Rebecca Hoskins, Maker VISTA
In October 2016, the RMC Tinker Team went to the Stanford FabLearn conference to learn and share ideas about making in education with people from around the world. Fablearn is an annual event which aims to bring together educators and researchers with the goal of improving education for all students through making.
The theme for the conference this year was Diversity in Making: People, Projects, & Powerful Ideas. The weekend was packed full of interesting panels and educational workshops, with lots of variety and presentations by experts in both research and education. Despite the competition, our favorite presenters were two Ravenswood students Angie and Hannah, from Costaño Middle School.
The girls presented on Sunday, during the student presentation portion of the conference. They applied to attend and were chosen by the FabLearn committee to present their outstanding Makey Makey and Scratch video game projects. During the poster session, they stood by their posters and projects, explaining their games to the adults that filtered past. To play Angie’s game, the player puts on a tin foil “shoe” on and kicks either a tin foil left arrow, a right arrow, or soccer ball to complete the circuit and make a goal on the screen. Hannah’s game was an anti-Donald Trump election catharsis game, in which players would grab clay or cardboard representations of various objects wrapped in tinfoil to “throw” them at a digital Trump on the screen.
It was a wonderful thing to see two Ravenswood students standing up in front of a room of educators, sharing what they’ve learned in the Makerspaces with people from around the world. They certainly felt the pressure, and Angie’s advice to students who present at FabLearn in the future was “When you [give] your speech, practice before. Because when you get there you’ll be very nervous.” When they are in the Makerspace on a typical day, however, it is clear that Angie and Hannah feel comfortable and confident using tools and completing projects. This is a credit to both the students and Mr. Hicks, who holds his students to high standards and runs his Makerspace in a calm, no-nonsense way that encourages independence and exploration. Since these two have shown a great capacity for leadership, I asked the girls what advice they would give to other students who might be interested in creating a big project like the ones they brought to FabLearn. Hannah’s insight was that “you have to work really hard, [and] you have to take time out of your own leisure time to get it done.” And Angie’s tip was that “you’re going to need a lot of hot glue.” Both practical pieces of advice from experienced young makers.
When I spoke with the girls after the conference, they shared with me what surprised them most about the event. For Angie, it was “that [her project] worked.” For Hannah, “that people actually liked [her project].” It was a powerful experience for students to see a project through to completion, and to see adults so interested in their ideas. We hope that by giving all students in Ravenswood opportunities to make their creative ideas a reality, it will help them see that their ideas are worth having, spending time on, and sharing too. If you share this hope, please contact us to make a donation, or fill out our volunteer interest form.
“It was so difficult. But in the end, you’ll get it.” -Angie