NJMakersDay Comes to BELS

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NJMakersDay Comes to BELS

How can you use toilet paper rolls, muffin tins, empty milk bottles, and tape to recreate a destroyed civilization? Add some creativity and problem solving skills and you’d be ready for the Alien Invasion Design Challenge! On Friday, March 18th, many BELS schools participated in NJMakersDay, the statewide event encouraging libraries, schools, and businesses to educate the masses about the Maker movement in typical Maker fashion- with a ton of hands-on projects. Some of our schools conducted the Alien Invasion Challenge- rebuilding the necessary components to keep a community protected from invaders and functioning with the resources they salvaged. Some schools did smaller projects – like repurposing t-shirts into totes – that could be done quickly and with less complicated materials. Enthusiasm for these projects was universally present and our schools are planning to incorporate even more Maker projects into their curriculum. Below is a review of some NJMakersDay events in BELS.

In Dumont High School, Katheleen Maynes brought in two classes to her Media Center to engage in the post-apocalypse challenge described above and a physics class to tinker with the various kits provided in the BELS MakerKit.  Aside from making and linking a cardboard guitar to a computer with the MaKey MaKey, students also worked with a programmable Finch robot.  During the lunch period a number of students came to the Media Center to use the various items at the Maker station.

In Elmwood Park High School, approximately fifty 6th grade students participated by creating one of two projects which were completed under the supervision of Senior students. The first was to build a chick shelter, where students were provided with a set amount of materials: 20 toothpicks, 10 marshmallows, 5 jellybeans, and 1 chick, and had 20 minutes to create a structure to house the chick. The participants were excited to eat the supplies when they completed the task! The second project, also completed in 20 minutes, was to take a t-shirt and turn it into a tote bag. Mrs. Alfonso was very happy with the participants’ excitement as well as the finished projects.

Andrea Romano’s Media Center in Cliffside Park High School was transformed from a simple library to a technology paradise for NJMakersDay. There were several stations set up for students to watch, learn, tinker and create with. Students were able to choose from coding on the computers using Scratch and An Hour of Code, create 3D objects using a 3D pen, speak with the 3D printing club about their 3D printers and watch them in action. Students also got to create a hologram for their cell phones, tinker with littleBits and Snap Circuits and witness virtual reality using Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR glasses. Students with a craftier side were able to make USB bracelets and maker bots. It was a fun filled day with over 200 hundred students attending throughout the program.

North Bergen’s Media Center worked with students at very varied levels of ability. Students in their Gifted and Talented program worked on computer coding while Pathways students with special needs worked with Robot Finches and Google Cardboard. A science class did a Zombie Apocalypse Design Challenge. Donna Konrad and Krista Welz were both in agreement that the day was a resounding success.

In Hasbrouck Heights, students first learned about the Arduino and its founder, Massimo Banzi.  Once they saw what the Arduino could do, students had to learn how to program it.  Betty Chiu, Media Specialist, introduced the students to coding and they then downloaded sample code from the Adafruit website. They performed a “Blink Test” changing the numbers in the code to see how the numbers affected the frequency of the blinking lights; the higher the number, the slower the blink, the lower the number, the quicker the blink.  Students also changed the code to tell the program how many lights to light up.  They worked with a Trinket (smaller version of an Arduino) and battery pack to light up the lights, and then attached it to a belt, hat, tie, purse, etc. to create “Wearable Technology.”

Janice Cooper’s Library Media Center in Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan celebrated Maker Space Day by coordinating with Tech Ed, Biology, and Art students.  Students in Nicole Hodgson’s, Steve Maietta’s, and Jim Pepe’s Tech classes were teamed with students from Steve Ahad’s, Shing Mei Lio’s, Maryann Lovelace’s, Sari Weiss’ Biology classes and Celia Gollub’s Art class to complete the Alien Invasion Design Challenge. Students role-played as survivors set in a futuristic Bergen County using cardboard and string, egg crates and tape,  hot glue and paper clips to develop inventions to help themselves survive in this post-apocalyptic world while coordinating with the other groups’ projects.  Altogether, 412 students participated, using their ingenuity and teamwork to create greenhouses and shelters, solar cells and security systems. According to student, Brain W., “The best part of the activity was the spontaneous problem solving aspect. Sometimes you will not be able to sit down and plan things out, and the activity is a great example of this. Spontaneous thinking is a skill that is very useful, but not one that can be learned well in a classroom.”

The entire school in Park Ridge Jr/Sr High School got involved in NJMakersDay this year. Sociology students created flags and masks from different cultures while students in German Language class made decorated Faberge-style eggs for spring in the German tradition. In Science class, students made all sorts of engineering creations like marble runs and mechanized hands and History students recreated WWI battlefields. In the Media Center, Katie Nellen brought in a toilet paper origami expert and had stations set up for students to craft and play with circuit sets. The Maker enthusiasm was felt throughout the school and everyone enjoyed the collaboration so much that they have another MakersDay planned for May.

We’re excited to see what our schools cook up next and look forward to helping them plan an even more dynamic NJMakersDay2017!

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