The Best Makerspace Is Between Your Ears!

Last week ETCATA hosted an Invent to Learn workshop with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez. This experience provided Alberta educators with two full days of learning about making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom. Attendees were all provided with a copy of their book, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. It is an excellent read filled with resources. I  cannot recommend it enough for those interested in MakerEd.

If you were not able to attend you may be interested in checking out the collaborative notes started and shared by Janet Bell.  They contain resources from Gary and Sylvia as well as some bonus material provided by other note taking collaborators. Sharing is caring!

Day one was focused on learning and ended with some time to check out different materials and tools. I chose to work with the wearable tech materials. I have been trying to get a light up bracelet to work with no luck so I was determined to try again and this time I was able to get it to light up! After some tips from Sylvia I realized I needed to wrap the conductive thread quite a few times, very tightly at the connection points.

Hands down, my favourite part of the workshop was being immersed in a maker challenge. Our challenge was simple: make a bird – if it sings and dances, great. We were given a hummingbird robotics kit, access to a bunch of materials, shown a clip from the Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room and put in small groups of 4-5 people.

Our group of 4 paired off in smaller teams of two. Karla and Karen worked on the design of the bird while Maggie and I worked on the robotics and coding. We tackled the coding, using SNAP, and after a bit of playing around we were able to figure out how to light up the eyes with different colours. Moving the wings however proved to be a bigger challenge for us. After finding out where to find the coding section that controlled the motor we had, we realized the motors we chose would not work for how we wanted the wings to move. We checked out Margaret Kobewka’s group when we saw that they had their wings moving. We discovered they had used different motors and they let us have a look at their code. We helped the group next to us when they wanted to find bird sounds. In the end our bird moved and sang an annoying tune. It was definitely a team effort and we couldn’t have done it without the help of others.

Once our time was up we had the opportunity to showcase our creations to the rest of the groups. To see what others created was inspiring. Each bird so unique. Looking at them all, you could see the artistic and technical strengths people brought to their projects. The Yoda bird moved in time with the Star Wars theme song and one group had worm drop out of their bird’s beak.


After the challenge was over we debriefed and discussed how the learning tied in with the curriculum. We came up with:
-grade 4 simple machines (levers)
-finding solutions to a problem (how to get the wings to flap)
-middle school physical science
-grade 5 electricity
-connects with the new CTF curriculum (coming in) – YES!
-Grade 3 Science (building and testing designs)
-language arts
-math (angles/degrees,measurement, patterns)
-math (positive negative numbers, variables, ranges, less than/greater than, volume settings, repeated patterns)
-cross curricular
-so many competencies and skills
-stay away from the knowledge for assessment
-resilience (not give up as they are engaged and interested)

Thank you Gary Stager, Sylvia Martinez and ETCATA for providing this learning opportunity for Alberta educators. It was a hard two days of fun! Maggie and I are currently in the process of starting a makerspace in an elementary school and this workshop has given us some great resources to take back and use.


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