They Keep Us Running!

This week is National Student Employment Week and yesterday was National Library Workers Day.  The Earl Center, which is part curriculum resource library, employs over 20 student workers and 5 supervising public services assistants (called PSAs).  They are crucial in the running of the Earl Center and in keeping the Earl Center open and available during evenings and weekends.  They support Wheelock College community by connecting them to the resources they need – from finding cuisenaire rods for teaching math to teaching us how to 3D print, and by setting up the Earl Center for the various classes and events that are held there.   Let’s get to know a few of them!

Jazmin Wallace

Student Worker

A machine with many rollers. The template of the letter, J, is featured prominently

J for Jazmin! Use the Accucut to easily create all sorts of cutouts.

What’s something about the Earl, most don’t know about?  3D Printing Pen
Fav Item? Accucut
What would I like to learn more about?  Library Box
Could you tell me about yourself in three words and a sentence about yourself?  Smiley. Pugs. Hearts.  I am basically a burnt marshmallow, crispy on the outside but really very squishy on the inside.

 

Laura Boegler

Student Worker

large black machine where you can insert pre-punched pages and a spiral binder and the machine puts them together.

Binding combs are available in various sizes.

What’s something about the Earl, most don’t know about?  The Earl has amazing art supplies for just about any project!
Fav Item?  Glitter
What would I like to learn more about? I would like to learn more about book binding.
Could you tell me about yourself in three words and a sentence about yourself?   My 3 words: Glitter. Kate Spade. Enthusiastic.
My sentence: “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.”

 

Nicole Cunha

PSA

a white machine that looks like an injet printer.

Cut out any design – no matter how intricate. An appointment with the Earl Center is recommended for first-time users

What’s something about the Earl, most don’t know about?   We offer work space for an area non-profit known as Artistic Noise.
Fav. Item?  The Hospital manipulatives! (Hospital playset & toys near the art area)
What would I like to learn more about?  How 3D printing and our curriculum materials are used in the child life program; how to use the CAMEO Silhouette
Tell me about yourself in three words and a sentence about yourself? Curious. Reader who has trouble reading top shelves. Tea drinker who can’t resist freshly baked bread.
I read a lot to satiate my curiosity…I want to do everything at once. That means piles of books randomly form (and topple) around my house.

A toy set of an emergency room at a hospital. The set is a box. There is a plastic figure of a doctor, wearing scrubs and a face mask, pulling a gurney. Off to the side is a toy ambulance.

This playmobil set is a great resource for all, especially educators and child life specialists, it is designed to allow children to grasps an understanding of medical environment and emergency tools.

 

Aziza Klingensmith

PSA

young woman in foreground. Lamination machine in background

Give your documents some polish. $0.50 per foot.

What’s something about the Earl, most don’t know about?  We have the Cameo Silhouette. It’s a machine you can use to make intricate shapes and cuts. You can overlays and more for your projects!
Fav. item? The lamination machine
What would I like to learn more about?  The 3D printer
Tell me about yourself in three words and a sentence about yourself?  Pusheen. Grey. That guy from Eraserhead.  I’m teaching myself Filmmaking and I am seduced by cappuccinos and deep arm chairs (my favorite RomCom is “You’ve Got Mail”).

 

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Play at the Earl Center

Regularly, students come to play at the Earl Center.

That is, education classes taught by professors like Diane Levin and Kyoung Kim about using play in the classroom are set up in the Earl Center so that students have a place to get hands on with their education.

Here is an example of an educational play class from last Fall, 2016.

A table with long sticks of wood, measuring tapes, rulers, markers

Here’s the racing station nice and neat

Student pulling one end of a measuring tape and another student stands to watch

How far can these race cars go? Who can build the best ramp?

A plastic bin of water, 3 mini pumpkins, a blue scale, and a can of marbles

Pumpkin floating station (I didn’t even know pumpkins floated until I set this up! I have to confess to dunking a few ^_^)

 

4 students (1 slightly off-camera) sit at table each carving a mini pumpkin with knives

Students carve pumpkins in an experiment on floating

several students sit together arranging a playset of felt, construction paper, and long, lego people, rectangular wooden blocks to resemble a bustling restaurant.

Setting up a restaurant

 

A playset of felt, construction paper, rectangular wooden blocks, and lego people arranged to resemble a bustling restaurant.

I want to eat at this restaurant! Gourmet dining!

 

A station of the classics: pick up sticks, string for Cat’s Cradle, Tiddly Winks and more!

A station of the classics: pick up sticks, string for Cat’s Cradle, Tiddly Winks and more!

3 students sitting together. 2 students observe one student playing with pickup sticks

Let the games begin!

Now these students are ready to teach their own class, passing on playful experiments in physics, math, kinetic ability, creativity – and most importantly, fun!

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How to Start a Makerspace

two students sitting in the art area of the Earl Center working with glue guns and pipe cleanersIt is not unusual for a library to contemplate creating a makerspace. In fact, most of them have been doing it for years in the service of children’s programming. All of the crafts and story-time and Lego contests would fit comfortably into any makerspace. Even adult programming can fit the bill when local artists or craftspeople come and talk about their work. Of course the genius of makerspace is that it is ideally experiential and allows the people participating to learn something new. This is all without the formal designation of being a “class”. The people who guide makerspace activities are not necessarily experts in whatever they are facilitating. One of the strengths of the movement is that all participants can co-facilitate. “I don’t know how it works—let’s figure it out” is the guiding phrase and one that empowers everyone and invites them to play.

How do I find out about…

Even without a dedicated facilitator, a makerspace can function using the masses of information available over the internet and an adventurous spirit. It’s often just enough to get you started. Access to an educational resource such as Lynda.com can be a plus. But websites like YouTube and Instructables.com also have a plethora of materials to guide the exploration of a new activity. There is a website called makeitatyourlibrary.org that lets you search for a project suitable for a library makerspace by time, skill level, cost and other factors.  Makercamp.com has daily and weekly projects and the blog of the Duxbury Public Library makerspace has some great in-depth tips for possible activities as well as practical examples of how to catalog kits you might develop. Another source for education and inspiration are the MOOC type resources such as EdX and Coursera which provide classes on innumerable topics for free. The information covered there is constructed more as a traditional online class but it can be a good way to gain more in-depth knowledge of a topic without a tremendous commitment or need to get out of your pajamas. The guiding principal is not being afraid to fail. Failure is part of the process and is to be welcomed as part of the learning process.

Where can I go?

In Eastern Massachusetts we have a growing number of makerspaces and hackerspaces (another way of referring to them). Libraries that have already developed them are great places to start to get ideas of what might be possible in your library and get to know the library makerspace community..

And, of course, the Earl Center is always good for an opinion or some suggestions.

A recent visit to the Hatch Makerspace of the Watertown Public Library yielded an enthusiastic environment with a mostly volunteer staff dedicated to sharing their passions with the public. The staffing model demonstrated that the people there at that particular time were experts in their areas of passion– one in fiber arts—who helped a woman new to sewing successfully make an apron; the other a jeweler and expert in the laser/CNC cutting machine, making wooden jewelry. While both had a working knowledge of the other activities possible they did not feel compelled to “know it all” and were fine referring our questions to the dates and times that people imbued with those passions would be available.

Funding one’s makerspace

Funding for makerspaces has been growing as interest and application to educational activities such as STEM and STEAM have grown. In the former presidential administration there was a very active push to make opportunities for these areas to grow because of the connection to industry and the future of jobs. The White House held annual STEM conferences on the White House Lawn for the last two years. It remains that the skills that can be learned through makerspace activities and STEM activities will continue to be very important to the future economic growth of the country. In Massachusetts the Board of Library Commissioners has been active in promoting LSTA (Library Services and Construction Act) grants both targeting STEAM (STEM with Art added) and providing an opportunity to spin a unique grant. These grants provide a way in for libraries to learn about writing grants and funds and support to get new programs off the ground as well as getting a makerspace up and running.

Resources

Software from the Autodesk company

Makerspace supply list

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners – LSTA Grants

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Hour of Code

The Earl Center will be hosting an Hour of Code lunch and learn on Friday, 12/9,  from 12:30 to 1:30.  Bring your lunch and the Earl Center will supply drinks and chips.

Hour of Code started as a non-profit organization and website headed by Hadi Partovi. Its purpose is to encourage people and schools in the United States to learn computer science. In 2013 90% of the schools did not teach computer science. It is estimated that 20 million people world-wide participated in the first Hour of Code.

Figure 1 Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper -Wikipedia

Figure 1 Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper –Wikimedia Commons

It is now offered voluntarily by schools and organizations during Computer Education Week, the first or second week in December,  to coincide with celebration of the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906). She was a computing pioneer who designed a compiler for the first computer programs among other things. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on November 22, 2016. She was also the identifier of the first computer bug-a moth stuck in the relay of a Navy Mark II computer.

Participation in Hour of Code requires minimal resources. It can even be done without a computer, by any age group from pre-readers to adults. Code.org provides free resources for educators (who don’t have to know how to code when they start) https://hourofcode.com/us/how-to.

Information on computer science education in Massachusetts https://code.org/advocacy/state-facts/MA.pdf

iamge of graph paper with scribbles

photo of first computer bug – a moth stuck in a computer – Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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Raspberry Pi 3 – A Lot of Computing for the Money but Not for Everyone

The Earl Center has recently purchased the Raspberry Pi 3, which you can check out.

image of the pi 3, a credit card size motherboard with usb ports and other ports for peripheralsAt about the size of a credit card, the Raspberry Pi packs a punch. For example, the latest version, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, comes with a host features including built-in wireless capability and powerful CPU cores that make it 64-bit compatible (Raspberry Pi 2 included an Ethernet connector and four USB 2.0 ports on the right-hand edge, and the Micro USB power socket, HDMI output and audio/video jack sockets on its bottom edge). You can order Pi 3 as a standalone bare board or as part of a starter kit package that contains a memory card pre-loaded with an operating system (like New Out Of the Box Software, available through Raspberry Pi. Foundation), a protective case, or other extras. Also included are an assortment of games, programming environments (most notably Python and Scratch) At $35, that’s a lot.

Like all other versions of the Pi, the point is to bring affordable computing to all. And like the previous versions, getting up and running takes a bit more effort than pressing the power button on a device running Windows or Apple IOS. But if you’re someone who likes like to tinker, get ready for a thrill (you may also feel like banging your head on the table from time to time, so be prepared).

When you order a Pi, you’ll receive a small cardboard box containing a single green board with circuits, chips and ports and a single page of instructions. Unless you’ve purchased some sort of starter kit, you won’t find a keyboard, monitor or cable. And that simplicity is by design. The computer is made by a non-profit in the UK, whose mission is to teach children 10 and up to learn how computers actually work. Founder Eben Upton says that the Foundation’s original intent was to bring back “engineer” back to engineering. Recalling the old machines of the 1980s (the Amigas, BBC Micros and Commodores) which inspired one to program, Upton noticed that the new, more closed systems don’t actually encourage it. By creating a platform that a kid could afford, Upton hopes to rekindle the days of interest in programing. “We’re doing this because engineering is an enormously fun thing to do and it’s sad that children don’t have access to this fun thing.” [Upton, Eben in Viches. Jose ‘Interview with Raspberry Pi Founder Eben Upton.” Techspot. 22 May, 2012. http://www.techspot.com/article/531-eben-upton-interview/]

So you’ll want a few extras to get going including a microSD card (8GB or larger recommended) to store the operating system, a phone charger with a Micro USB connector to supply power, a USB keyboard and mouse, and a monitor that’s HDMI or composite video signal compatible. Also if you go the bare bones route, you’ll need some kind of device (e.g., another computer) to actually download and install an operating system on to the micro card, as well as an adapter. So you might want to consider a SD card that’s been pre-loaded with Raspbian (the Pi’s operating system) for a little more money (roughly $10 more). But if you’re the type who likes to tinker, go for the vanilla version and download an operating system of your choice. If you choose to go with Raspbian, you’ll get a Windows-style interface with some basic desktop options that provide menus and settings options. Using the pre-loaded Web browser, I was able to surf the Web and check email. What I spent the most time sampling were the pre-loaded games and fooling around with Scratch. I made Sprite, the little cat dance, but didn’t get much farther than that.

So what does this mean for a classroom teacher, and why would you even consider a Raspberry Pi? For starters, if you’re in a situation where money is tight, a Pi could be your way to get computing to your students. Because you can use older equipment, the initial outlay or request for funds does not have to be in thousands.

The Pi allows a flexibility that PCs and Apple products do not. With it, you can create weird and wonderful things. You can use it to stream music and video, to create electronic monitoring systems like the one designed by students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that monitors air quality, or a device that controls an electronic garage door opener.

If you’re looking for something that will teach programming and design thinking organically, the Pi can’t be beat. But if you’re like me–not a natural programmer– be prepared with a heavy dose of patience. And therein lies one the Pi’s greatest gifts: gratification isn’t instantaneous; you actually have to work for it.

Standard on Pi 3:

  • 1GB RAM
  • 4 USB ports
  • 40 GPIO pins
  • Full HDMI port
  • Ethernet port
  • Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
  • Camera interface (CSI)
  • Display interface (DSI)
  • Micro SD card slot (now push-pull rather than push-push)
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core
  • 2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
  • 11n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
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Fish Printing

During the Curiosity and Learning Conference earlier this October, the Earl Center hosted some unusual guests – fish, fish, fish! Neon fish, spotted fish, sparkle fish – everyone joined the show! Take a look for yourself:

GIF flipping through pictures of brightly painted fish on cream-colored paper

GIF flipping through pictures of brightly painted fish on cream-colored paper.

But how did these fish come to be?

A great project inspired by Gyotaku and designed by Professor Lisa Lobel – making a fish rubbing!

Materials used:

  • acrylic paint (watered down)
  • cut up sponges
  • newsprint paper
  • eyedroppers
  • fish

Professor Lobel guided the participants in daubing the fish with acrylic paint using the sponges. Sometimes the eyedroppers added some unexpected spots!

Then the participants carefully placed the newsprint paper on the fish and tapped it gently to get the paint on the paper. That painting was a bit thicker with paint. Then the participants applied a second sheet of newsprint to get a more ghostly impression.

The results were impressive! Scales, eyes, and cheekbones all showed up like a 2D fossil on the paper.

So remember: you can have your fish – and paint it too!

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The Historical Side of Makerspace

This is the first blog article in a series focused on makerspace.

Makerspace has become the current hot topic in education. Along with STEAM it often dominates technology conventions and gatherings. Where did this trend come from?

What is Makerspace?

Wires, crayons, pencils, and two boxes of the makey-makey kit on a wooden table

From the Guerilla Makerspace Project by two Harvard Graduate School of Education students who set up temporary, pop-up makerspaces in unexpected locations

Makerspace can take all forms ranging from large industrial spaces with heavy-duty machinery to a plastic box brought out for an afternoon library crafts program. What connects these extremes is the universal experience of designing and creating– with the emphasis on creating. Makerspaces are places, usually physical spaces, to create –whether hands-on objects or digital products. The making can range from something as simple as using a magnetic white board with  poetry tiles to learning how to program a Mindstorms robot to creating ooblick (a non-newtonian solid), slime (a polymer) or playdough (fun). Makerspace may or may not be predicated on STEAM principals but will generally be based on innovation, creativity and ultimately play.

Make Magazine

In 1995 Make magazine, a periodical for people who like to remix, recycle and invent made its debut. Full of articles about how to hack just about anything with a focus on developing personal “tinkering” skills it struck a chord with the more technical  and playful readers.  Makerspace was something that grew from the D-I-Y philosophy that the magazine was based on.  People wanted to be able to have access to sophisticated equipment like 3D printers (the poster child of the maker movement), CNC cutters, woodworking, welding and all the more artistic or vocational skills.  That desire drove the movement to develop shared working spaces. From this beginning the movement branched out into space and activities at community centers, schools (including kindergartens), private business and especially libraries. For libraries it was a time of disruption—books segueing to digital—space opening up in library buildings as the books left and an identity crisis in the age of Google searching. Libraries embraced this enhanced public service, opening up teen centers and community labs focused on helping people get their hands on equipment and mentoring trainings.

A Seat For Everyone

The library involvement is important to balance potential inequities indicated by surveys conducted by Make magazine that show that the main formal makerspaces events tend to be frequented and supported by white, affluent males. The embracing of makerspace by libraries and schools creates the opportunity to influence that model and opens up the experience and the positive results to a much broader community-older people, children, teens. There has been a particular drive to include girls and women as national surveys indicated that there were very few women involved in this area and a rapidly declining number of women entering the computer science field—closely connected area.

The New Comes from the Old

Like many things this, new activity has a long history behind it. Humans have a tremendous need to create. This is beautifully explained in a video (A World Through the Hands) by Renate Hiller at the Fiber Craft Studio of the Threefold Educational Center in Chestnut Ridge, New York. She uses a stone spindle to create thread, an ancient craft and is able to connect this to spiral galaxies as well as the need for the soul to make with one’s hands.

Sloyd Schools

Around the turn of the last century a system of manual instruction surfaced that was designed to move people rapidly from the farm to the growing numbers and new types of jobs brought about by the industrial revolution. There was the “Russian system” based on making a series of models divorced from everyday life. There were also the Sloyd schools[1] which emphasized making useful household objects using woodworking and sewing that progressed through an increasingly more complicated series of items which grew the student’s knowledge. It was similar to Froebel’s gifts which also had a basis in training children for “occupations.”[2] Sloyd means handwork in Swedish. In Boston the remaining Sloyd School is the North Bennett Street School in the North End. There is another at the Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, MA.  Both still teach handwork and fine carpentry.

The focus on occupations has been key in the makerspace movement. The concept has been embraced by the White House as the Nation of Makers — a way to ensure that the future employees of American industry are able to compete and thrive competitively in the world market.[3] There are also many STEAM/STEM grants being offered through various government agencies like The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and other groups.

Curriculum Resource Centers

Curriculum Resource Centers like the Earl Center were (and are) a form of makerspace focused originally on teacher training. Teachers had to produce their own materials and curriculum resource centers provided the materials and the means to physically handle and prepare teaching materials. Teaching is an ever evolving field.  Experimenting with new materials hands-on is a way of providing experiential learning  Solving problems is key to makerspace and problem based learning.  New tools such as 3D printers, once a tool of industrial production – are opening up possibilities that allow people to become creators and co-creators  beyond consumers and agents of their own problem-solving.  3D printers are being used in classes as early as kindergarten. These opportunities call for rethinking how things might be done in different ways and demands the development of a culture of constant and continuous learning.

[1] http://dougstowe.com/educator_resources/w88sloyd.pdf

[2] The Value and Limitations of Froebel’s Gifts as Educative Materials Parts I, II
Patty Smith Hill ,The Elementary School Teacher
Vol. 9, No. 3 (Nov., 1908), pp. 129-137
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/992761

[3] https://www.whitehouse.gov/nation-of-makers

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OSMO Coding

upright white box with clear plastic window in the center, written word “Osmo” in different colors at the top, black word “Coding” at the bottom. The box rests on a white round table in front of a window that shows the bricks of the Student Center building in the background. In front of the box are scattered colorful blocks with little figures walking or jumping. Smaller yellow blocks have numbers on themThe Earl Center has recently updated its Osmo set! Now, in addition to Tangrams, Words, Newton, and Masterpiece, we present: Osmo Coding!

It’s a great little set with a number of coding blocks.

The set up is the same as with Tangrams and the others: simply download the Coding app onto an iPad (which we have a number of at the Earl Center!), put the tablet into the base, and get started!

The main character is our furry friend Awbie, who seems to be Bigfoot’s little cousin. They love eating strawberries.

Light blue character has a round circle body with oblong limbs. The two arms have three yellow bands. The face is smiling with a big grin and a red tongue. The character is holding a strawberry. White background

Please join us on the Earl Center Blog for more updates on Awbie’s grand strawberry adventures!

We follow Awbie on their quest to eat strawberries and to grow flowers on the…er…remains of the strawberries.

The player helps Awbie by using the coding blocks to move Awbie forward a space, to turn, to jump, to grab strawberries, and so forth. Pressing the “play” button gets Awbie started on the moves the player has designed – and then we find out if Awbie is successful or not!

ipad plugged into OSMO base and the OSMO Coding box right next to it. In front of it are 3 coding blocks. The top block shows a walking figure, an up arrow, and the number 2. The middle block shows a walking figure, a right arrow, and the number 2. The third block shows a triangle pointing right

Here, Awbie will be moving up two spaces and over two spaces – there’s a nice ripe red strawberry waiting!

The gray arrows on the blocks turn to the direction the player wants, and the yellow tiles go up to five – the player can mix and match.

The pink bar on the side keeps track of Awbie’s strawberry points – then Awbie can get a plant to put in the garden!

Here Awbie has returned to their empty garden plot…but fortunately, there is a plant to place in!
Ipad plugged into OSMO base. The screen depicts the character, Awbie, moving through a garden. In front of the ipad are two coding blocks. The first coding block depicts a walking person, an up arrow, and the number 4. The second coding block depicts an arrow pointing right.
Lastly, here is the sick volcano that Awbie is helping. Awbie follows the white rabbit to each level – hopefully the volcano will get happier and happier!

-Reviewed by Quincy Knapp, Earl Center Public Services Assistant

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Little Robot, Big Deal: A Review of Ozobot Bit

Designed by electronics company Evollve, the Ozobot Bit is a palm-sized device that looks a little like a bon-bon, but you can dress it up with the tickers and chipboard decorations like ears and horns that it comes with.

This little bot uses a micro USB based rechargeable LiPoly battery. Before you start to play, you must calibrate the bot. To do that, just hold down the power button (located on its side) until the robot’s LED turns white, then place it on the calibration card it ships with. Once the little robot’s light turns green, it’s ready to go.  One calibration lasts about 90 minutes.
From left to right: 1. a small, flat empty container (to hold cards, booklets, and stickers) 2. two sheets of stickers (variety of ears, stars, numbers, mustaches, sunglasses, and eyes) to decorate ozobot 3. ozobot start guide 4. lone gaming instruction sheet   5.a set of sheets with gaming instructions   6. a tray with 4 markers and a cyan blue plastic round piece and a round motor.
I tested the Ozobot Bit starter pack (available at the Earl Center) which contains:

  • One Ozobot with two skins
  • 4 code-creating markers
  • 2 clear play surface sheets,
  • 2 sheets of reusable code stickers
  • A DIY blank customizable skin
  • DIY skin sticker sheet.
  • A charging USB cable

All nicely packaged in a way that ensures the contents won’t get damaged.

There are about 25 activity cards, as well as instructions on how to download free Android & iOS Apps.

How it works

Using color sensing technology and dual micro motors for variable speeds, Ozobot follows black, red, green, and blue paths that control its movement and speed in different directions. What’s interesting about this robot is that you can use it atop smartphones and tablets as well as on just a piece of paper. You can create mazes, tracks and playgrounds on paper, game boards and digital screens. I tried a few of the simple mazes and then one of the more complicated cards that required using some of the stickers that direct the bot left, right and straight.

You can find printable code challenges on the Ozobot website as well the Ozobot android/iOS app which contains three games: OzoDraw, OzoLuck and OzoPath.

OzoLuck lets you select a discreet number of outcomes for the Ozobot, then pick from three maze types. Once you select a maze type, you put your bot on the calibration point in the center and press the start button. You guess where you think Ozobot will finish at then sit back and watch as it moves forward and turns its way to one of the available outcomes.

OzoPath is an app where you race against clock. You try to get Ozobot to complete a path from start to finish using specific game tiles. Depending on the rotation of the tile, the piece can only be placed in certain squares, rotating the tile will open new possibilities and shut down existing ones, thus introducing gaming style and design.

Ozodraw lets you create new game surfaces. Using this part of the app, you are guided on how to draw one of the over 25 unique code commands that control Ozobot’s speed, decision-making and behavior.

Another app is called Ozogroove, which is supposed to get your Ozobot grooving to the music of your choice. I tried using the built in demos (the bot is supposed to dance to preprogrammed chacha, country or step dancing) on my phone, but it didn’t work very well for me. To be fair, it would probably be much more fun on a tablet or similarly sized device.

In all cases, there is a learning component: you try combinations of colors (codes) to get the Ozobot to make the moves you want it to.

So what?

Aside from the obvious fun, why would you want to include the Ozobot in your curriculum? Well, here are just a few reasons:

  1. In the guise of a game, the Ozobot teaches basic coding practice; e.g., different colors make the bot go at different speeds and different combinations of colors make the bot move in different directions.
  2. The kit promotes deductive reasoning. Consider for example, extras available from the Ozobot website. Amidst a maze of black lines, students choose codes to get Ozobot from one end of the maze to another. Using the green, red, blue, or black markers provided in the kit, students color (code) and watch as the Ozobot reads and deciphers the code and then follows the command to successfully complete its journey.  Unlike a lot of technologically based materials, the Ozobot actually works very well when there is more than one player, so in a sense it teaches one of the most basic skills in K-12 education: social interaction. As one Web site puts it, Ozobot is a “bridge between technology and family game night, Ozobot encourages kids to play and interact.” (https://www.thegrommet.com/ozobot). With a device that falls squarely in the realm of techie, that’s just plain cool.

Evollve is about to launch a new robot called Evo, designed to “connect the physical and digital worlds, replacing solitary screen time with endlessly engaging user-to-user, user-to-bot and bot-to-bot interactions.” (http://marketersmedia.com/ozobot-releases-a-first-of-its-kind-smart-and-social-robot/132531)  Evo is slightly larger and can do more. You can program it by drawing colored stripes on paper, by creating actual programs in the Ozoblockly programming language on a PC (think a cross between Scratch and Logo), or using a companion iPhone or Android app as a remote control for the bot. To find out more about the company and its products visit http://ozobot.com.

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Summer STEM Camps

When people normally think of camps, cabins in heavily wooded areas with children either ducking in-between the trees or roasting marshmallows often springs to mind.

However, while these camps still exist, a new kind of camp is becoming prevalent. Science, Technology, Electronics and Mathematics Camps, otherwise known as (STEM) Camps, represent a growing fundamental part of our educational system in this day and age. Like a typical summer camp, a STEM camp is a summer program where students interact with one another to socialize and create bonding through teamwork/group exercises. However, unlike a camp that promotes arts, a STEM camp highlights math and science over arts and crafts.

It is because of its leaning towards math and science that makes STEM camps an increasingly important part of our summer culture. As our society continues to evolve, math and science have become increasingly vital. While there is nothing inherently wrong with literature and the arts offered by more traditional summer outings, math and science are often overlooked for summertime exploration. As we become more globalized, the need for better technology escalates. Not only does this include technology on the international level, such as water and sewage system, but also on a national level to create better iPhones and computers. This in turn means that the science behind such innovations must increase as well.

The need for such a leaning towards the math and sciences stems from the fact that America, a leading manufacturer and developer of technology, does not have enough people within mathematical and scientific industries to keep in pace. Only 50% of people that choose to go into a math or science field in college will pursue a career in the field. In all, the United States ranks 29th in math and 22nd in science when ranked among the industrialized nations. Considering the fact that the United States is a leader economically, politically, and socially in the global community, this is extremely low.

So now that the need for STEM camps has been established, making it enticing becomes the next step. I remember not liking math and science much as a student since my main exposure to it was in a classroom learning through textbooks, with the rare science lab thrown in to liven things up. But I feel that this is why STEM camps are so attractive as a summertime activity. STEM camps help make learning the subjects fun. While there is still a curriculum attached to the program, there are more leniencies with how it needs to be done. It is not just sitting in a room, but conducting more experiments and letting campers trying things out outside of the classroom and expand their minds as well. Therefore, counselors and their charges are able to have fun in the process. Just think, with the knowledge acquired at a STEM camp, what technological marvel will be created next?

Wheelock’s 2nd annual STEM in the City Summer Camp starts today and will be running until July 29.

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