Dr. AnnMarie Thomas teaches engineering at the University of St. Thomas, where she is the director of their Playful Learning Lab. Her unconventional approach to teaching includes making circuits out of dough, toy design, and the physics behind circus arts. She is also the co-founder and director of the university’s Center for Engineering Education, which teaches engineering to teachers of pre-kindergarten through high school students, and researches engineering education for those grades.
AnnMarie is really proud of the work her students have done in showing more kids and adults the importance, and fun, of engineering. Several students (Emma Koller, Lauren Van Beek, Alli Lague, and Jon Erickson… as well as other engineers and teachers), are teaching at the week long STEPS Camp, which the University runs as a free summer camp for girls. Student Brynn Kasper led a team of engineering students that taught Creative Circuits at Metro Deaf School this past spring.
Maker Media is proud to be publishing AnnMarie’s first full length book, which will examine the backgrounds of today’s makers when they were children to gain insight into encouraging the maker mindset in children. ‘Making Makers’ is available for pre-order on Amazon, and is expected to be out in late September 2014.
AnnMarie recently participated in the White House Maker Faire, presenting her Squishy Circuits play dough, which turns learning circuits into a fun, creative activity. AnnMarie created Squishy Circuits to let kids (and adults) create circuits and explore electronics using dough. She created a recipe for one type of dough to be a conductor and another to act as an insulator.
“The Maker Faire was incredible,” AnnMarie said, “because it showed makers that the work they were doing mattered and was important enough to have a day at the White House. I was amazed by the creativity and ingenuity on display.”
AnnMarie’s six year old daughter Sage has noticed that only a small percentage of her mom’s engineering students are girls. Often when Sage goes to engineering camps or classes she is the only girl. Together they are working to make girls in engineering more visible. We say, more power to them!