Creating functional objects using today’s technology is empowering students’ creativity at the MCHS Maker Lab that has taken over the library’s second-floor balcony at Moreau Catholic High School.
Learning by doing is the concept behind this latest endeavor whether they are building a robot that can carry items, programming LED lights on a costume or discovering the capabilities of a 3D printer.”
Librarian Jessica Simons explains that “The Maker Lab is accessible to students regardless of what class they are taking, bringing more of the technology you traditionally find in makerspaces together in one location, expanding the makerspaces already in place at Moreau Catholic including robotics, art and theater classes.”
Capitalizing on the maker movement and maker faires that have swept across the United States including a stop at the White House, MCHS has designated a place “where students problem find and then problem solve,” says Anne Arriaga, head librarian. Students learn the difference between just problem solving and actual problem finding. Unlike a traditional math class where students are solving the pre-written problems with known formulas or properties, students in a maker lab have to explore and discover, experiment and develop their own working knowledge of how things work.
Because technology has become so user friendly, we refer to it as functional magic, and we assume it will work but don’t know why.”
There is value in knowing how things work and the Maker Lab provides students the opportunity to ‘play with technology’ while gaining fundamental lessons. “We’ve all experienced how much better we retain lessons we learn through play and interaction than those we encounter through rote learning” said Moreau Catholic’s Director of Technology, Shawna Martin.
With the use of the Raspberry Pi, students are shown the inner workings of the computer. The computer’s operating system isn’t masked, but rather every coding line is shown when the computer starts up. The students learn what the computer has to do in order to work.
Another lesson to be learned is that there is value in both achievement and failure, says Arriaga. “Failure is not a setback, but a motivator,” referring to the Moreau Explorers Summer Academy where students begged their teacher Paul McKenna to let them stay in the maker lab so they could take more time to figure out what they needed to do to successfully program a set of green and gold LED lights to blink on an Arduino board.
Additionally, students are also learning about innovative uses of technology that have potentially greater social justice benefits. For example, in the Robotics class students study such practical applications as prosthetic limbs and personal assistive robots. Computer teacher Gary Gongwer feels that,
In the maker lab, students have the opportunity to further build on these ideas in different formats.”
Spread out like a makeshift laboratory, the equipment includes Arduinos, which can be programmed to do various functions and are used in robotics; gaming components, such as the Makey Makey; Snap Circuits and Raspberry Pi, as well as a 3D printer.
“The challenge is getting everyone’s attention,” says Simons, “and educating people about what is up here in the library, and teaching students how to use it”. Librarians Arriaga, Simons, and Library Technology Specialist Connie Stanton, in collaboration with the Director of Technology, Shawna Martin, and Instructional Technology Specialist, Dominic Mendiola are the team managing this space.
Open 8:00a.m. to 3:30p.m., students interested in working in the Maker Lab can be certified in each of the specific pieces of equipment. The Maker Lab’s demonstrations and exhibits are already attracting students’ innate curiosity to explore something with which they are not familiar.
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