Summer of Making: Maker Camp ‘Round the World

Maker News
Summer of Making: Maker Camp ‘Round the World

From California to Pakistan, over 800 Maker Camps launched this summer all over the globe. Using inspiration from our online Maker Camp projects and the affiliate resources we provided to support their efforts, these maker-minded groups gathered in libraries, museums, schools, community centers, and homes to make together, have fun, and engage in deep learning.

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Our affiliates contributed to a dynamic learning community by posting camper projects and sharing around our weekly virtual Maker Campfire. To celebrate the end of this season’s Maker Camp, we asked a few of our affiliates to share a highlight or two. Here are some of their stories.

No Goldfish Were Harmed

Aubrey Hyers and Gary Schafer from New Jersey’s Otto Bruyns Public Library are glad to paint a scene from their summer’s Maker Camp with this fun narrative.

“How’s the fish going to push the elevator button?” asked the 10-year-old girl who had taken up the challenge of drawing the scenery for our Fish Dune Buggy video.

“Excuse me?” I stammer a bit because I haven’t caught up to her mental process.

“This fish, he’s going to drive to a hotel and automatic doors will open and he will drive inside. But how will he push the elevator button to get to his room? It has no hands.”

I see she is sketching in the cityscape of the scenery where there is a high-rise.

“Great question. How does a human with no hands press an elevator button?”

The chatter erupts from a table of students ages 10-14 as the challenges of accessibility begin to dawn upon them in previously unconsidered ways. We discuss how we often take our bodies for granted and we talk about the ways in which technology is used in the medical field.

This dialogue is going on with the Girls Book Club that meets weekly at our library. The girls are pitching in by creating the scenery for our “Driving Fish” Meet & Make project. Then comes the million-dollar question from a 13-year-old who is sketching the large cat that looms at the end of the fish’s journey.

“How do you know it even wants to go anywhere? I mean, he’s all happy in his tank and then, wham, he’s moving.”

“Yeah, it’s like animal cruelty,” chimes in another student.

That opens a few huge topics. Being sassy, smart, and fueled with sugar, the flood of comments is fast and furious at this point.

We discuss the dangers of “unwanted saviors,” one group projecting what it perceives to be a need or problem onto another group, be that a species, culture, gender, etc. We talk about cruelty to animals and review all the ways our fish will be made safe to ensure that no goldfish are harmed in the making of this video.

In an hour spent making something with students, there are a million potential conversations that will arise if you allow them to. Conversations that could lead to possible book recommendations, future experiments, and new theories. Most importantly, however, these conversations prove that there are adults listening. Maker culture is one of making friends, building confidence and reinforcing a thought process that will help students to solve all kinds of future life challenges.


The Geeks Valley camp in Saudi Arabia hosted some 200 kids between the ages of 9-12 for a summer camp that was segmented into four sections, according to camp leader Taher Alblowe. There were electronics, in which they learned how to prototype; programming, in which they learned programming with Scratch; robots, where they focused on engineering; and finally, competitions in which they competed as teams.

“The outputs and feedback were outstanding,” Taher says. “The kids really got into it and got passionate about it. A lot of them even made up their minds to become engineers, game developers, and robot makers! Personally, this is the best part for me. The way the kids interact and the way they are amazed — not to mention their great imaginations — is priceless.”

Wonder + Fun

“This summer we worked with more kids in more places than ever before,” says Sandy Roberts of Kaleidoscope Enrichment in New Jersey. “Our makers explored density by making Duck Tape Duckies at the pool; used chemistry to toast marshmallows; lit up the farmers’ market with Snap Circuits, Makey Makeys, and Scratch programs; created some amazing superhero and steampunk cosplay at the library; blended and made their own paints like DaVinci; grew cucumbers with hydroponics; made spin art T-shirts; and even held epic lightsaber battles with swords they made themselves!”

“At every step,” she says, “they were full of imagination and creativity while they developed their maker skills and self-confidence. For me, the best part was the laughter.

“The inherent sense of wonder and fun that Maker Camp creates is the best part of summer. As one student said, after making a light-up magic wand, ‘I never thought I could make anything like this. Now I’m going to make it better!’ And that’s what it’s all about.”

Making History in 3D!

The University of North Carolina’s Learning Factory held two Maker Camp sessions this summer where campers engaged in robotics, circuitry, engineering, digital storytelling, and computer science, reports UNCG’s Evan Hill. The camp focused on building students’ capacities to use creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. At the end of each session, they hosted their own Maker Faire to celebrate what the campers had made and learned.

This summer turned out some very creative projects, and the energy was contagious! Combining history with technology, one group used WWII propaganda posters with littleBits circuit technology to bring the posters to life while they learned about the second World War. Another group used cardboard to create skull masks that they decorated with paint and collage. Then they built on their 3D cardboard prototyping skills to try doodling and printing in 3D.

Bugs v. Bots

“Being inside a science center gives us a lot of great opportunities to pull in scientific concepts and equipment to combine with more traditional makerspace activities,” explains Ryan Bell from the Maker Studio at Science City in Missouri. “One epically fun program we ran was making ‘Bug Bots.’ We went to our neighbors in the Nature Center and borrowed a few Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as the inspiration for our bots. It was a great chance for our guests to have an animal encounter while learning about electronics and practicing functional design skills. We explored how scientists, inventors, and makers look to nature to inspire and help solve problems.

“There were so many wonderful experiences throughout the week with kids holding and interacting with the cockroaches,” Ryan enthuses. “The kids were able to have a hands-on experience observing the bug’s anatomy and movements as research for their own bug bots.
“After that, they learned about simple circuits and wired up their own with a small vibrating motor and battery, which lent itself to lots of smiles and claps when their circuits functioned and the motors started running. They were able to practice their hot glue skills and build their bots as they saw fit—with encouragement to think about how real insects are built. (We used the brush bot model with a toothbrush base. There’s something about decapitating a toothbrush that kids—and educators—love!) We finished the workshop with a race in our home-made cockroach race track, an epic battle of Bug vs. Bots.”

Real Life Solutions

At Idaho’s Salmon Public Library, “summer camp” usually means, well. . . summer camp. They get the kids outside, sleeping under the stars. But this year, says camp leader Jeff Stratter, “we encouraged our youth to try a different type of camping. The sense of accomplishment, social interactivity, and joy of building with one’s hands marked our first phase of Maker Camp.”
Jeff’s camp took on the ambitious goal of imagining and designing a civic project. “We took a look at how making works from the thinking aspect by pushing the youth during our Design Thinking Summer Challenge,” he explains.

“Each week we explored a different phase of the design process — ASK, IMAGINE, PLAN, CREATE, TEST, IMPROVE.”

Using that process, Jeff’s campers decided to design a slide for the local community swimming pool. The result was nothing short of magic.

“Something amazing happens when you let go of limitations on youth and you simply let them explore,” Jeff says. “Expectations leave you with each exhale and, as you inhale, you breathe in the magic of discovery. Every single week, 10- and 11-year-olds overachieved by conducting high-level, real-world applications of math and science without having the “trained” knowledge to do so. Pushed beyond their limits, they solved algebraic equations, unit conversions, trigonometric relationships—all because it was real,” he says. “It was a problem they had identified and were passionate to solve.”

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Testing a cardboard prototype in the library

Prototypes and Pakistan

The Pakistan Science Club has participated in Maker Camp since its inception in 2012. This year, some 50 students from second to 10th grade took part, either as Curious Scientists (ages 6-11) or Inventor Scientists (ages 12-16)—all of them scientists. They used straws to build towers and Popsicle sticks to build bridges.

“The activities were highly supportive in not only developing the hands-on skills but also to explain fundamental concepts, laws and applications in everyday life,” says Pakistan Science Club’s Abdul Rauf. Ten-year-old Shayan Haider was a Curious Scientist this summer, slaking this love for cars by building them in several different ways with different materials. Learning to work with paper circuits, he made a light-up card for his mother to celebrate the Eid festival that concludes Ramadan. Shayan and his father both agree that he will attend next year. “He has got so many idea and is always busy making a new thing,” says Shayan’s father. “Glad that I made the right decision.”

Snuffle Mats!

Carolyn Alexander had some 200 campers at her Pleasant Valley School District camp in California this summer. They offered digital storytelling, coding, robotics, and physical and digital making, where campers prototyped with cardboard, designed with TinkerCAD, learned how to use a 3D printer, made Makey Makey projects, and programmed a Raspberry Pi.

But one project really captured everyone’s attention. During the week themed “Community Connections,” everyone from pre-kindergarteners through fifth graders made Snuffle Mats for dogs and puppies at the local shelter.

“A Snuffle Mat is a rubber mat that has strips of fleece tied onto it and then you hide treats in the fabric weave,” Carolyn explains. “It takes the dogs a while to sniff around and dig them out. The students loved that they were making something that could make the dogs happy. It was rewarding to see our students use their talents and strengths to help others. Our older students helped the younger students learn how to tie knots. All of the students worked together and were so proud that they made something that can bring joy to dogs that need to be loved.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with students in our makerspaces,” Carolyn says. “They grow so much in not only their skills and abilities, but in their confidence in themselves and their ability to help others.”

Prototyping for everything from puppies and goldfish to swimming pools, it was a great summer of making at our Maker Camps around the globe. We have been blown away by the creativity of all of the campers as they went through their design process and developed their maker mindset. They made a huge splash with robotics, aquatics, and everything between!

So long Maker Camp 2017, and thanks for all the robotic fish.

To learn more about Maker Camp, visit the site.

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Bridget Rigby

Bridget is the Director of Maker Camp. When she's not oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over camper projects, connecting with camp leaders around the virtual campfire, or gluing things back together with her feather glue gun boa, you'll find her in the yoga studio, on the soccer field, or out on the trail. She especially loves projects that combine creativity, craft, and code.

View more articles by Bridget Rigby
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