An Acclamation for the Maker Community

You may have noticed in recent posts that I have been spending a lot of time making and playing with robotics lately. This is a new interest and definitely not something I had any skills in (in fact my partner would gladly tell you about how useless I generally am at stereotypical manly making type skills). I have, however, been learning rapidly and this is due to the awesome help I have been receiving from others.

This post is primarily a thank you to those who have personally helped me and my students but also indirectly to share the awesomeness of the global Maker community who exemplify a culture of helping others. Instead of guarding their inventions and tinkering privately, they share instructions, the code that makes it run, have help forums and openly encourage people to take them and try to improve them. In this manner, the community is self-perpetuating and constantly improving itself.

My interest was initially sparked by seeing and hearing about the tinkering of Mark Osborne and Stephen Lethbridge.

This led to me reading Invent to Learn which showed how I could bring these ideas of Making and tinkering into the classroom. It fit so well with my developing belief in the importance of having a Culture of Prototyping in the classroom that I had to start planning on bringing it into our classrooms at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Stephen Lethbridge and his staff at Taupaki School have a well established Maker Culture as seen in this post by Steve Wheeler. I have received lots of inspiration and ideas from them as I have started my own journey into the world of Maker Ed: 3D printing and Robotics from Stephen, Scratch and Coding from JJ and more Robotics plus e-textiles from Kimberly. A huge thanks for the help you have given me and also for leading the way in showing how schools can embrace Maker Ed. Hopefully, HPSS can repay and help you out in future.

To start the Maker journey at HPSS, I introduced Robotics and Coding in MyTime (our version of a flexitime which runs for 50 minutes in the middle of the day). I was using a TOP robotics kit from the Mind Lab, the challenges from ZombieBot HQ and Code Avengers for the coding.

MyTime at HPSS

MyTime at HPSS

The popularity of this group led to me offering a project group for “future tech” in our Building School Culture Big Project. Now I was faced with the dilemma of having to show kids (some of whom already tinkered with arduino and raspberry pi on the weekends) of the possibilities they could pursue when I was still learning myself. Again, in steps the community:

Week 1: Mark Osborne showing them the possibilities with arduino, how to hack old toys and making bristle bots:

2014-03-18 12.35.09

Week 2: A trip to the Mind Lab where Chris Clay talked them through programming dumb robots to become smart robots and how prototyping helps this

2014-03-25 13.30.28


Week 3: All of our equipment has arrived from MindKits and Tim Carr came in to set them a gauntlet challenge and show how a scientific method can also be applied to prototyping rather than just guessing your way through.

2014-04-01 12.09.55Week 4 it was now up to me to use this awesome launching pad and I felt able to do so because of the help I had received. The students have now formed their own groups to use technology to help our Hobsonville Point community. Their projects cover:

  • an app for our school
  • quadcopter to remind students of classtime (boys frustrated at no bells!)
  • QR codes round the community with information for visitors
  • parking sensors for the tight car parks in our new development
  • messenger bot for the planned retirement villages

You can see their progress on the project website here which they will be updating as they go.

At the same time that this project was developing, I joined an online course run by M.I.T Media Lab called Learning Creative Learning. What I have enjoyed about this course is the real community it has built itself on. The weekly readings and videos have been great but the true power has been in the discussion forums. When introducing myself, I mentioned that I was about to get some Makey Makeys and within a few hours a new thread had opened up discussing the best uses of MaKey MaKey! As one of our activities for this course I had to learn how to use Scratch. This has led to me now running a MyTime option on Scratch for the students at our school. I have been offered help and in return have given advice to creative educators and people from other professions in many different countries. Another great Maker community!

All of this has led to me now offering a module next term on Robotics. Our concept for the term is Place and Space so it is called Rover Missions and is about using electronics to explore distant and dangerous places. We will construct, prototype and refine robots based on ideas such as the Mars Rover and Search and Rescue robots.

A final thank you in all of this for Nat Torkington. At Kiwi Foo last weekend he gave a copy of “Tinkering: Kids learn by making stuff” to Claire Amos for her to share with someone that would benefit from it and she chose me! This will be a massive help for my module next term, my general learning and for coming up with more projects for my daughter and I at home.

So, within a few months, I have gone from first tinkering with robotics to offering MyTime, Projects and Modules on Robotics plus introducing more of it to my daughter at home as well. All of this is in large debt to the awesome Maker community out there (and of course a school where they put up with a Social Scientist taking over Maker areas) – thank you all and I hope to repay the favour in bucket-loads in future!



6 thoughts on “An Acclamation for the Maker Community

  1. Nice reflective post showing passion, creativity and compassion, Steve! It’s cool to acknowledge those people that inspire and support us. The students are lucky to have you championing the robotics and coding side of our diverse curriculum.

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve noticed your passions in this area on Twitter, so it’s great to see some of your thoughts collected in the one place. I can really understand why this captures your imagination, and that of the students. Plus I love the modelling of teacher as learner. As regards your thanks and appreciation of people in the maker community – this is how I feel about Twitter, and yourself included, so, thank YOU.

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