Friday, October 31, 2014

Mozilla Thimble: A Platform for Literacy Learning & Creative Remixing

After viewing the fantastic K12Online tutorial shared by Melissa Techman, titled Coding/Making/Writing with Connected Learners, I was inspired to tinker with Melissa's templates to make my own website.

Although I haven't created something revolutionary here (I merely altered her code and added my own images/text), I thoroughly enjoyed the process that Melissa's post made possible.  It gave me some great ideas and practical tips for organizing a similar activity with students! In her shared resources, she reminds users that parental permission is required for students under the age of 18.  (Terms of Service)

I love the way that Melissa designed a project that not only gets students thinking about books that they enjoy reading, but that she integrated coding to allow them to create unique book reviews that they share with a wider audience!   The flipping postcard (this one is mine), which she used to encourage students to create their own book reviews, has a great deal of potential!  Students can even add their own narration or sound effects!

As a fan of remix culture, I love the way that she shared her templates and demonstrated ways that Mozilla tools invite collaborative remix.  She really made my toes tingle by reminding users of the importance of attributing all images, including those with Creative Commons licenses!

I feel the need to continue experimenting with Mozilla's suite of free tools!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Vermont Tech Jam 2014

After several hours of preparation, I led my Spooky Circuit Box challenge at the Vermont Tech Jam today, between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm!  Throughout the day, I shared the activity with close to 50 people!  Although I was exhausted by the end, and didn't have time to chat with friends who stopped by to say, "hi," I had a great time connecting with middle and high school students from a variety of schools.

Through the process of teaching origami and basic circuitry skills, I learned that a multifaceted project like this is best suited for small clusters of students- clusters of four at a time seemed to be the ideal number.  It should also be noted that I felt I had the best success when I was able to teach three people at a time and then have them teach their peers.  This would be equally true in a classroom setting.

The Generator was kind enough to provide me with two tables, so I had a smaller table set up for decorating the paper with rubber stamps.  After decorating their paper, the students completed their boxes and circuits with me, at a much larger table.

In addition to printed directions and a visual diagram of all of the steps, I also engaged in step-by-step demonstrations.

While the step-by-step demonstrations seemed to be well-received, I wish that I'd printed out more copies of the printed directions for those students (and teachers) who were deterred by a tight schedule or the crowds.

In general, I had more girls than boys stop by to make a circuit box.  While the activity itself was gender neutral, a box with bling is most definitely a hit with the ladies!

Perhaps not surprisingly, I discovered that my Mad Monster Candy Snatch Game (thanks, Make magazine) was a huge hit with both genders.  I quickly discovered that when the monster was filled with candy, swarms of students were drawn to my space.

This monster easily could have easily taken up a table of its own!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Monstrous Success!

After hours of tinkering, I have had a monstrous breakthrough!

In my last post, I had run into an obstacle on my Mad Monster Candy Snatch build.

A singular reply to my plea for help got me on the right track, verifying that I was correct to have soldered new wires to the speakers and pointing out that I could determine the polarity of the wires by looking more closely at the speaker itself.

Although no one had been able to explain how to wire everything up to the transistor, I finally figured it out!

I apologize for the vertical video below, but I was so excited that I got my monster to work that I didn't pay attention!

Here is how I finally got it to work:

1.  Identify the BCE legs of your transistor and set it aside.  I labeled mine.

2.  Solder a second pair of wires to the Radio Shack speaker. (This direction was missing from the ones in the magazine, although the pictures on their website clearly show the addition of extra wires.)  If you look closely at the top of the speaker, you'll be able to determine which wire is positive and which is negative.

3.  After wiring the LEDs in parallel (I connected one 12-inch wire to the negative legs and another 12-inch wire to the positive legs), I soldered one end of the resistor to the end of the positive wire.  I then soldered the positive lead of the second battery to the other end of the resistor.  (This is the second battery, not the one connected directly to the speaker.)

4.  Solder the negative wire attached to your LEDs to the C leg of your transistor.

5.  Solder the positive wire from your speaker to the B leg of your transistor.

6.  Solder the negative wire from your speaker and the negative lead of the second battery to the E leg of your transistor.

7.  Follow the magazine's directions for connecting the alligator clips to the monster and to the wires that you soldered to the speaker.

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

GAH! Mad Monster Candy Snatch Game

After receiving my first hard copy of Make magazine, I could not wait to tackle this project, called the Mad Monster Candy Snatch Game.  The next day, I purchased the supplies and got started. After spending close to $30 and countless hours, I still do not have a functioning circuit.

I knew going in that I was confused by a specific part of the directions which stated, 
"Solder up the rest of the circuit for flashing the LEDs: Add the power transistor to the perf board and after noting the E, C, and B legs, wire up the connections to the speaker, then solder the connections to the dropping resistor and the 2 LEDs."  

Although I wasn't quite sure what to do at this point, I'd figured that a combination of experimenting, Googling, tweeting, and emailing might help me conquer the hurdle.  For now, I have reluctantly reached a pausing point.

If you have made this project, or think you might be able to help me, I would be most grateful!

While I'm out of ideas, I am more determined now than ever to figure this sucker out.

Updated 23 Oct. 2014:  I figured it out!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Champlain Mini Maker Faire

I spent a few hours volunteering at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire this weekend, along with several other participants of this summer's Create Make Learn cohort.  Under the expert guidance of Lucie deLaBruere and Craig Lyndes, I got to help build (and entice others to do the same) a 3D printer.  While my contribution was minimal (I inventoried the parts, sorted screws, and took photographs) I learned some practical tips about assembling a kit and witnessed how easy it was to help people achieve a sense of accomplishment.

I was most impressed by how diverse, curious, and eager our visitors were.  All most people needed to jump in and help out was a friendly invitation.  An open invitation to sit down and do just one piece of the collaborative build of this printer was enough to entice the most reticent onlooker. It served as a good reminder that people are generally eager to help build and create things; they are just in need of opportunities to do so.