Category: Mitchell (Page 2 of 3)

Welcome Back Michigan Makers!

Hi everyone! Kristin and I were very excited to start up Michigan Makers again, with lots of new faces, and a few of the same.

Tech Box Tricks

Tech Box Tricks made another appearance today, along with Snap Circuits, which were a newcomer this year. Snap Circuits come with a board and different circuit components which can snap together, helping to teach kids about how circuits work as they create a variety of cool projects exploring light, sound, and motion. We were also very fortunate to have a parent volunteer this week who helped to man this activity!

Snap Circuits

We also brought the ever-popular junk box as well as Kinex, Tinker Toys, Lego, and even the old classic –  Lincoln Logs.

And what a successful first day back it was! We were very impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity of the group. There was a lot of creative use of materials in from the junk box, and some of the kids spent the whole time crafting their creations, despite having to share a single roll of tape after we ran out.

Some of the projects from today included a mask, a bird with flexible wings, a miniature table with dishes, and a golden snitch.

I know I can’t wait to see what this group will come up with in future weeks!

Michigan Makers at Mitchell Dec. 2: What’s a Tech Box Trick?

We were sorry to be without our mentor Amber this week but glad to welcome new mentor Shruthi!

Here she is!

Shruthi demonstrating Tech Box Tricks by Seeed

Here’s what we had on our agenda for today.

Photo of whiteboard showing a message to the students from mentors and a list of the week's activities

You’ve seen photos of sewing and the junk box before, but what are Tech Box Tricks? It’s a set of

  • inputs (sensors, buttons, and other triggers)
  • a small microcontroller in a plastic case (a kind of computerized “brain”)
  • outputs (like a buzzer, fan, or light)
  • connectors with wires
  • a battery with connecting wires

Here are some components laid out, ready to be connected!

Tech Box Tricks components

The folks at Seeed estimate that you can make up to 64 different combinations when you combine power + input + microcontroller + output + imagination.

Close-up photo of Tech Box Tricks by Seeed

Thanks for teaching us, Shruthi!

What we like about Tech Box Tricks is that it’s really easy to get a functioning set-up pretty quickly. Then your imagination can take over!

Exploring Tech Box Tricks, a kit from Seeed

While we didn’t quite have time to combine these with the junk box to prototype some original inventions, as we planned, we hope to try again after the holiday break. (Because, as you know, we have a MM traditional activity we do the last MM meeting before we stop for the semester!)

Remember that December 7 is the last 2015 meeting date for Scarlett, and December 9 is the last 2015 meeting date for Mitchell. Then we have a break until January!

~ Kristin

Puppet Power

This week at Mitchell we introduced hand-sewing finger puppets, along with the same stations from previous weeks (Hour of Code, Dash robots, junk box, and construction toys).

Hour of Code, Dash, finger puppets, Junk box, construction toys

  We had some more kids finish Hour of Code today, including two who had been struggling a lot initially. It was wonderful to see them finish yesterday. One boy in particular was resolved to finish yesterday, and powered through the last few levels. He was very proud of his success, and couldn’t wait to try out Dash as his reward!   Hour of Code, Dash, finger puppets, Junk box, construction toys

We promised that we would start hand-sewing, since we had some requests already, so this was out first week practicing with this group. We decided to start with something small, and came up with the idea of felt finger puppets. We were impressed not only with how quickly kids picked up the hand-sewing, but how meticulously they focused on their stitches. Some of the amazing creations included a turkey (complete with wattle!), a kitten, and a snowman!

Hour of Code, Dash, finger puppets, Junk box, construction toysHour of Code, Dash, finger puppets, Junk box, construction toys


Making it work at Mitchell

This week at Mitchell, we brought back the same stations: Hour of Code, Dash robots, junk box, and Tinker Toys and Kinex. A lot of kids are getting pretty anxious to try out the robots, and we hope it will continue to motivate them to try their Hour of Code.

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Dash, Junk box, Kinex, Tinker Toys

Several students have begun to enjoy doing the Hour of Code, and jump right into the puzzles. We also had a few more students finish the Hour this week!  

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Dash, Junk box, Kinex, Tinker Toys

The real treat this week was to see what kids were able to build with the junk box. This week, I saw a lot of making of useful or functional objects. Purses were a big theme this week, as three different girls made different versions of purses from supplies in the junk box.

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Dash, Junk box, Kinex, Tinker Toys

Last week, we had one girl make a “laptop” out of materials from the junk box, which inspired a boy to make his own this week using bubble wrap, playing cards, and a marble. As he described it to me, “You have to punch the keyboard really hard, but it’s really lightweight!”  


MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Dash, Junk box, Kinex, Tinker Toys

Slingshots and model bows were also a big theme this week. One girl made a slingshot out of a fruit snacks box and some rubber bands, complete with storage for her ammunition (small recycled cardboard tubes)

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Dash, Junk box, Kinex, Tinker Toys

Unbridled creativity at Mitchell

This week at Mitchell, everything went a bit awry. We had planned on a rotation of three stations: Dash & Dot robots for those who have completed the Hour of Code puzzles/more Anna & Elsa for those who have not, building with Kinex, and making something from the junk box. But we forgot that we also needed to give the 5th graders a chance to make their own flashlight, and it ended up taking longer than we expected, even with all of the 4th graders helping show the 5th graders the ropes. And I forgot to charge the Dashes!

MM@Mitchell 11/4/2015

After the flashlights were done, we ended up allowing everyone to choose between Hour of Code, junk box, or Kinex. We were surprised that once everyone chose a station, the chaos really settled down, and the kids were able to make some pretty awesome things.

MM@Mitchell 11/4/2015

There was so much unbridled creativity present in the room. It’s amazing to see the range of projects they come up with: from a house with a roof supported by strings of plastic cord, to a headband made of pipe cleaners, electrical tape, and gold cord, to a miniature replica of a strawberry cake with vanilla ice cream on top! It was also great to see that kids were up to the challenge of using Blockly with the Dashes – even though they weren’t able to do so due to my charging fail!   

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Junk Box, and Lego/Kinex

Just goes to show you that even when your plans fail, something amazing can still happen! I can’t wait to see what these kids come up with next. 

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code, Junk Box, and Lego/Kinex

4th Grade Flashlights & Other Fun

Today’s menu was paper flashlights and some more Hour of Code with Anna and Elsa. Wondering what a paper flashlight is? It’s just want it sounds like, a flashlight complete with on/off switch constructed from heavyweight paper, an LED, a coin cell battery, and some foam tape.

MM@Mitchell 28oct2015 4th grade Hour of Code. 4th graders pledged not to ask for adult help and to pitch in to help each other!

We only had seven 4th graders today since the 5th graders had left early. Initially, we thought we might have a little bit of struggle getting the kids to stay on task, but when we returned to the Hour of Code task, we were pleasantly surprised to see how much the kids remembered and how much more confident they were even in completing the more challenging activities which most of them had not reached in the first session.

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code

We challenged everyone to see if they could make it to the end of the session without getting help from anyone but their fellow 4th graders, and they were eager to take us up on the challenge (and they succeeded). One boy and one girl in particular really emerged as leaders in instructing their peers. At first, it was a little bit challenging for the boy to teach his peers rather than just taking control and completing the level. However, as time progressed (and with a little nudging) he really embraced the role of peer mentor, and the other students in turn became more willing to ask for help when they needed it. MM@Mitchell 28oct2015 4th grade Hour of Code. 4th graders pledged not to ask for adult help and to pitch in to help each other!

From our perspective as mentors, it was endlessly satisfying to watch the children helping each other with such confidence and care. Being able to step back from your role as instructor and allow the students to take on peer-to-peer instruction might seem risky, but it worked really well in the small setting we had today. And it was a real treat to watch!

MM@MITCHELL Hour of Code

Mitchell Fall Debut! Hour of Code with Anna and Elsa

Yesterday was our first day of Michigan Makers at Mitchell Elementary. We couldn’t wait to meet our new participants and welcome back some familiar faces. Our menu for the day was’s Hour of Code with Anna and Elsa, which uses Google’s drag-and-drop programming language, Blockly. We also brought the junk box, LEGO, and K’nex in case anyone finished early, but no one had enough time for those!

Two girls help each other with a difficult puzzle.Some of the kids had experience with Blockly, but we decided to have everyone start with this activity so that everyone could get grounded in the same basic skills. We also wanted kids to get some experience with Blockly now, since we will be bringing in the iPads and Dash & Dot robots soon, and want the kids to feel comfortable using the Blockly programming app which lets you pre-program noises, movement, lights, and more! Since some kids had experience with Blockly or Scratch, we were a little bit surprised that only two students completed all 20 puzzles.

We noticed that initially, some of the students skipped the video tutorials which give some really important information. They quickly realized that they needed to watch the videos to be able to complete the puzzles, so as time went on we had to answer less questions. It was awesome to see the students move from saying, “This is too hard!” about the first level, to confidently using loops. Part of this came from watching the instructions in the videos, and part from peer or mentor guidance, trial-and-error, and other problem-solving strategies. A student demonstrates to another how to solve a puzzle. Before the day was over, the kids reflected on these strategies. One of the most challenging aspects of this activity turned out to be figuring out what degree of angle to use when making your snowflake, and how many loops you needed. Finally, we talked some more about some of the exciting activities we will be doing next week and throughout the rest of the semester. Not everyone was able to finish today – so we are going to be bringing back this activity so we can make sure everyone is prepared for Dash & Dot in the coming weeks!  

Three boys concentrate on their next puzzle.


As you may well know, there was no Michigan Makers last Tuesday, because Mitchell school was on spring break. Next Tuesday is the last session of Michigan Makers for the year! Next Tuesday, April 15th, parents are welcome to come by for the Michigan Makers makerfest. Students will have things that they are proud of making on display.

PictureMichigan Makers got to participate in the Mitchell School science fair!


What on earth is a tumblewing?! Alex has been teaching students to make gliders these past two weeks, one of them being the tumblewing. Here is the video that Alex has been using to learn and teach how to make gliders:

Students have been very independent these last couple weeks, which is just what we like to see. They have been developing their own projects, planning them from start to finish, and then making them. For example, Matthew made a hand towel with decorative lace flowers. First, he made the flowers, then he sewed the flowers to a piece of cloth, then he sewed that cloth to a larger square of cloth, which was then sewed to two other squares of cloth. He finished off the towel by trimming away excess material.

Have you ever wondered what Michigan Makers mentors do when they’re not teaching Mitchell students? Well on Wednesday, they hosted a makerfest. A makerfest is an event where all sorts of makers come together to show what they have made and teach other makers the ropes of their craft. Here’s a quote about who hosted the event:

“The Center for Campus Involvement and the [University of Michigan] School of Information teamed up to organize the first-ever Makerfest event. Other participants included the Ann Arbor District Library, Maker Works, U-M Computer and Video Games Archive, and Michigan Makers.”


This week was our first class after University of Michigan’s winter break. It was a little tough for everyone to stay focused, and two adults were absent due to illness. Because we didn’t get to go to Mitchell last week, we gave all of the students bags of materials to make things for this class. Most students made all kinds of cool things, but forgot to bring them in today (but said they’d bring them next week). Some students forgot to make things, but said they will when they get a chance. The students that did bring in their creations got to show them during our closing meeting.

PictureHere Miles is showing his six-wheeled car that transforms into a flying contraption. He also made a penguin.

You might notice that many students are wearing necklaces here. That’s because Kristin, the woman in charge of Michigan Makers went to Hawaii and brought back Kukui nut necklaces. Before electricity, Hawaiians would burn the nuts for light. These days, the Kukui nut is a sign of knowledge. We had some guests today, and so students could wear Kukui necklaces to show that they were okay with being asked questions. The guests from Hillel Day School enjoyed seeing how students explore and work in Michigan Makers.

The activities for today were stop-motion animation, making things with materials from the scrapbox, snap circuits, name stickers, choose your own adventure story-writing (or just creative writing), using the sewing machine to make a pull-tie bag, being the reporter, and building with Legos.

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