Robotics and Science and Fun… Oh My!
Meet amazing maker, Andy Donaldson and his exciting new STEAM Workshop and Camp company, Innovative Experiences. Innovative Experiences provides STEAM Workshops that include robotics, science, engineering, arts, making and more!
Innovative Experience’s workshops for tween, teens, and adults with a variety of activities and costs to meet a variety of needs. They offer everything from a couple hours to play with different materials and make something, up to a 4-day Robotics camp or the weekly Innovators Club. What makes IE different from other Maker spaces or STEAM workshops is that they provide unique, thought-provoking activities that allow you to explore all the possible solutions while also expanding your understanding of how things can work together.
What workshops are offered?
Starting in September, these are the workshops that will be offered:
- Roborobo Workshop: Wednesdays Sept 21 – October 26. 6 – 8 pm. We will use the Roborobo kits to build and program many different robots throughout the week. Participants end with an activity that will requires them to use creativity to design, build and program a robot that isn’t part of the guided activities.
- Innovators Club: Each week, participants decide to start or continue the previous project. Each project will focus on inventing or improving an existing technology. Work happens individually and/or in groups to design and build something that hasn’t existed before. Participants will be an integral part of the decisions made around the activities offered at Innovative Experiences.
- Hourly workshops: Guided activities using a variety of resources and materials. Participants can take home most of what they make or just play with the materials. New activities will constantly be offered and are focused on Engineering, Arts and Science such as bridge building and other architectural projects, robotics, Little Bits, 3D printing and projection mapping, making ice cream with dry- ice and liquid nitrogen, pumpkin carving, winter activities, design a board game or invent something that solves a problem!
What happens at the RoboRobo Workshop?
In the Roborobo workshop, participants start by building basic robots and learning basic construction and programming on the first day! The second day is for exploring other robots and practice programming them. On the third day, challenges are added to make an existing robot do something new. The last day consists of working in teams to design, build and program a unique robot that can accomplish a specific task such as go over obstacles, or destroy the opposing team’s castle with a projectile. The best part is, you get to keep the robotics kit as part of the workshop and can practice building and playing at home between workshops. Parents are welcome and encouraged to join us to practice using the robots and share a new activity with your child. If you really enjoyed the workshop, don’t worry! The fun doesn’t stop there. With six levels of Roborobo kits to choose from, you can keep coming back for more fun activities and expand your robotics collection.
What makes Innovative Experiences different from a Maker space?
The goal of Innovative Experiences, says Donaldson, “is to provide experiences that inspire creativity, have real-world application and make learning fun.”
While many Maker spaces are great for exploring and learning, many teens are not aware of them or interested because there is no goal. IE will offer fun and inspirational activities to show teens how their knowledge can be applied in the real world. Finally, the costs of belonging to a Maker space and providing materials or attending similar camps/ workshops can be expensive. Innovative Experiences offers workshops in a safe atmosphere, at an affordable cost.
Andy Donaldson has spent the better part of a decade working as an educator. His passions include working with students, finding creative ways to learn, and working with his hands. Recently, Andy noticed that the growth of the STEAM movement has targeted younger age groups and provided an opportunity that hasn’t really been fulfilled in secondary education. That is the inspiration for Innovative Experiences. To offer fun, affordable activities to inspire creativity and relate to real world knowledge. Andy is also involved with the XQ Bolder Super High School project.
Please visit the website for more information and like us on Facebook.
September 21 – October 26, 2016 – Beginner Robotics Workshop – Wednesdays from 6 – 8 pm. At the Boulder Center for Conscious Community (BC3) 1637 28th Street, Boulder, CO 80301
Crossbeams – Building Made Easy (and Fun!)
We caught up with Charles Sharman, creator of the most-excellent building toy, Crossbeams. His story is exactly what we’re all about at Maker Bolder – seeing an opportunity and making something to meet the need. Here’s his story.
The Aim of Crossbeams
“Dad, can we make a maglev train?” This question, posed by my five-year-old son, sparked the beginning of Crossbeams. Whether it’s a spaceship, a skyscraper, an animal, or a maglev train, all of us want to make and create. It’s in our blood. But when it comes to actually doing it, the task can be overwhelming. You may have to know trigonometry, algebra, mechanics, thermodynamics, electronics, art, drafting, machining, and more. I designed Crossbeams to simplify the building task. You dream, and Crossbeams helps you create.
Many creative platforms exist for younger ages. Yet many younger active creators become passive consumers as they age, immersed in video games, social media, smart phones, and television. I designed Crossbeams to hold the interest of older and advanced creators.
Dreams to Reality
Making Crossbeams’ a reality wasn’t easy, particularly with a full-time job and family. First, I had to enhance my knowledge. During late nights and early mornings, I taught myself mechanics, gear design, and machining. I studied the limitations of current building systems and identified enhancements. A plethora of piece-types limits some building systems. According to Mark Changizi and others building system’s creativity is enhanced by minimizing piece-types an maximizing the ways pieces connect. Delicacy limits some building systems. I wanted a model car that could crash into the wall without disintegrating. Finally, straight lines and boxiness limits some building systems. I wanted to accurately replicate lines and surfaces.
Next, I needed a way to try out pieces in a complete model without blowing the bank on prototyping costs. I wanted to ensure models
looked appealing and the piece-types were minimal. I created the Crossbeams Modeller, a software tool to virtually connect Crossbeams pieces.
I started with three core models:
I believed a building toy that could closely replicate these models could closely replicate many more. Initially, the models took more than 160 piece-types. After much work, I narrowed it to the 47 piece-types used today.
Finally, I needed a sturdy joint that locks pieces much more strongly than the joints in children’s building toys. Children’s building toys use friction-based joints; the force to connect is equal to the force to disconnect. That causes an inherent trade-off. If you make it stronger, you make it harder to assemble. Instead, I based my joint on a cotter pin two-motion joint. A two-motion joint unrelates the join force and separation force. I started with a cotter pin, and it evolved into our patented, simple slide-and-twist joint.
The Future of Crossbeams
While Crossbeams has captured much of its original intent, we still have far to go. Ages 10-12 and 20+ make our largest customer base. We haven’t captured the hearts of young adults, for whom the system was intended.
We designed Crossbeams from the ground up to handle electronics but later tabled electronics to maintain our debt-free principle. Most of the electronics package is designed and ready. Once sales grow, we can make my son’s maglev.
Success won’t be judged by money in the bank but by a sampling of society. Whether it’s Crossbeams, musical compositions, stories, or painting, once young adults are known for their creating instead of their consuming, our work is done.
Bringing a Galaxy of Experiences to the Colorado Front Range
A grass-roots organization is working across the Colorado Front Range to create the coolest science and tech center in the region – the Science Galaxy Museum. The group started small but has been gaining steam (…pun intended). The team consists of scientists, educators, philanthropists and other community members who come from a wide variety of backgrounds – all of whom care about a common theme, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
Why does the Front Range need a science center?
In a time when our region lacks a sufficiently educated workforce to fill our rapidly expanding technology sector, Science Galaxy will empower a new generation of science and technology innovators. The science center’s focus of creating opportunities for people of all ages to explore open-ended activities covering a broad range of STEAM topics is shown to boost achievement in STEAM-related careers.
What is the vision for Science Galaxy?
Science Galaxy is a collaborative center that fosters educational partnerships with area schools, research institutions, tech
nology businesses, and existing non-profit science education groups. The founding committee envisions Science Galaxy as a community resource where everyone can explore science and innovation in an interactive way. Think of it as a destination for interactive science experiences.
What sets Science Galaxy apart?
Just look around you. Colorado is an amazing region, and Boulder County specifically is full of accomplished scientists, techies, and entrepreneurs. Science Galaxy is creating a place to showcase our area’s achievements and encourage curiosity for the world around us.
Who is Science Galaxy for?
In short…everyone! The team wants to encourage not just students, but all visitors to open their minds to the possibilities. In fact, core to the Center’s mission will be outreach to encourage people of all backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, etc. to explore what STEAM has to offer. Broad access is essential to feeding curious minds.
Will it ever really happen?
The team is really excited about the overwhelming positive response they’ve received from the community. We recently released an online survey (still in progress, you can respond here), and the clear message is that the region will welcome a science center with open arms!
“The process of a “start-up” museum is an amazing learning experience. Every community member we meet with teaches us something new and helps us move this monumental project forward, which is extremely rewarding,” commented Kristin Lawrence, one of the leaders of the Science Galaxy effort.
What’s the next step?
The team is asking for help to build a new Science Center here in Boulder County. “It’s important to us,” said, Lawrence, “that this center is built with the greater community at the center of the design. To that end, we are actively seeking input through a variety of tools, including the online survey.”
The team is also looking for appropriate property, talking with local businesses and practitioners to learn more about what should be included in an experiential museum, and seeking funding to support construction and staffing for the effort.
People who complete the survey can elect to be entered into a drawing to win gift cards to local shops or a brand new Spark Sphero. You can also let the Science Galaxy team know that you’re interested in helping when you complete the survey.
To take the survey, click the link below or copy and paste it into a Web browser.
To learn more about Science Galaxy: www.sciencegalaxy.org
What sparks your curious side?
Robotics? The mysteries of the universe? Science and creativity in action? You can find something for all curious folks of all ages at CuriosityStream.com – the world’s first and best spot to find engaging and entertaining programs to watch on your schedule, totally commercial-free.
CuriosityStream offers over 1,300 programs – more than 500 hours – of quality, nonfiction documentary-tyle shows that you can watch on any of your connected devices… from your smart phone to your tablet and TV. We have streaming apps across Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV as well as Android and iOS. And you can take CuriosityStream wherever you go… the service is global, in 196 countries worldwide.
Are you curious about a deep sea adventure?
Travel along as scientists explore the unknown in Deep Ocean: The Lost World of the Pacific. And continue your own exploration of the oceans with world renown marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle in The Health of our Oceans.
Interested in robotics?
Check out CuriosityStream’s comprehensive coverage of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, as teams from around the world compete in the biggest robotic showdown on the planet.
For younger curious minds – join the team from Quarx, three teenage pranksters who challenge the laws of physics with their superpowers, putting an entirely new spin on science education. Check out what happens if your pet black hole ends up eating the entire world!
There’s also the wild adventures of Baron Munchhausen, who takes a quirky look at the greatest inventors in history. Mind Blowing Breakthroughs puts the Baron right in the middle of those flashes of genius that changed the course of humankind…from Leonardo da Vinci to the Wright Brothers.
And coming soon: an exclusive production – Big Picture Earth. Take a journey with CuriosityStream to some of the world’s most spectacular locations. See Stonehenge, the Acropolis, New York’s Central Park, the Gateway Canyon of Colorado and more in ultra high definition 4K… visuals so stunning, you’ll be inspired to learn more about the human role on our planet.
For friends of Maker Bolder and visitors to the STEAM Fest this year, check out all that and much, much more on CuriosityStream with a complimentary 60-day trial subscription. Visit CuriosityStream Signup and use the code: STEAM.
Space – The Perfect Place for a Bedtime Story!
Story Time from Space was contributed by Dr. Jeffrey Bennett. Learn more about Dr. Bennet at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest.
What you cannot imagine, you cannot do.
— Astronaut Alvin Drew (STS-118, STS-133)
How many people are living in space right now? I’ve found that since the end of the Space Shuttle program, most Americans think the answer is zero. But it’s not. There are generally 6 people living aboard the International Space Station, including Americans, Russians, and usually at least one crew member from another nation. All the astronauts currently get rides to and from the station on Russian rockets, but it’s still an international outpost. There’s lots of great science going on there, involving not only professional scientists but tens of thousands of students who have participated in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. And now, there’s another way for kids, parents, and teachers to be a part of the human adventure of space exploration: Story Time From Space.
Story Time From Space is a program designed to combine literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. The basic program plan is to send children’s books and related science demonstrations up to the International Space Station, where astronauts video themselves reading the books and conducting the demos. The edited videos are then posted on the web, along with suggested activities (for kids, teachers, and families) and curriculum materials that can be used in the classroom. Thousands of teachers have already signed on to make use of the Story Time From Space program, and because it is freely available on the web, it has the potential to reach tens of millions of children around the world.
I have the good fortune of being involved with the Story Time From Space program, thanks to the fact that program founders Patricia Tribe (a long-time director of education at Space Center Houston) and astronaut Alvin Drew chose my first five children’s books as the first set to send to the International Space Station. The books launched in January, 2014 and continue to orbit over head every 90 minutes, at a speed of some 17,000 miles per hour – which means they’ve now logged almost 300 million miles of travel.
A second set of books was launched in December 2015. It includes my new book, I, Humanity, and books by Levar Burton (of Star Trek and Reading Rainbow fame), Andrea Beaty, “Lost my Name,” former astronaut Danny Olivas, and two books by astronaut Mark Kelly — which were read by his brother Scott during his “year in space” mission that just ended.
The first set of science demos was launched last June (2015), but unfortunately that was aboard the SpaceX rocket that was unsuccessful. The demos have since been rebuilt and are being prepared for a launch this summer (2016).
Here’s a brief bit of text and a video introducing the overall program:
Imagine Astronauts on the International Space Station reading stories to the children of Earth as the world rotates below.
Imagine videos of the readings accessible via the web to everyone in the world, along with additional videos of educational science demonstrations conducted in weightlessness, all accompanied by lesson plans and classroom activities that teachers or families can use. .
Imagine a community of educators, scientists, and artists all working together to make this dream a reality…
Now, imagine no more…it’s Story Time from Space!
Wondering how you can get involved?
Here are a few ways:
- Learn more about the program by visiting the web site: http://StoryTimeFromSpace.com.
- “Like” the program’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/storytimefromspace), where you’ll find lots of additional photos and other updates.
- Twitter @storytimespace.
- Volunteer to pilot curriculum in your school district or classroom.
- And if you want to help support this exciting program, please donate with the button on the storytimefromspace.com web site.
I believe that for any form of education to be successful, we need to focus simultaneously on three things, which I like to call education, perspective, and inspiration. The education piece is the specific content that we want students to learn. The perspective piece should show them how what they are learning will help them gain perspective on their own lives and on our place in the universe. The inspiration piece should make them care about what they learn, ideally in a way that makes them dream of how much better the world could be if they get an education and become part of the solution for the future. Story Time From Space encapsulates this education-perspective-inspiration approach better than any other education program I’ve ever seen. I hope you’ll become a part of it.
Disclaimer: While I am now part of the team supporting Story Time From Space, I do not receive any compensation from this program. I support it because I’m honored to have had my books selected by the program, and because I so strongly believe in its goals.
Meet a Maker: Mark Moffett and the Fantastical Art Car
After a months-long struggle, we finally secured a car on August 8, 2015! A 1996 Volkswagen Golf. Thanks to Martha Lanaghen and Jeff Scott from MakerBolder!
The following night, we trekked to Denver for the Colorado Night Market. An audience participation, pop-up art show, held in the back of U-Haul Trucks! It was a very original, fun-filled evening. However, the most excitement came during our trip back to Lafayette, when we we’re pulled over by Westminister Police. Our tail-lights were on the fritz! Fortunately, they were more curious than anything. We were allowed to continue, as long as our support van had it’s flashers on! Thanks officers!
Great objects include:
- Happy Meal Toys
- Action figures
- Dolls and doll heads
- Skeletons and skulls (plastic please!)
- Multiples: shells, marbles, small rocks, corks, pennies
- Mardi Gras beads and glass beads
- Old jewelry and gems
- Any interesting plastic items
- Old damaged musical instruments
All items should be weather-proof and able to spend time in the Colorado sun.
Wheee! Bitsbox is AWESOME and a ton of fun. Guess what else?! They’re a smashing partner of Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest and will have a booth in the exhibit hall!
What does Bitsbox do?
Bitsbox is a subscription box that teaches kids to code. Every month a package arrives to your door with dozens of programming projects. Kids go on our website and follow the instructions to type real code that makes real apps that work on real devices.
Who is your target customer?
We’re most popular with families having kids between the ages of 6 and 12, though we’ve had a few people have success with older and younger kids. If your kid can read, then they can do Bitsbox. And parents don’t need to be coders themselves. If your kid gets stuck, all you need to do is go back to the instructions and help them find where they went off track.
What is your most inspiring customer feedback?
We get wonderful feedback every day. Here’s a small sample.
“My kids spent 6 hours playing with Bitsbox last night. They’ve been playing with Scratch and Code.org — but they felt that this was much cooler and they loved the fact that they felt like they were writing real code.”
“Wow! Thank you so much! You just made his day. I thought I’d share that he had surgery on the 20th and that’s why we missed the deadline. He’s on very limited activity while he heals so he’s spending lots of time on Bits Box code. Just thought I’d share so you could see how your kind gift truly means so much to him.”
“Just so you know – I love Bitsbox. You are doing great things. I’m not teaching a computer class next year and I’m done with my programming unit this year. I am paying out of my own pocket so I can’t keep my subscription. If something changes and I teach computers again, I’ll gladly sign up.”
“I’ve got to say, my daughter is loving her first bitsbox. We’re taking it slow — I work to get her to think about what the programs will do, and encourage her to play around with changes. We just finished Tuba or not Tuba, which she loves. I am really impressed by the platform and definitely want to keep her moving forward.”
How did your company get started and why?
Our cofounders, Scott and Aidan, are a couple of ex-Googlers who wanted to build a company that really teach people. Being is edtech is both fun and satisfying.
Where do you see your company if five years?
We want to be the way that kids all over the world can learn this amazing skill of coding. No matter where they live, what language they speak, or what devices they have access to.
What is your best advice to a young entrepreneur who wants to start a company like you?
- Choose something that you love.
- Choose a cofounder you really click with.
- Build a prototype and test the heck out of it with real users.
- Get help! Accelerator and incubator programs are all over the planet these days.
What else do you want our readers to know?
Thank you Boulder! We couldn’t have gotten as far as we have without the amazing network of parents, teachers, and start-up enthusiasts we enjoy around here.
Do you have a discount code for Maker Boulder readers? If so include it here.
Come to our booth for an amazing deal! We want to meet you and show you in person what Bitsbox is all about.
My name is Tenaya Hurst and I am a Rogue Maker. I teach sewing, soldering, and programming electronics all around the world. It is my honor to help support the community of Boulder Colorado with this year’s STEAMfest. I teach workshops in schools, libraries, scout troops, conferences, birthday parties, and more. I have seen first hand the importance of STEAM and the maker movement to education. When a child has a traditional learning experience with books, essays, presentations, and tests, it’s important to also incorporate some hands on learning. STEAM is a way to constantly keep these important subjects present in the minds of the students. But why?
Team work. When we make, we learn how to work in a group. Make your ideas heard, listen to your teammates, and collaborate to the best creation. These are essential skills I missed in school. Whenever a group project was announced, I dreaded it because I was conditioned that only my individual merits mattered. Now that I’m in the maker movement and see the intelligent advancement of kids half my age, I see how those team efforts really pay off in creating more prepared people for our society. Even if a child becomes a lawyer or a doctor instead of an engineer or designer, that’s okay by me! The experience of creating an Arduino robot, sewing an electronic circuit, prototyping with paper circuits, or mastering the art of soldering – makes you a better person! You learn that failure is just part of the process instead of a devastating end to your creativity.
My favorite activity to teach is wearable technology, sewing with conductive thread. I find it is the best activity to combine everything in STEAM.
Technology – we’re learning that Lilypad Arduino and other hardware can be sewn into clothing and circuits can be created to help our daily lives and join the Internet of Things movement.
Engineering – there’s a lot of planning to make sure your circuit functions reliably and testing to try to find failures and solve them.
Art – the overall design and intention of a wearable tech project is the ultimate artistic expression because we’re going to wear it!
And Math…. I definitely wanted to incorporate math, but wasn’t sure how…and then I started using different colors of LEDs and discovered forward voltage! My students examine the data sheets of the Lilypad LEDs and compare the values. We can then calculate how much voltage (how many batteries) we’ll need to illuminate our desired combination of LEDs. I could make it easy on my students and always give out white LEDs, but it’s so much more fun to allow a struggle and give them an electrical/math equation as the solution to find…the solution!
My grandpa grew up in the great depression. From an early age, he was fascinated with the way the world worked and emerging technologies. He found wires in the streets of Chicago (from the first installation of electricity), took any small jobs he could around he neighborhood to learn skills, installed a doorbell at his house, accepted hand-me down tools, started a photography lab in his basement and even accepted a broken printing press to fix and use. He didn’t let his economic status hold him back from making. With the materials, kits, microcontrollers, and resources available today at relatively low cost, he would be proud that America is going back to a state of empowerment, WE can make things ourselves; we have value in our individual and collective innovation. My grandpa eventually achieved a degree in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern and was awarded both Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu. He is my hero and I hope he’ d be proud of me, bringing electrical engineering to students in a new and emerging way with wearable technology.
Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest is honored to present Cathy Olkin, of the Southwest Research Institute, at 4pm on Sunday, September 6th.
Cathy is a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Her main topic of research is the outer solar system, specifically planetary atmospheres and surfaces.
Cathy enjoys chasing the shadows of stars to learn about planetary atmospheres through ‘stellar occultation’ observations. These events have taken Cathy to many exotic locations from Hawaii, to the Marshall Islands, Australia, South Africa and Switzerland.
She also enjoys studying the ices in the outer solar system. On Pluto, Triton and other bodies, molecules that are usually in gaseous state on Earth are solid at the cold temperatures of the outer solar system. Using infrared spectroscopy, spreading infrared light into its separate wavelengths, we can learn about these ices including methane ice, nitrogen ice, carbon monoxide ice and ethane ice.
Cathy didn’t always know that she wanted to be a planetary scientist. As a child, she was interested in many different subjects including how things worked. She liked to take household items (like the phone) apart.
Cathy attended MIT where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace and Aeronautical engineering in 1988. She then proceeded to Stanford to earn a Masters degree in the same field. After that, Cathy took a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where she worked in the Navigation section on the Cassini mission (well before it launched).
Motivated by the exciting science of the Cassini mission, Cathy decided to go back to MIT to study planetary science. She obtained her PhD at MIT in 1996 based largely on airborne astronomical observations used to study the atmosphere of Neptune’s largest moon, Triton.
From there, she worked at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona investigating the rings of Saturn and using data from the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the mass ratio of Charon (Pluto’s largest moon) to Pluto.
Cathy now works at Southwest Research Institute where she is currently the Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Working on New Horizons is the perfect job for her, combining her background in engineering and her scientific interests. The spacecraft traveled more than 9 years and 3 billion miles to reach the Pluto system. This summer, New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto system taking the first ever high-resolution images of Pluto and its surface. The data from the encounter with the Pluto system is continuing to be returned to the ground, and we can already see that this information has transformed our understanding of the Pluto system.