Tuesday, September 15, 2015

EMMA's Visits Essex Middle School - Empowerment and Leadership

EMMA’s First School Visit - Essex Middle School

In September 2015 the inspiration from  the Girls Make IT Day lead to  EMMA’s first visit to a school - Essex Middle School.  

The middle school girls from Essex had been very active in spreading maker centered learning to others in their school.  Maya and Grace modeled and presented the switch book project to a group of 12 eager, new classmates.  

The girls have become leaders among their peers.

As a next step, we invited Essex Middle School  to help design EMMA’s first visit to the Champlain MiniMaker Faire.

During EMMA’s visit to the school,  ten young women signed up to help design the exhibit.  They not only learned increased their confidence with circuits and codes, they also worked on their leadership skills and  provided provided a service to other young women by serving as role models.

The concept of Maker Empowerment as defined by Agency by Design was definitely at play here.

EMMA Visits Kindergarten

One of Emma’s first school visit was to be part of a maker lesson at Summit School Kindergarten.  I am so thankful to Lisa Foley for inviting me join her as she applied some of the skills she had picked up during our Create Make Learn Summer Institute.

I don’t remember any kindergarten classroom, every looking quite like this.

The Essential Question driving the lesson was clearly articulated on the class white board.

Artistic sketches on the the class whiteboard illustrated some of the key  SCIENCE concepts embedded in this lesson.

Ms. Foley started by demonstrating the steps the students would be following to create a READING WAND which lit up at one end when students pointed the wand while pressing a SWITCH at the other end.    

Ms. Foley’s years of experience as an educator working with Kindergarten students were evident in the  balance of structure and freedom she provided.

She anticipated that some of the steps might need scaffolding  Adults around the room (including myself)  were available to help the students through the steps as needed.

Since I did not have access to the student’s media permissions, I chose not to include pictures of the students making; however I can say that every student ended up with a working Reading Wand that they would be using in an upcoming literacy lesson.

In this iteration of the Reading Wand, Ms. Foley used some telephone wire that had been donated to extend the leads of an LED.  This was probably the most challenging part of the activity and usually required some help from the the adults in the room. You would also check with your IT department to see if they have old network wire you can break into.


Once the end of the telephone wire was stripped and attached to the LED, the students added a few pieces of beautiful ribbons and attached the LED, Wire, and Ribbon to the top of the dowel with a piece of colorful tape and ribbon.    Make sure to notice which color wire is attached to the positive (long) end of the LED.

At the opposite end of the wand,  the wire attached to the positive side of the LED  was pressed against the + (positive) side of a coin cell battery and secured with a piece of tape leaving one part of the - (negative) side of the battery exposed.   (Make sure the battery is secure enough so it will not come loose.  

The loose wire  (which should be attached to the negative lead) can be curled up so that it can rest against the ‘exposed’ part of the coin cell battery.    This allows the student to press them together when holding the wand every time they want the wand to light.   

It is very important that the battery be attached securely so that it cannot easily become loose.  
Allowing the students to use their reading wand in a classroom under supervision is recommended.  Educating  students and their parents about coin cell battery safety is an important part of making.

An alternative way to create a wand is to use triple A batteries and a milkshake straw.
See these instructions by Caty Wolfe for two different approaches to creating a Magic Wand.

Thank you to Lisa Foley and her students for inviting EMMA and I to visit their school.

This type of follow-up with those who attended the Create Make Learn Institutes fuels me with inspiration!

Monday, August 3, 2015

EMMA's Maiden Voyage

My first voyage with EMMA was to TechSavvyGirls Camp in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. This was an especially special trip for me since it brought lots of maker supplies to the 15th anniversary of a camp I had started as part of my Masters program.

Betsy Calhoun from Lake Region Union High School and I have designed several iterations of TechSavvy Girls camp over the years, and it pleased me so much to be able to have EMMA bring LilyPad Arduinos, 3D printer pens, Little Bits and other supplies to introduce this year’s girls to maker activities and coding physical objects.  You can learn more about TechSavvy Girls at www.TechSavvyGirls.com

Using action research from 15 years of experience working with girls and technology, and strategies from authors of Creative Confidence, Tom Kelley and David Kelley (founder of IDEO and Stanford d.School), these young ladies became masters of the creating soft circuits with craft materials and learned to control their creations by coding an Arduino Microprocessor.   

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adopting EMMA

EMMA was adopted by Lucie deLaBruere in July 2015, when Lucie traded in her Honda Fit for a 2012 Ford Transit.  While searching for the perfect vehicle for EMMA, Lucie found herself explaining to others that she was looking for a van-type vehicle that was fun, creative, and entrepreneurial. Finding something that could carry more than two passengers, but that was also able to carry maker tools and supplies, while shouting out - LET”S CREATE AND MAKE TOGETHER, was not easy.   It was also not easy to stop salespersons from trying to HEAR my needs.  They made a lot of assumption based on my gender and age, and tried to sell me something “more comfortable”.   But finally Ryan from deLaBruere Auto Sales listened and tracked down this 2012 Ford Transit.   I said good bye to Ms. Fit  and welcomed EMMA into my life!

What was tricky was finding  back seats that can easily be collapsed or pulled out when needed.
I learned that most Ford Transits come off the boat from Turkey and get sent to a warehouse in Maryland where the windows and seats are removed and sent back to Turkey.  This left very few Transits floating around that had my criteria.   Thank you deLaBruere Auto Sales  for helping me adopt EMMA.

I must admit that EMMA rides like a truck, and has a little less power than I would like with only 4 cyclinders, but the look and feel is exactly what I wanted.  I started to imagine some branding ideas.    In order to imagine possible ideas for branding,  I decided to invite others to help imagine the next iteration of EMMA, by getting a few pieces of magnetic  chalkboard for each side.  

After lots of ideas and brainstorming, we finally picked a prototype to try and I ordered a few car magnets.  The car magnets would be easy to replace as our design ideas grew.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Inspiration Continues - Girls Make IT Workshops Day 2

Although a few weeks have passed,  I have not stopped thinking about Girls Make It Day #2.  The day went beyond my expectations.  About mid day, the girls just took charge of their own learning and started flying past what we had planned,  moving beyond bling,   beyond blink, and making flowers fade.

Teams of two middle school girls and one teacher/mentor arrived at the Generator with their flowers in hand ready to learn to code. Each participant was asked to bring two hand crafted flowers to the event that included an LED in the design.  The design challenge was meant to help the girls apply previous learning about circuits (whether it be the first Girls Make IT session, school or club activities, or their own self-exploration of circuits).  The design challenge mostly yielded a wide variety of origami style flowers.   

While the team leader brought their laptop to the tech check station to make sure that Arduino was properly installed and ready to go, the rest of the team created  a paper flower with their team member names  and added it to a white garden trellis.  (this would later serve as attribution to the finished product we hoped for by the end of the day ~ a collaborative community flower garden).  

During introductions, each team shared their flower designs and how they learned to make it and then immediately launched  into securing the LED to their flower using floral tape and a green wooden stem. This served as the perfect blend of wire and insulator for our flower project. Although the  two pieces of floral tape initially connected the LED leads to cell battery, it wouldn't be long before the leads were attached to a LilyPad Arduino board using alligator clips.  

The coding lesson that followed was interspersed  with making,  manipulating the  Arduino blink scheme and playing out computer science unplugged activities where the girls learned about variables by 'programming' their teacher to sing and 'programming' themselves to follow Arduino code using finger flashlights.  

One of the goals I had for the workshop was that every girl (and their teacher) would not only be able to use the Arduino code to control their flower, but that they would also UNDERSTAND each line of the code they used.  Too often, students are encouraged to 'copy' a snippet of code without understanding the various elements.   It wasn't long before everyone had mastered  the following commands and were using them to code their own flower arrangements. 

Although our goal was to move into learning how to use functions in  their code, the girls had their own idea.  One team DISCOVERED the FADE Arduino scheme and before we knew the teams took off into their own self directed learning, teaching each other to blink and fade flowers.  Their comfort level grew as they tried different sequences of patterns to give each flower its own unique presence in their flower arrangement.  Watching the collaboration in the room was absolutely delightful and reminded me of a time,  not so long ago, when I had my own classroom of students discovering, uncovering, and constructing together.  My experience taught me that this was the perfect moment to let go, step back, and watch the learning happen rather than redirect it to next phase of the lesson.   This is what I was aiming for but didn't anticipate it coming so early in the day. 

But it also meant that we didn't get to "MY" next step in the lesson (FUNCTIONS)  with the whole group,  but I did get to teach, Maxine, our high school role model/mentor how to use functions to help each girl add a contribution to a collaborative community flower box.  She was a quick study and jumped right into a leadership role into our final activity for the day. 

After each team had created and coded their own flower pot with their first flower creation,  it was time for them to contribute their second flower to the community garden (complete with code). 

We used window boxes, a Lilypad arduino, alligator clips, cardboard, and fake moss for our design and used Functions  to cycle through snippets of codes written by our middle school girls.   The results -- two flower boxes that were made with code by our middle school girls that would become a traveling exhibit to inspire others.   First step for our traveling exhibit would be the Generator Birthday Bash! 

Our Exhibit at the Generator Birthday Bash

We ended the day debriefing, challenging them to complete the 20 hour Code.org course and use their take home kit to continue exploring the power of code and keep on making.   The kit included 2  Lilypad  simple arduinos and one LilyPad Development board, which we strongly suggested they keep intact (NOT break apart) to practice their coding skills.   We also provided them a sneak preview of where we hope to go next (adding sensors and motors) by showing them the robotic flower prototype created by our fantastic high school mentor, Maxine.  The importance of having Maxine as a role model can not be underestimated.  She shared her recent acceptance to  Bucknell University,  her experience in the Essex Robotic Club, and offered advice for our young students about steps they could take to shape their future. She even started developing the leadership skills of one of the middle school girls, Eva, who used today's events to step into a new role as a middle school leader/mentor. 

Today left me inspired to keep working on providing opportunities for learning, mentoring, networking, leadership development that help create a STEM pipeline for girls.  Our goal is to announce some new Girls Make It session, including summer camp opportunities on this site, and also at  TechSavvy Girls and Vermont Works for Women website.

Many thanks to 
to the Generator  for providing the space for this fantastic day of learning, 
to  Vermont Works for Women  for funding the consumable supplies,
to Jill Dawson and Leah Joly for the the support and 'blind faith'  that this would work
to Maxine for  the robotic flower design and for being an inspiring high school role models
to Eva for being our first middle school leaders
to the teachers and middle school girls who created such beautiful flower designs and absorbed the coding lesson like sponges reinforcing my beliefs that making beautiful things is an onramp to increasing the number of girls who code. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Inspiration from Girls Maker Workshop Series

The inspiration for EMMA  has come from many sources, but I must say that the series of Girls Make IT Days that I lead in 2015 really  helped me imagine what it would be introduce making to a more diverse population by creating  day long events that inspired students and teachers to explore the power of making.

Having spent over 15 years helping young women become confident with technology through annual TechSavvy Girls events,  I knew that MAKING had the power to increase the confidence  of women and girls with coding.   With the help of two talented colleagues,  Jill Dawson and Leah Joly  Vermont Works for Women and the Generator I started to plan a series of workshop that would bring teachers and teen girls together for Girls Make IT days.

The  Generator  (Burlington's Maker Space) provided the space and the pizza,  Vermont Works for Women bought the supplies and Leah, Jill, and I lead teams from 7 schools through a series of activities that built their skills and confidence with circuits and coding.

Teams of Women and Girls from
  St. Albans City School    
  Christ the King School  
  Browns River School      
  Albert D Lawton School  
  Essex Middle School
  Winooski Elementary School  and
  Williston Central School

left the first workshop with the skills and supplies to teach a new set of girls from their school how to MAKE with Circuits.   We used copper tape  and eTextile supplies to help the girls and their teachers increase their understanding of circuits and how circuits can be used to express their creativity.

Check out the  Photo Gallery  and  the Girls Make IT site   which includes more information and resources about  our Girls Make it workshops including these slides from Day 1

Each team was asked to continue to create and share their new skills with others from their school.

Two months later, the teams were invited back to build their confidence with CODE!

(See Day 2 blog post here)

Seeing the growth in confidence with circuits and codes after just two strategically planned sessions inspired me to make this type of experience more accessible!   I started to imagine ways to make this type of access to creating and making reach populations that would not traditionally find themselves walking into a makerspace -- either because they lived too far away from a makerspace  or because they had not yet experienced the power of making.