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Maker Camp: Toy Making and Hacking

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For the past two summers, I have gotten the marvelous opportunity to teach maker education camps to elementary level students, ages 5 to 12. Each week has a different theme and each theme meets for the five weekdays from 9:00 to 12:00 with a half hour break. Our first week’s theme was on Toy Making and Hacking. Here are the webpages of resources I aggregated on these maker activities:

Below is a list of activities completed with the students along with descriptions and my reflections on the degree of success with these activities.

  • Stomp Rockets
  • Gami-Bots
  • Colorful Gears
  • Candy Gobbler
  • Small Toy Take Apart
  • Portable Gaming Devices Take Apart – Invent a New Game

Stomp Rockets

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Materials:

  • 1/2″ PVC Pipe (cut into 36″, 3 x 12″; 6″ segments – one set per participant.
  • 1/2″ right angle joints – 3 per participant
  • 1/2″ cross joints – 1 per participant
  • magazines
  • cotton balls
  • pennies
  • transparent tape

Procedures:

I made some minor modifications of plans presented at http://www.instructables.com/id/Paper-Stomp-Rockets-Easy-and-Fun/. For the camp, I had each camper make his or her own launcher. One or two launchers, though, would have been fine for this activity.

Reflection:

I was excited to begin our week together with this activity as it is high impact. I did stomp rockets before with this age group a few years back. What I didn’t anticipate was the difficulty the campers would have making their rockets. They had trouble rolling the magazine pages around the PVC pipe and taping everything together. I was actually a little baffled that they couldn’t do these not too difficult hands-on tasks. As such, their rockets didn’t perform as they should off and several campers were very disappointed.

I would like to do this activity again in the future. If so, I would (1) do it later in the camp week, and (2) concentrate more on making the rockets insuring that the kids build fairly functional rockets.

Gami-Bots

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Materials:

  • business cards
  • scissors
  • cell phone motors
  • double stick tape
  • transparent tape

Procedures:

The following plans were developed by Howtoons and can be found at http://www.howtoons.com/?page_id=3475

gami-botFinal.jpg

Reflection:

The maker campers really loved this activity. They all were successful is getting their Gami-bots to move. They even invented a game using the floor tiles whereby they placed all of their Gami-bots inside the tile and the last Gami-bot left inside the boundaries of that tile won. I had one of the campers’ mother ask if I could do maker activities for her son’s birthday. This was one of the projects she requested.

Colorful Gears

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Materials:

  • laser cut gears of assorted sizes
  • magnets (6x6mm 1/4″X1/4″)
  • magnetic boards
  • permanent markers

Procedures:

I had seen something similar at an EdTech conference but out of wood.  Instead of wood, I laser cut the gears out of acrylic. I used http://geargenerator.com/ to get the size of interlocking gears I desired and sized the middle holes to be a little bigger than 1/4″ to fit the magnets. This site produced files I used with the laser cutter at a local makerspace. I had the campers color their gears with permanent markers and then attach them to magnetic boards using the magnets as pivot points.

Reflections:

I was really excited about this activity. I think gears are lots of fun. I also thought that by having the campers color and create their own patterns would increase interest. I was wrong. They did the activity, seemed to like it okay, but were ready to move on once they did a single gear connection. I attempted introducing group collaborative creations as can be seen in the right photo above. A few were interested but not with overwhelming enthusiasm. I probably won’t be doing this activity again.

Mad Monster Candy Snatch Game

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Materials:

  • 2 liter bottle
  • Tweezers
  • Doorstop spring
  • Aluminum foil
  • copper tape
  • 5 MM LED lights
  • Batteries and terminal connections
  • Double sided alligator cables
  • Candy or prizes for the gradding

Procedures:

I modified the plans presented at http://makezine.com/projects/make-41-tinkering-toys/monster-candy-game/.

mad-monster-diagram-e1409959714880

I simplified this design by creating parallel circuits to have the LED eyes light up if the Tweezers touch the wired mouth  (similar to a DIY operation game – see http://www.makereducation.com/operation-game.html).

Reflections:

I knew this would be a difficult one and warned the campers of the high difficulty level. Most kids had some problems getting their gobble monster to work so I asked them to reflect on their learning experiences:

 

Last summer I asked the campers to make Operation Games. All were successful so for future camps, I’ll stick with the Operation Game.

Toy Take Apart and Create Something New

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  • Small Toys-Electronics (bought from the Dollar Store)
  • Handheld Games (bought a box from ebay and from local thrift store)
  • Screwdrivers-hammers to take the toys apart
  • Hot Glue and/or Solder to create new toys

Procedures:

See http://www.makereducation.com/toy-take-apart.html for information and resources about doing toy take aparts and hacking. My biggest rule for doing toy take aparts is that the kids need to create something new – a new invention, a new toy, something to make the world better. It isn’t just about taking things apart, it is about using those parts to make something different  . . .  new  . . .  better. Below are a few of the maker education campers explaining their hacks:

Reflections:

Toy Take Aparts are always successful. The kids sometimes get frustrated trying to take the toys apart but with a hammer (used by me), we can break apart the most stubborn of toys. I love seeing the kids reactions as they find out what’s inside of an electronic toy and seeing them use their creativity to make something new out of the parts. This is a keeper!

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