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.
Boulder Modern Quilt Guild is a group of 25 or so people who love to make things out of fabric, specifically quilts using the modern aesthetic (not your Grandmother’s quilts). We have lots of activities including meetings with lectures, all day sewing sessions, show and tell, retreats, social events and projects for charity. We welcome visitors and new members regardless of experience and style (even your Grandmother). We teach others and share lots of information. We particularly want to get young people involved in quilt making to carry on tradition in a modern way. We are a chapter of the international Modern Quilt Guild. Our current President is Cynthia Morgan. See our webpage at http://www.
What do you do?
The Art and Craft of Quilting!
How did you get started in your field/with your project and why?
We love spreading the word about the fun of modern quilt making and sharing our knowledge.
What’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever done with or told you about your project?
Our charity quilts are appreciated for the comfort and good cheer they provide to the recipients
What is your favorite part about the STEM education movement?
Involving kids, especially girls, and getting them inspired to dream big
Where do you see your making/projects going in the next 3 to 5 years?
We always have a yearlong charity quilt project….this year we are working with TRU Care Hospice and Children’s Hospital.
Meet the fun friends with the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild during Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest April 30 + May 1 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.
Youth in Model Railroading is a non profit model train club just for kids ages 8-18. YMR is the ONLY model train club just for kids.
We teach youths the basics of model railroading, all hands on clinics. YMR has modular layouts that the members can adopt a sections and scenic and detail it anyway they want. We go to train show or community centers to display our layouts and show to the public what YMR is all about.
Youth in Model Railroading was started 20 years ago to kids involved in a GREAT hobby. My son was one of the first members when he was 10 years ago. Over the years YMR has introduced Model Railroading to thousands of kids. Some of our past members are running the real trains. We have one that is the Steam Engineer at the Georgetown Loop RR.
Youth in Model Railroading loves taking their hands on O gauge layout (FunTime Railroad) to Children’s Hospital in Denver and let the kids run our trains. It would make their day!!
We hope that more and more young people will get involved in Model Railroading. The average age of a model railroader is over 65. If we dont get the kids involved in model trains and keep their interest, model railroading may disappear.
Stop by the Youth in Model Railroading booth at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest to play with the trains and get involved in a worth while hobby.
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.
Dr. Tony Wagner has been shaking up education (and parenting), for years. His six books, including bestselling Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap, now in its Second Edition, are printed in over 14 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world.
He was recently the Strategic Education Advisor for a major new education documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed,” and co-authored the book by the same name with Ted Dintersmith. Dr. Wagner joins us at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest to expose us all to ideas about how we can prepare our children (and ourselves), to be more creative and capable in the Innovation Era.
Dr. Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills for Careers, College and Citizenship
In his work as Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, Dr. Wagner asserts that there are seven survival skills that we all need to not just succeed, but actually thrive in the Innovation Era. These include(1):
- Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
- Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
- Agility and Adaptability
- Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
- Effective Oran and Written Communication
- Accessing and Analyzing Information
- Curiosity and Imagination
America is caught between a “rock and a hard place” according to Dr. Wagner, because we need new skills to be successful in our careers. But more and more, students are not graduating from our schools with these skills. What’s more, they are motivated to learn differently as a result of growing up in the “Net Generation.” Our schools have not changed as quickly as our students have.
What Motivates the Net Generation?
Many things are different for a student that has been raised with instant access to information. The Net Generation has also shopped with stores like Amazon.com – where they are treated personally and are “served” relevant products based on their shopping behaviors.
Young people have come to expect a personalized experience in all interactions. They are also accustomed to being able to explore areas that they are interested in through independent exploration. They surf YouTube, find special-interest sites, and connect to other people that share their interests.
This web of connections is ever growing and changing. Young people are exposed to new tools every day and they are not intimidated by the rapid change in their world. They want to learn from their peers, but don’t necessarily respect authority. Their best learning often happens outside a traditional classroom.
What’s Next for Education? How can it Keep Up?
Dr. Wagner’s specific prescriptions for adapting education systems include a fresh look at critical topics to zero in on developing the seven survival skills mentioned above. He advocates for activity-based (also known as project-based or problem-based) learning which increases classroom discussion and engagement, and often deepens learning.
The courses suggested, “aim not to draw students into a discipline, but to bring the disciplines into students’ lives… in ways that link the arts and sciences with the 21st century world that students will face and the lives they will lead after college.” (2)
Join us for Dr. Tony Wagner’s Presentation
Saturday, April 30th at 2pm
Your ticket to STEAM Fest includes admission to Dr. Wagner’s presentation.
Purchase tickets to STEAM Fest HERE. Seating at Dr. Wagner’s presentation is limited and is first-come, first-served. Arrive early to ensure your seat.
(1) Dr. Tony Wagner, Copyright 2010. http://www.slideshare.net/thinkglobalschool/tony-wagner-nais-presentation-11351911
(2) Harvard General Education Homepage: http://www.generaleducation.fas.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do
Quick Thinking. Hilarious. Improv!
What’s this whole improv thing and why is everyone so jazzed about it?
Improvisational comedy has steadily been gaining ground for the past 15 years or so (though its roots date back to the 16th century, the modern form of improv was introduced in the 1940’s and 50’s) it seems that everyone is trying it these days. If you are one of the people who has been curious and standing on the sidelines – let us introduce you to great reasons for you to jump in!
What is improv?
You could say it’s a mindset, but that wouldn’t be accurate because one of the tenets of improv is to get OUT of your head. Improv is a theatrical art form where the story, characters and action are created collaboratively in the moment. There are no scripts or predetermined plots, just like in life. However, you are guided by a series of rules or guidelines that encourage more harmonious and creative play. So really taking an improv class and participating in improv exercises you are being introduced to a new way of being, of acting on life. Continued participation strengthens your ability to experience a new, more effective way of engaging in the world.
Who can benefit?
Often the perception about improv is that it is something only for the funny and the brave or for actors and theater types. Wrong! Anyone who wants to experience more fun, connection and living the principles of Zen-in-action, can benefit from an improv class. No one says you have to perform, but chances are once you do this stuff and get a little more comfortable getting out of your head and trusting your fellow players, you won’t mind an invitation to go up on stage.
What will it do for me?
Improv massages and resurrects positive aspects of living that may have atrophied over the years. Here are just a few things improv can do for you:
- Letting Go. Most of us have been taught and reinforced that the way we get through life successfully is that we figure out how to manipulate and control it. Our motto is, “when the going gets rough- hold on tighter.” Unfortunately, that really doesn’t work. It leads only to anger, reacting with fear and negativity, denying reality and trying to change and mold it to “my way.” Then where are we? Frustrated, uptight, and unhappy. Improv teaches you to flow with what is. You will get to experience into what is placed in front of you and you will experience how to relax into it and work with it.
- Right Thinking. Are you an overthinker? Is your mind more a foe than a friend? You’re not alone. We are all taught to think things out thoroughly before acting on anything. After doing that, some of us are frozen in inaction. We’ve lost the ability to trust our instincts and impulses. The other way we misuse our brain power is to defend our positions and get locked into judgement of right and wrong. By doing improv exercises we are encouraged to “jump in” and decide. Choose. Make a choice and know that it will all be ok. There are no mistakes in improv – another powerful principle. Imagine playing with that principle over time. Improv allows you to use your brain more fully – accessing both hemispheres and shutting down the critic.
- Connect with the Fun. There was a time in your life when that was all you knew- play and fun. It’s called childhood. Kids under the age of 10 are probably the only people who don’t need an improv class. They seek play and fun in most situations- doesn’t matter if they are in class, at church or standing in line at the grocery store. Improv connects us back to our playful nature. Say hello to the fun you that got buried under the shoulds and demands of life. Play again!
- Trust. How much is fear running you right now? It’s a pretty scarey world out there. Just turn on the news for three minutes and we are reinforced that this world is a very unsafe place. Improv gets you believing in the goodness of life and people. Improv doesn’t work without an atmosphere of support and trust. Improv teaches two very key principles – take care of yourself, and take care of others. Hugely important principles. You learn that you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself and you really can’t truly be happy and fulfilled with out serving others. Improv by it’s very nature reinforces the trust force field.
- Saying “Yes” to Life. Sometimes we can feel like that two year old that just says no to everything. That’s another way of saying “my way.” That doesn’t work in improv. It’s a moment-by-moment thing that grows by our attachment to the principle of “Yes And!” Meaning not only do we agree with what has been placed in front of us, we add to it.
All these things work together; as we let go, use our mind correctly to say “yes and” to life then we begin to trust and experience more joy and a liberating and invigorating sense of play.
Now who wouldn’t want more of that?
Interested in learning more about Improv? Come to our Family Improv Night on March 11th, 2016.
Written by: Pam Farone
Pam Farone is a career coach and improv instructor focused on creating joyful careers and happy work environments.
In the past few years there has been a significant push to encourage women and girls to pursue careers in STEM. From White House initiatives to non-profits, it seems like closing the gender gap is finally becoming a national priority.
And rightly so, according to the Economics & Statistics Administration women make up nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. economy but only about 25 percent of STEM jobs. This remains consistent, even as more college-educated women enter the workforce. In fact, the number of women in computer science has actually decreased since 1991.
Women in STEM earn about 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs. The gender wage gap in STEM is significantly smaller than in other fields. So why aren’t more women succeeding in STEM?
The Harvard Business Review highlighted four biases that are keeping women out. Through in-depth interviews with 60 female scientists and a survey of 557 female scientists, researchers think they are closing in on the problem.
Pressure to Prove Yourself
Of those surveyed, two-thirds reported a significant pressure to prove themselves in the workplace over and over again. This phenomena has been the subject of social psychology, but this is the first instance of real women confirming this as their experience.
Masculine vs Feminine
Women in the workplace are forced to inhabit a duality — behave in masculine ways to appear competent while acting feminine to be likable. Of those surveyed, more than a third said they feel pressure to act “feminine” to be likable. Around half of the women said they have received backlash for exhibiting traditionally masculine behaviors, like being direct, decisive and outspoken.
Starting a Family
Nearly two-thirds of the women surveyed said their professional lives changes drastically after having children. Not because of the added responsibly of starting a family, but rather because of how their colleagues began to view them. Women with kids found their commitment and competency coming into question. Co-workers and managers began assuming they would lose their passion and drive after having children.
The “Woman’s Spot”
Discrimination in the workplace is also turning some women against each other. Studies show that woman who have dealt with adversity and discrimination often avoid professional relationships with other women. Many woman report feeling they are competing for “the woman’s spot” in organizations that are mostly male.
Initiatives to close the gender gap often focus on building the STEM pipeline or point fingers at personal choices, but if this study is any indicator, the real problem is actually gender bias.
So the real questions is: how do we make sure women are being accepted in the STEM community and workplace?
Alexa Chrisbacher is the Director of Public Relations at Stem Match, a social media platform for the STEM community. She is also pursuing an MFA at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Connect with Alexa at stemmatch.net.