Playing in the Digital Sandbox

This year I started a MakerSpace in my middle schools and I have had lost of fun sharing the sandbox with the makers. We meet on Fridays after school for an hour and a half. Even after the first meeting, we all agreed that was not enough time. Makers are constantly making parents wait and breaking their creative flow because we have run out of time. We have met about 10 time now and the group keeps growing. I answer an email a week from parents asking about Makerspace and if it is too late to join. Our numbers are growing.

What is Makerspace?

This is a group of makers, inventors, tinkers and innovators who enjoy experimenting with how the world works. We will design, create, build, rebuild, experiment, and share digitally about the process of creating unique inventions. We will be experimenting with cutting edge technology such as the Makey Makey Arduino board, Raspberry Pi, the Drawdio (piano) circuit and many conductive materials We will learn to code with iPad apps such as Hopscotch and Kodable and also learn MIT’s Scratch. Come invent with us!

Maker Mindset

We started the year off with a global cardboard challenge inspired by Imagination Foundation and Caine’s Arcade. It is important that  the learners understand that being a maker goes beyond electronics and blinky lights. It is a mindset. Gary Stager (@garystager) and Sylvia LibowMartinez (@smartinez) wrote Invent to Learn, an incredible book about the maker movement and design thinking. The design cycle is how the makers approach their projects and designs.


This cycle was apparent when the makers began their cardboard challenge. They designed, built, played, redesigned, played and rebuilt. There were even makers that brought tape and cardboard to our Arcade Night to redesign their games in between people playing them. Parents, friends and administrators came to their Arcade Night and played their games. The makers were quite proud of their inventions.

We have recently started MaKey MaKey projects. Makers are experimenting with conductive materials, peripherals, and Scratch coding language. I have 10 MaKey MaKey boards, alligator clips, play-doh, tin foil, pencils, paperclips, conductive tape, conductive paint, wire, and folders. The makers have these things to use in any way they need. I also find the materials they need that I may not have.


So far, the makers have conceived:

Simon - pitch matching game.

Simon – pitch matching game.

Simon pitch matching game – When you step on the pedal (folder and tin foil) Scratch plays the melody the makers coded. There are other color coded buttons that play single pitches that the player must play in the correct order.


Minecraft Controller

Minecraft Controller

This maker wants to customize his interface with Minecraft. He thought about his most used commands and is designing a temporary build to test his invention with the plans to create a more permanent controller in shop class.

Piano Stairs

Piano Stairs

There have been many iterations of piano stairs. These makers approached the principal about installing a piano staircase going down to their gym. They began their experimentation last week. They worked a bit with the makers of the Simon game to design the stair interface. They needed more than one pedal, so they cut up a folder to make a thin strips for each pedal.

Piano Stairs

Piano Stairs

Makers come up with interesting ways to use alligator clips to wire the MaKey MaKeys. These run to each stair to trigger a note on their piano.

Piano Stairs

Piano Stairs

Off to the stairs to start wiring. These makers went around to other groups to commandeer as many alligator clips as they could. Since then, they have decided to make their own leads with spools of wire. Hannah is logging into her Scratch account on my laptop to launch her piano stairs code.

Piano Stairs

Piano Stairs

By the time they began wiring the stairs, Makerspace was over. All of the others had gone home. These two young ladies asked if I would stay and called home to extend their time with the design cycle. We will continue the process next Friday.

I leave you with a performance of the UofM fight song. The interface is a play-doh piano designed, coded and performed by a fifth grade maker.





Maker Movement: Step 1

There are many things that excite me about going back to school. This year, I am starting a new chapter in my career at a new school district. New possibilities, colleagues, students, classes, grade levels are just a few of the experiences I am looking forward to. I am also looking forward of introducing the Rock Our World (ROW) project to the administration, staff, and students this year. ROW has been connecting students and teachers to collaborate in composing original music, making movies, and meeting each other in live video chats since 2004. Using Apple’s GarageBand, each country (classroom) creates a 30 second drum beat.  Every Friday, that drum rotates to another country (classroom), where the bass guitar is added.  It keeps getting passed along, from classroom to classroom.  At each stop, one more instrument is added.  When it comes back to its original composer, it has touched students from all over the world. Students at Governors Bay School in New Zealand proposed this season’s topic!  For Season 19, will be creating artwork to decorate the halls of hospitals, senior centers and other facilities that need cheering up.


From left to right: Delaney Martin, Michael Medvinsky, Taylor Lee Shepherd

I am in my third season of Rock Our World an am very excited after the meeting I had today with Artists and Inventors Delaney Martin and Taylor Lee Shephard. The passion that was supporting these Artists vision was addictive. We talked for over an hour and a half, which flew by. Both Taylor and Delany conceptualized and constructed the Dithyrambalina project. The Music Box was Phase I in the Dithyrambalina project. This unique community artwork was built by 25 artists. Once open it was enjoyed, experienced and played by 15,000 visitors, held workshops for 500 students, and hosted 80 world-class musicians for orchestral performances that had audiences lining up around the block. The video below is some footage from the project.

Season 19 of Rock Our World’s Essential Question is “How do we use art to foster a positive environment?” The challenge is to create and install art on your local hospital, retirement community, or any community program to brighten up the environment.

My plan is to fuse these two projects to help create a Maker culture in my classroom. Rock Our World offers opportunities for learners to become members of a global classroom. Delany, Taylor and Dithyrambalina bring the vision of using conventional objects in nonconventional ways. Opening a mindset of possibilities will support student musicians to conceptualize, invent, create, fail, reevaluate, construct, and have an affect on their community.

The plan is to create a structure that people in the community can interact with in a musical way. The conceptualization, invention, construction and implementation will be completely up to the students. We will work with the artists and students in other schools, states and countries through video conferencing throughout.

The possibilities are endless. Create, invent, tinker.

Please read more about Taylor Lee Shepherd’s work here and Delaney Martin’s work here