio folks: not only from the students as they tinker and the facilitators as they teach, but also from the process of trying to document all that is going on in a way that can be useful and meaningful for Lianna, Sarah, other teachers, and the students.

For example, when I share fieldnotes with Lianna and our Tinkering Studio team, they always give me feedback about both structural and content aspects of the fieldnotes that can help improve the ways we make sense of the learning and teaching going on in the program. I have learned that in order for my fieldnotes to be accessible to people outside my brain, there is a careful balance that must be struck between dialogue and imagery/photos for illustrating interactions between children and other students, children and materials, etc. I have also learned that when attempting to engage in joint analysis of fieldnotes with Lianna or others, sharing the entire fieldnote is not necessarily useful. In fact, the fieldnotes (that describe lots of details over 25+ pages) can be overwhelming to readers (surprise surprise)! Another piece of helpful feedback I received from Lianna just last week was that including more "observer comments" exploring my personal analyses and subjective reactions to activities and interactions can be helpful for her for delving into other ways of seeing interaction or organizing activities. We agreed that these researcher "observer comments" could serve as a useful point of entry for conversation between educational and researcher perspectives.

In response to these early stage experiences looking at data together, Lianna and I are going to experiment with joint analyzing different kinds of documents that build on aspects of my fieldnotes but do not necessarily involve reading entire fieldnotes. I am excited to develop this new genre of documentation with Lianna!

Lianna: Jean, I'm so glad you brought up the observer comments because I think they're an interesting tool for delving into our practice. When facilitating groups you don't often get the chance to get feedback or insights into your actions and how they have an impact on student learning. We'll often debrief after the fact, but it's based on memories of our experiences. The observer comments in the fieldnotes have an immediacy to them that feels different than post-program reflections.

One comment from last week's fieldnote was related to how a student immediately picked up a facilitator's suggestion for testing his circuit, and quickly started using those techniques to test other challenging spots as well. It's the kind of moment you miss when you help someone troubleshoot then move on to helping another student, but by having the fieldnote with your comment highlighted, we're able to notice these moments, and hopefully see future instances of similar practices.

Another thing you brought up that I'm excited to keep experimenting with is different types of documentation. We're very inspired by the work done in Reggio schools in Italy, and I’m curious to see how different approaches to fieldnotes will encourage us to notice different things. Incorporating them into our weekly reflections will also play a huge role in helping us determine what types of documentation help provide immediate feedback for impacting the student experience in ASP.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.48.23 PM

Jean: It's funny, Lianna, but when you first mentioned how you found the observer comments helpful, I remember feeling surprised. I didn't think that the comments I was writing down for myself were in any way interesting or useful for others. But I guess I was thinking in too shallow a way about what is "useful" or "not useful"! :)

I feel incredibly privileged to get to receive feedback from Lianna and others on these fieldnotes. At first I was excited about the fact that Lianna, Sarah, and others who have been present during the afterschool program might be able to correct anything I may have misinterpreted or misrepresented in the fieldnotes. Having the input of educators in the room could make the fieldnotes richer and provide insights that I may have been unable to notice or capture at first writing. However, I now realize the ways different aspects of the fieldnote can be a springboard for conversation as well - not just feedback or input. I mean, this seems obvious to me now, but for some reason I didn’t think about the potential for dialogue earlier!

In our next blog, let’s try a mini-example of conversing around fieldnotes!

Lianna: I love that idea! We'll be trying a brand new activity next week, so it'll be the perfect opportunity to reflect on not only the nitty-gritty details of new activity development, but also potential learning opporturnities and challenges for upcoming weeks.


Overdeck Family Foundation

This collaboration is funded by the Overdeck Foundation and the National Science Foundation.