Friday, December 2, 2016

#STEAM Education and Innovation

I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to participate in an exciting event at the Riverview Intermediate Unit (IU6) in Clarion, PA. This event, the Innovation Playground, brought together many area educators, students, parents, and technology in one place to showcase the innovative uses of this technology. Throughout the evening, there were robots zipping around the room, news broadcasts being created, iPad apps and accessories being showcased, and a DJI Phantom Drone on display. There truly was something for everyone and I am honored to have been a participant, along with my daughter and a friend of the family, as we manned the Makey Makey Booth.

Makey Makey: What is it?

Makey Makey Unboxed
My daughter bought her Makey Makey this past summer with money she had received for her birthday. As a fan of technology and a believer in it's power, I was thrilled that she wanted to buy this device. Out of the box, you find the Makey Makey, a mess of wires with alligator clips on both ends, a USB cord, and project ideas. By design, one end of the cords connect to holes in the Makey Makey while the other end connects to a conductive item/substance. Once plugged in to the computer, it is viewed as an external keyboard allowing it to be used to control programs and operations. As for use, the only limit is your creativity!

The Ultimate STEAM Project

My daughter wanted to do something awesome with her Makey Makey. After unboxing it, we played around with some of the gimmicky applications - banana piano, play-dough game controller, etc. - but it was obvious that we needed to take it a step further. Her goal was to have fun; my goal was to showcase the educational power of this little device. It is safe to say we both got what we wanted.
After some brainstorming, she decided she wanted to take the Makey Makey guitar project idea from the packaged materials and make it awesome, so that's exactly what we did and in the process, we created the ultimate STEAM project!

  • Science - The project required my daughter to consider electrical currents and the materials best suited to conduct those currents in this guitar made out of cardboard. She decided to use paper fasteners, aluminum foil, copper wire, and LOTS of duck tape! 
  • Technology - The Makey Makey, a computer, and some basic programming carried out in Scratch. . . . need I say more???
  • Engineering - After some initial internet research, she decided to model her cardboard electric guitar after the Fender Stratocaster. This required her to carefully draw the neck and body, cut out the various pieces, and assemble everything for the final product. Some modifications were made along the way, resulting in a fairly solid musical instrument.
  • Arts - This project required her to tap her artsy side. She decorated the body of guitar with her favorite patterned duct tapes, painted the neck of the guitar, and even explore the various notes she would utilize in Garageband as she composed her music. Anyone who says the arts don't belong in STEM projects are sadly mistaken. STEAM all the way!!!
  • Mathematics - She very carefully measured the spacing of the frets for her guitar along with the holes needed to insert the paper fasteners and aluminum foil. Additionally, she was required to measure and cut various lengths of copper wire to run from the frets to the Makey-Makey. Math skills were definitely tested!
The final result was an awesome cardboard electric guitar that tapped each of the skill sets listed above. She had a blast making it and I was thrilled to see the educational potential of the Makey Makey. Finally, to see her so thrilled to share her creation and the process with the visitors to the Innovation Playground was amazing. My student was genuinely excited about learning. Win.

What's Next?

The only limit is my daughter's imagination! I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. 😀

Would you like to play with the Makey Makey? My daughter has already stated that I am welcome to bring the device to school for other kids to experience. If interested, let me know and I'll bring it in! Interested in bringing more STEAM Projects into your classroom to energize your classroom and inspire true learning in your students? I've recently discovered some awesome resources that I'd love to share, so just let me know!