In this edition of Finding Starter Projects, we take a look at resources that guide maker leaders in focusing on a single domain, tool, or material. Using these, maker clubs and making classrooms can take a deep dive into one kind of making.
This is another approach to narrowing down The Wide World of Whatever You Want that I mentioned in my last post. An open field can be intimidating to new makers. Establishing a shared focus gently welcomes new makers into this vast landscape. “Deadline-driven design” doesn’t work for all makers. Our teachers with maker clubs and classes have reported that for the girls in particular, competitions can often be a turn-off. Even when there’s no prize in sight, a shared experience is valuable.
Working with a common set of tools or materials builds trust and confidence as new makers get used to making together. Another convenient consequence of this approach is that you can focus your spending at the same time that you focus your students. For example, if you buy a few MaKey MaKeys, you could keep you and all your students busily creating the several dozen suggested projects that JoyLabz share on their site.
There are so many great choices, we share today’s links alphabetically.
Arduino. In many ways, the Arduino is a keystone of the Maker movement, and teachers are often looking for good ways to introduce their students to using this powerful microcontroller. We’re happy to report that Arduino’s own materials for getting started are actually quite well done. Also check out the Make: book Getting Started with Arduino by Arduino co-creator Massimo Banzi.
Circuits. One of our teachers turned us onto Circuit-Projects.com and DIY Electronics Projects. This is a good time to mention again Make:Projects and Instructables, both full of circuit projects and learning aids. In an earlier post I mentioned High-Low Tech’s projects (especially Getting Hands-On with Soft Circuits). In a future post we’ll look at retail outlets like SparkFun and Adafruit (and MakerShed, of course!) that are perennial favorites with our teachers, full of circuit-building projects.
Green. Let’s get practical! You could spend a whole school year focused on making that revolves around “the four Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot), transforming your school into a K12 version of Maker Faire’s Homegrown Village and saving bucks in the budget as you do. The number of educational resources out there are nearly limitless (unlike our natural resources!), but here are a few sites from Maker Media’s neighborhood in Berkeley to get you started: the Green Schools Initiative, StopWaste, California Regional Environmental Education Community, and the Edible Schoolyard Project.
littleBits. This powerful set of reconfigurable modules introduces kids to creating all kinds of circuits. The team has backed their kits up with a set of Project Lessons (including everything from a Tickle Machine to a Unihorn Helmet) and a helpful workshop guide.
MaKey MaKey. We can’t say enough wonderful things about this ingenious interface between the digital and physical world. Part of the magic of this joyful tool is the diverse set of 18 delightful projects its creators and most avid users have dreamed up and described in step-by-step instructions. Club leader Kurt suggests to make sure you have at least two MaKey MaKeys in the room, especially if you have both boys and girls in your maker club, so that everyone gets some time with it.
The Math Projects Journal. One of our teachers has used Princess Dido and the Ox Skin in their making classroom.
NEED: National Energy Education Development. Some of the schools we work with have directed their students to thinking about energy use, production, and conservation in many new ways, often because they use this to find support for their school-based makerspaces and their students’ projects. One resource these teachers consult is the NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project Curriculum Resources. It focuses on projects related to all kinds of energy, like Biomass, Geothermal, and Uranium!
Nerdy Derby. Makers create their own creative, innovative race-car to launch down an undulating, 30-foot track. The folks behind Nerdy Derby have developed a set of lesson plans and different car designs that could keep your class or club happily busy for weeks!
Notebooks and Circuit Stickers. We know kids love stickers, and what better way to get your young artists (and writers) excited about electronics? Check out the templates available at nexmap 21st Century Notebooking (created with the National Writing Project) and on the Chibitronics site.
Scratch. We pointed you to the Scratch site in our list of free software for making. Be sure to also check out ScratchEd‘s resources, including the thorough Creative Computing, a Scratch curriculum guide by Karen Brennan, Christan Balch, and Michelle Chung
Soldering is Easy. Mitch Altman has taught tens of thousands to solder around the world. He teamed up with Andie Nordgren to create a one-page cartoon. The cartoon has been translated into French, Czech, Romanian, Portuguese, German, Spanish (see left), Italian, and, mysteriously, Morse Code! Mitch and Andie also worked with Jeff Keyser to make a multi-page comic book on soldering too!
Swap-O-Rama-Rama. Screenprinting, sewing & textile hacking. Pick some material or some clothes from the used clothing pile and then make a costume, sew a dress, hack a blazer into a purse, silkscreen rad designs onto your sweatshirt!; t-shirt appliques with adhesive interface, using sewing machines, bag from a t-shirt, hacked fashion
Thematic explorations. When I visited Brightworks last year, I was impressed by their approach to studying one theme in depth at a time. They call it the Arc. In the past they’ve had Arcs like salt or cities. Now they are pursuing three: photograph, book, and movie.
Thingiverse. Teachers go here to find models their students can hack and print out on your 3D printer.
WikiSeat. Use furniture design to introduce your students to materials and skills of construction, collaboration, and community. Students build their seats atop a Catalyst (the structural support for a chair.) Note that applications for 2015 WikiSeat Scholarship Application are due November 15.
What did we miss? Tell us!
There are so many other project-focus possibilities like this! We know we haven’t captured everything here. Check out our earlier posts in this series:
- Finding Starter Projects for New Makers (Part 1: Make & friends)
- Finding Starter Projects (Part 2: project databases)
- Finding Starter Projects: Free Software for Making
- Finding Starter Projects: Project Sets
- Finding Starter Projects: Deadline-Driven Design
Be sure to check out the growing resource library built by our friends at the Maker Education Initiative.
What’s your favorite resource for making projects? What have you used with kids? Where do you get inspired, and what projects and sites inspire them? Tell us what you like and why you like it. Add to our list by commenting below.