April 27, 2015

School Projects With Internet Brains

My friend Andy Forest recently sent me an email I'd like to share:

I'm writing to you because I'm working on some interesting community technology education projects. I think they would be of interest to your readers, and we're working to build awareness and support. 

My wife Marianne and I founded MakerKids a few years ago, and it's been amazing - we've taught digital literacy and other tech skills to thousands of kids. Marianne and my next venture is STEAMLabs, a non-profit community makerspace for all ages in the new Centre for Social Innovation's building on Spadina at Queen. One of our main focuses is to transform education by injecting the maker movement into it.

One project is "School Projects with Internet Brains". The idea here is to give public school teachers a way to teach the mandated curriculum in a way that is multi-subject integrated, experiential, self-directed and creative! So we went in to a grade 6 class, and worked with them to build a model of Ontario's power system out of craft materials and Arduino-controlled electronics. The finished product pulls XML files over the Internet and displays the live power generation mix from renewable and other sources on a 3D printed display on colour coded RGB LED strips. Arduino coding on a Spark Core provides the brains. The kids learned HTML, CSS and Javascript to build a web interface to send commands to the Spark and explain the system. Their project has been accepted as an exhibition at the TIFF DigiPlaySpace this Saturday, April 18th and the kids will be there all day to explain it. 

STEAMLabs has also published a free, open source Internet of Things teaching kit to enable other educators to make projects with Internet brains! 

We are also currently crowdfunding the equipment for our makerspace. We're going to get some awesome tools like a laser-cutter, a 4'x8' CNC router, a wood shop, electronics lab and of course lots of 3D printers.

So if there's anything you can do to help us tell these stories to the world, I would greatly appreciate it!

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