Monthly Archives: July 2013

Post-it Note Benny

Having never done anything like this before I was interested to see how it’d all turn out.  The kids and I (along with a few library staff) discussed what kind of image we should try out for a post-it note mural.  We wanted to have something either Philadelphia related or Library related.  So in the end we went with an image of Benjamin Franklin which seemed to fit both criteria.

Getting kids interested in working on this project was really easy as it mainly had to do with sticking post-its done in a particular order or taping the post-its in place (something we had to do since they really don’t stick very well to giant post-it pad sheets…I don’t understand that either).  As I was busy gridding out the big sheets the kids were working furiously slapping down the colored squares. I was surprised at how quickly the whole thing came together.

A lot of people kept wandering over asking what we were making and what it was supposed to look like.  Some of them simply said “cool design” believing it to be an abstract pattern.  Unfortunately the only place the mural would fit in our space you couldn’t get very far back to see the whole thing come together easily.  But I soon realized that there was a security mirror hanging on the opposite wall which made it very easy to see.  It was fun to have people say “what is it?” and have the kids tell them “look in the mirror behind you!” The resulting “Woooooow” was pretty satisfying.

[as an aside there was one kid who kept coming and going throughout the project repeating “making me one!” over and over!]

Balloon Zipline: The Numbers and Details

2013-07-09 12.54.09

Last week, my students and myself built a balloon zipline. This turned out to be an awesome project that the kids had a blast with. However, being committing to tricking kids into doing math and science, I challenged the kids to measure the speed. Coaching them along, we were able to come up with some reasonable numbers in a few different ways.

Because we had such a good time with the project, I wanted to share the detailed breakdown of what we did and how we did it.

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Balloons are in!

Last week at Heavenly Hall, we dove into a new subject of material: balloons.

We spent time building a balloon zipline, then measuring the speed using good old fashioned stopwatches (or stopwatch apps if you will.). We then used video to analyze the speed, by using software to view the video frame by frame. See the pictures for more details!

Next we began building CD balloon hovercrafts, using a CD and a pop-top lid to act as a valve. Letting the air flow creates a pocket of air for the CDs to float around, free of friction!

Next week, we’ll be taking our CDs to full scale as we attempt to build a leafblower powered hovercraft, capable of propelling our brave pilots around on a pocket of air! Perhaps even a set of comically oversized bowling pins, and we’ll be set to have a blast floating around!

New Makers at IDAAY

This week at IDAAY I gained a new group of Makers that will be with me for the rest of Maker Corps.  We started to make a variety of projects.  To get them started we sign a board with their names and some doodles.    We explored LEDs and paper were one teen was super interested in the all seeing eye.  We also started to make tissue paper wire lamps were one maker made a stereo.  These lamps we are planing to hang throughout our space.  In some down time we made a silly band sling shot.

Dream-Catchers at McPherson

This past Monday we made dream-catchers. Myself, along with two other library workers rallied some kids together to catch some dreams…or at least pass the time making in good company.

Sometimes it’s easy to capture that first kid who is looking to try out some creativity. On other days it takes some convincing.  On this particular day I had to do some encouragement tug-o-war!  There was a boy who seemed pretty into the idea of making dream catchers, but another kid was fairly determined to have him to himself to play cards.  But as the boy was already intrigued by what I was proposing it wasn’t much harder than dangling string in front of a kitten to get him to join in.

He got right to work making symbols (lions) and decorations for his dream catcher.  I was really happy to see that he was motivated to learn how to make different things and try it himself.  Self-esteem is generally a really big problem I’ve been confronting in the participants at my site but this guy had self-esteem to spare!

After a little while we had several more kids join in as well as one high school graduate who, though not very talkative, was having fun hanging out and making a dream catcher of his own.  After each one was completed we hung them up on the walls amongst the many other pieces of art we’ve been making this summer. We’re pretty close to running out of room!

This was a fun, simple project that was well received by everybody involved.  Next up will be two different mural projects that I’m really excited about. Stay tuned.

“Who cares about saving the Princess, we’d rather win some Pizza.”

This past week at the Village we kept developing our skills and started diving into our Magnetic Maze project. We went through one Soldering iron tip, half a spool of solder, and quite a few markers this week working on our skills. Plenty of fingers were singed in the process, but soldering LEDs into pairs is still a hit(led by Sameer & Jacob)!

This was a perfect start for us to begin playing with our Square Force Resistors and the Makey Makey for our FFR dance pad. Although our second iteration looked like it was going to work, we are still having many issues with materiality and time delays. This physical making exploration allowed us to begin working digitally in Scratch (with classes led by Josh, an Animation major from Art Institute also working in the Hot Spot) some sketches that can be found on the Villages scratch account!

All of this is leading towards our development of Maze Games that will be a mix of physical Squishy Circuitry and digital Scratch interfaces or games. We took a look at all the different types of mazes and puzzles out there (here is the presentation we went though) and talked our own experiences in corn mazes. Which started the generation and discussion of different game concepts, mechanics, and our hatred of helpless princesses in pink-dresses. Personally I can’t wait to see what direction everyone goes in making their own maze games, at the moment “The Legend of Grandmom 2, with Grandpop” is a running favorite.

Awsm video of the week, Sameer showing off his soldering skills:

Developing Connected Messages

Connected Messages is a project that we developed with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and Design School. Connected Messages was the brainchild of our two teams thinking about ways to knit together all five Maker Corps sites at the Free Library of Philadelphia this summer, both physically and digitally, and creating meaningful ways of blending technology, community and literacy with the youth we reach on a daily basis. We needed a project that 1) would be easy to execute, in terms of low-cost materials 2) could be completed in four weeks 3) would be relevant and interesting to youth and 4) would have an interactive component, and could also exist digitally as a way to share with a wider audience outside of the community.

We looked to the city for inspiration. How do disparate communities in Philly express themselves? Through public art, specifically murals. What is Philly’s nickname? The City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection). Connected Messages is a both physical and digital mural project. We have five murals at the five Maker Ed sites across some of Philadelphia’s most underserved communities, plus an additional mural at our Parkway Central library. Each mural is comprised of 64 individual boxes, each box 1-inch deep and 5-inches square. Youth at each site will be guided through conversation and construction by their Maker Corps Member as they design, decorate, and install boxes according to a theme – for example, one site’s theme may be about “equality” another may be about “friendship” another about “skills” etc.


Single box prototype

Each box will contain one LED, which will be connected to our DIY circuit board through pushpins and copper tape. Each wall is connected to the internet through an Electric Imp, a great device that makes it easy to connect hardware to the internet. Each of the walls will have its own webpage on where anyone can see the boxes that youth have made, read more about the creator and the ideas behind each box, and control which boxes are lit up by clicking buttons on the page.


Electric imp, wiring, copper tape connections, and LED matrix controller

When all is said and done, we’ll have spent about $3,000 for all materials for six sites – that’s $500/per site, from 3G modem and data plan to glue and scissors.

Our Maker Corps Team, BK, Brittany, Ryan, Drew, and May, has been working with the Penn team, Dr. Yasmin Kafai, Orkan Telhan, Rich Davis, Thuy Le, Becca Hallec, and Amanda Suarez, to form a design and implementation SWAT team. We would have loved to get some of our kids in on building the boards, but location and time unfortunately didn’t give us that luxury. Regardless, we’re really excited to see what the kids make, and how this project is going to work once it’s in their hands!


Brittany and BK measuring out for the traces


copper tape on black foamcore!


making sure our measurements are right…


Success! Now onto the box-creation..