This fall we introduced the Maker Camp After School program so that Maker Camp could continue its annual summer program and keep it running all year long. Our whole new lineup of projects — loosely themed around balls, falling objects, and autumnally appropriate activities — featured everything from booby traps to spinning lamps.
All of our project ideas are launchpads into the creative universe inside each kid’s head. We hope that every camper finds ways to customize these project ideas and make these projects their own, or to veer off into some other galaxy of projects that inspires them. Whatever you make, we hope you share it on our Maker Camp Community or by adding the hashtag #makercamp to whatever you post to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Let’s take a look at the creative explosion that was the fall season of Maker Camp After School!
We got a little naughty with our first project of the season, Booby Traps, encouraging mischievous teens and ‘tweens the world over to prank people either with a simple circuit in a doormat or with a mechanical hack we love, the dropping spider.
Light-Up Tote Bag
Next, we worked with a different kind of switch, the reed switch, to make a bag that (we have to admit) we got insanely excited about. We were thinking about how great it’d be on Halloween if your candy bag could light up when you opened it, just like a refrigerator, so that you could peek inside to see what sweet treasures you’ve collected. And that’s how the Fridge Bag or Light-up Tote Bag was born! With this project, campers kept on exploring circuitry while adding in a stitch of sewing fundamentals too. (But we also shared a no-sew version of the bag.)
Next we showed you how to make a big, round Papier Mâché Spheres, because who doesn’t love a giant head (especially for Halloween!)? Sure, we could spend several days 3D printing a sphere, but real Makers know the right hack for any job, so for this project a beach ball and balloons provided structure for our mask.
There are a lot of directions you can go with a giant round head, but we decided to transform it into a bugged-out blushing Emoji that we called the Eeee-motion Emoji Mask. In part two, we showed you how to add the “Eee” and “motion” with LEDs and simple mechanics to make our mask expressive-on-demand!
Mini Catapult Basketball Game
After the spheremongers got a-round their projects, we bounced over to a project that was a slam dunk: a tabletop Mini Catapult Basketball Game just in time for the start of the basketball season. Inspired by the Community Science Workshop Network, you can alley-oop this project to new heights by adding a touch sensor and a MaKey MaKey.
From dunks we rolled over to drops: first the Marble Drop, a classic carnival game (also inspired by our friends at the Community Science Workshop Network), which let our campers really “nail” their hammering skills before taking on the most challenging project of the season…
The Pachinko Machine
The two-part Pachinko Machine could be the foundation for a whole semester of tinkering and exploration if you want to take it beyond the two weeks we spent on the project. Pachinko Machines are a great canvas to express your boundless creativity. The designs you make and how you arrange your pins, levers, cups, spinners, traps, and other tricky obstacles are totally up to you.
A Pachinko Machine is like a pinball machine that hangs straight up and down, so you can think of it as mechanical art. Just like the marble drop, balls tumble through a bunch of pins, but they’re not as regularly spaced and make lots of patterns, and you can decide on yours. In Japan, you collect the balls to trade for prizes, but for our Pachinko Machine, a finished game you made yourself is the sweet reward you get at the end! Our masterpiece, complete with an Arduino-powered scoreboard, hangs on our wall at Maker Camp HQ and wows everyone who visits. Our Pachinko Machine spotlight also included a special visit to go behind the scenes at the Maker Media Lab to Meet the Makers and discover how they have been restoring a beautiful, vintage Pachinko Machine.
Finally, we took a turn away from all those ball games of November and turned to the dark days of December with a project perfect for this time of year, when the days are short and the nights are so… very… long. Makers often look around their communities for a problem to solve, and if we can bring some delight and whimsy into our solution, all the better.
The problem we’re solving is how to make these longer nights of late fall something we look forward to. If, like us, you live in the northern hemisphere, then you may have noticed how dark it’s getting in the evenings. Beautiful lights, both inside and outside the house, can cure the short-day blues.
For the first Spinning Lamp project, we shared a simplified “spinoff” of the traditional rotating lanterns known in Japan as mawari-doro (まわりどうろう) and in Germany as Weihnachtspyramide. First we made a lamp that would spin using the rising heat coming off of an incandescent bulb, with custom designs for the moving images, based loosely on a design by our friend Arvind Gupta. The second week was a completely original design that uses an energy-efficient bulb, a motor, and simple, custom, handmade gears. For our final project of the season, we really got into the winter spirit by shaping this final project into a cozy cabin. Along the way, campers picked up skills in wiring an actual, working, plug-in lamp to use at home. What DIY-loving elf could resist making and giving this de-light-ful present for the holidays?
The two Spinning Lamp projects, like all our project suggestions at Maker Camp, are a chance to really let your ingenuity shine. You could take this project in lots of different directions, and we hope you’ll share some pictures of your project so that we can see how your creative energy transformed our idea into your own great project!
That’s a Wrap
While the 10 weeks of Maker Camp After School have turned out the light on a season full of fantastic Maker projects, making has no “off” switch for all you Makers out there! Today, yesterday, tomorrow, and any day is a great day to make! Show other campers what you’ve got cooking in your workshop. We also want to know who you are: you’re the superstar Maker who made your awesome project! Keep on sharing anything you make in the Maker Camp Community through our social channels and hashtag!
Affiliates, parents, teachers, and kids themselves have been knocking on the Maker Camp cabin door wanting an after school program for years. We were so glad to be able to share a full season of projects with you.
To learn more about the Maker Camp After School program, to become an affiliate, or to register for free as an individual, please visit the Maker Camp site. And be sure to head to Maker Shed if you’re interested in purchasing a Maker Camp materials kit.
One last note: with the final video this season we wish a fond farewell (for now) to our fantastic intern Rebecca “Raptor” Fisher, who came to us with every talent in her back pocket that Maker Camp needed this summer and fall. She heads back south to the University of California at San Diego, where she is going to spread the word about the Maker Movement to her fellow UCSD students in the Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts major. We look forward to seeing what you do next, Rebecca!