Month: October 2012

Quotes from Michigan Maker Students

At the end of each session, we ask our Michigan Maker students to reflect on what they have learned that day.  The feedback from this last week was so exciting that we had to share some quotes we found.  Enjoy!

“Today, we made a pig with lightbulb eyes and a motor tail. We connected the wires to the motor inside the conductive clay and made a series circuit. We outsmarted a college professor!”

“I learned that I am better at this stuff than I thought.”

“Today I have been stimulated with the incredible feeling of curiosity.”

“Next week, I want to create the game and see what it is like. I can’t wait!”

-Shauna M.

Game Design, Week 2

Week Two of game design was all about mechanics. The kids broke up into small groups again, either to continue working on the games they’d started creating during the first week, or moving to a new group whose idea they liked better. Greg quickly explained the mechanics of game design: Balance of strategies (too easy to win? too hard?), tension versus payoff (including interaction with other players), making sure that the mechanics go with the theme, and fun checks (to make sure all their hard work was leading to an enjoyable game).

Then it was time to set the kids loose to create their game mechanics and to create prototypes from the various materials we provided them. Some groups divided their labor with a couple kids working on the physical game and the rest working on the rules of the game. Other groups jumped into everything at once, brainstorming ideas and putting together their prototypes as they went along. The materials we provided were a big hit, especially the trinkets and little pieces that Greg brought. Some of the kids got too busy playing to think about how they were playing, which was fun to watch, and a good learning opportunity. “If this plastic spinning top is this much fun to play with, how can you change your game mechanics to fit it into your game?”

At the end of the session, each group gave a pitch describing their game, potential audience, and any challenges they would face making their game a reality. Even the groups who wanted to make video games were able to use physical prototypes successfully, walking their fingers around the prototype to show how the actual player would move through and see the virtual world.
What the kids learned:

“It’s hard!”
With more people in a group, you get more ideas, but the more ideas you have, the harder it is to sift through them and find the really good ones.
Mechanics are difficult.
More difficult to work in groups– something you have to learn about yourself and how to work well in groups.

-Jessica S.

Squishy Circuits, Week 2

This was our second, and final week, of working with Squishy Circuits for half of the Michigan Makers students. This week, the Squishy Circuits were taken up a notch and we introduced all kinds of bells and whistles (well, really they were motors and buzzers) for the kids to tinker with. Sam started the lesson by going over the basic mechanics of Squishy Circuits again so that anyone that wasn’t there could learn and all the others could refresh their brains after a week apart (and a day full of standardized testing!). The kids pretty much gave us the lesson at this point, they remember every detail and were inclined to teach the others who hadn’t worked on Squishy Circuits the week before. It was great to see the interest the kids had in each other and in the topic.

Once the refresher period was over, the kids were introduced to the motor and buzzer as new elements they could incorporate into their Squishy Cricuit designs. After some minor technical difficulties and problem solving with the demo (which the kids took charge of troubleshooting, of course), the kids were asked to draw a design of how they were going to incorporate the buzzer and/or the motor into their designs before they could go ahead and create. This helped them visualize their goal and give us a sense of how much they really knew about Squishy Circuits. But not so fast, Kristin presented them with a challenge like no other: Create a pig with eyes that light up and s tail that spins. She told them if they could do it she would give them a special badge since she couldn’t do it herself. This ignited the fiery students and one even responded, “So that means I would be smarter than a college teacher?!” From here on out, we saw a clear unified goal among each group: show everyone that you are smarter than a “college teacher.” And with this new underlying agenda, the kids went off and experimented with the Squishy Circuits like I had never seen before.

And the amazing part: They did it! There were groups that were able to make a pig (an abstract pig of course, it seems our makers are also mini Picassos) with light up eyes and a spinning tail. What I found most interesting was that the kids didn’t just look for answers, ask for help, or even cheat and look over at other groups, they all did it for themselves and it resulted in a lot of circuits that worked but looked very different. It is amazing how creative and thoughtful these teams were. Click here to check out a video of one of the pigs in action!

Now we got to the hard part, getting the kids to stop tinkering and actually pack up. Before we all knew it it was almost time to go, and it was pretty clear everyone was having too much fun to even notice and do anything about it. Even though this was the last time this group would be working with Squishy Circuits, I am excited to see what a whole new group will be able to make, and all the new things they will invent with Squishy Circuits!

-Victoria L.

Game Design, Week 1

On our very first official day of making stuff, we had a special guest maker introduce Game Design. Greg Austic is an alternative energy researcher by day, a game designer by night, and can often be found at Ann Arbor’s Maker Works. Greg started off the session by explaining the three basic elements of game design: Design/theme, Story, and Games that already exist (as examples of different types of games). Working in small groups, the kids brainstormed ideas for each element, and then used ideas from each list to create new game ideas.

“We could make a game that played like GAME, with plot like STORY, and with cool DESIGN themes.”

Greg provided a list of questions to consider, which included “What would make someone want to play and re-play your game?” “Who is the audience?” and “What would be the challenges of making your game?” Some groups jumped into planning a specific game right away, while others brainstormed several different combinations before zoning in on details for a particular one. It was clear that some of the kids had been thinking about making their own game for years– and now they had the terminology and formula to express their ideas. Some of the results:

A combination trading card, board, and rock, paper, scissors game with a Hunger Games theme
A map game where users receive personalized maps of the town they live in that are integrated with Google maps
An open-ended god game where users create their own god avatar and try to get followers
A battling game featuring Pokemon that look like real creatures
A chess action game where each move becomes a duel between the pieces, which each have their own special powers

One interesting note, especially considering Greg’s question about the challenges of making these games– every student named a video or online game as their favorite, and their brainstorming ideas reflect that. The session wrapped up with Greg asking the kids to research their game ideas to see what’s been done before so that they can think about how to make their games unique– and therefore more fun to play!

-Jessica S.

Squishy Circuits, Week 1

Today was our first opportunity to dig into projects at Michigan Makers–if last week was for getting to know you, this week was about setting the tone. Due to the large number of student participants, we decided to split the group into two and send half to learn about game design, and the other to work with circuits. This also meant splitting up our Michigan Maker mentor team.

I got to be part of the group who had a blast working with Squishy Circuits today. Using an analogy about making your way through a middle school hallway, Sam introduced us to the concept of an electrical current. Electricity always, she said, likes to take the path of least resistance. Then she brought out the conductive and non-conductive dough, and things started getting exciting. She demonstrated how to light up an LED using the dough and a battery pack to create a circuit, and she also explained the difference between series and parallel circuits. Then, in pairs, the makers got to try creating their own circuits.

Most students began with mimicking the same circuits that Sam made, but once they learned that their circuits could also light up the LED, they started getting more adventurous. I saw Squishy Circuit turtles, snakes, a Christmas tree, a hot dog, and more. While most students seemed to grasp the concept of a circuit, their understanding became most evident when their creations didn’t cause the LED to light up. I found that most pairs of students could articulate what the problem was when asked to diagnose on their own: “Ohhh,” one student said “I bet it’s not working because the two colored pieces are touching and the electricity is sneaking out!” Playing with the conductive and non-conductive dough also gave them a very hands-on sense of the difference between series and parallel circuits. As we had students take pictures of and label their circuits using iPads, I heard one student say, “This was fun, but now I wanna make really cool stuff next week!”

-Ellen G.

Welcome to Michigan Makers

During our first week of Michigan Makers, we got to know each other by creating our own “Low Tech Social Network.”  Students and mentors alike created their own avatars, and after we all put them up on the board, we made connections between each other.  Being a Michigan Maker means that you are a part of a community who works together to learn new things, and everyone on the board found people with whom they were able to connect.

During this meeting, we also learned about what we will be working on this year.  Things like game design, Squishy Circuits, Arduinos, and computer programming all made the list.  Some of these topics were completely new to students, but everyone was really excited to get to work figuring these projects out!

Please Return Permission Slips and Contact Forms!

Once we have each of these forms, each student will receive his/her first Michigan Maker badge.  These badges are similar to what might be earned in scouts, but the badges that we give are digital.  As we progress throughout the year, students will be able earn badges to represent their knowledge and skills.  These digital badges will be used as a way to document growth and to help teach others new skills.  Check out our badges page for more info!

-Shauna M.

Images © 2015 Regents of the University of Michigan. Text available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise stated. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of​ ​Museum and Library Services RE-05-15-0021-15.