Homemade Halloween: Gizmo is More Than a Costume

At your school, how many kids will be dressed as ninjas? How many will be Star Wars or Harry Potter or superhero characters? How many animals or vampires or witches? How many will be dressed as Gizmo? No, not the adorable fuzzball from the 1984 blockbuster film Gremlins, but Gizmo the robot as conceived in the brain of Maker Boulder co-founder Martha’s 9-year-old son, Coulter. The answer is exactly one, that is if you go to Coulter’s school. See, Gizmo is one of a kind and the process of one-of-a-kind costume creation makes more than a costume — the process of making creates an emotional connection between the builder and the product that no trip to Target can recreate. Check out what Coulter wrote about his design process:

“First, I drew a picture of the robot. I didn’t know his name, then, we had to make him to name him. This picture is our plan:

Gizmo.Plan

I showed my mom the plan and she had some ideas for how to create his legs – the problem was how could I bend my elbows and knees? So we cut strips of cardboard and used duct tape to keep them together. We went to EcoCycle’s Charm area to select boxes that were the perfect shape. Well, one box was leftover from Mom’s new computer. We painted the boxes with chalkboard paint. Then we painted the legs and arms with silver paint. It was a long day, and here is what he looks like now that he is done. We had to spray him with fixing spray so the chalk wouldn’t smear. After he was done, I named him Gizmo.”

GizmoPersonally, I remember the time I dressed up as a jukebox; when people put candy in a slot I would sing a song. And I remember how hard it was to bend chicken wire into the shape of Nightcrawler’s shoulder pads. About all those other store-bought costumes I wore all those other years? Meh, I can’t recall. It was the process of making that burned the now-slightly-mortifying memory of the jukebox into my brain. Let’s be honest: it’s the Tuesday before Halloween and so your child probably has his or her costume already made or picked out. And let’s also be honest about something else: some years you have the time and some years you just don’t. But memories built on making don’t have to limited to Halloween. Next weekend, when that ninja costume is shoved in the dress-up box never to be seen again, what could you build? Maybe it’s sugar rockets, built on Saturday and launched Sunday afternoon? Maybe it’s a trebuchet? But I’ll bet you this: if you build for Halloween, your kids will remember it. And if you build something — anything! — the weekend after Halloween, it’s that home-built project your kids will remember, far beyond any experience that can be bought in a store.

Why You Need to Visit the New SparkFun Building in Niwot

I’m more science geek than technology geek, but lately I’ve been doing my best — learning how to solder and code by building SparkFun kits along with my kids (6 and 8), first the WeevilEye, then Herbie the little mouse kit and now into the world of Arduino. (My daughter, Kestrel, bounces off furniture and people and walls as if she were the cue ball of a billiards trick shot, but she’ll sit and solder for a straight hour.) What this means is that instead of looking at soldering kits from the perspective of an electrical engineer who, I’m sure, sees these kits as simple teaching tools, I’m completely flabbergasted along with my kids when Herbie hits a wall and his electrical whiskers make the mouse turn. Wow! When we reach the great moment of flipping the switch to “on,” my armpits sweat.

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Making Makers at the Colorado Association of Libraries 2014 Conference

Since the 1970s, when it became cheaper to buy a new color TV than it was to fix the old one, we’ve lived in a throwaway culture. That’s what Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing creator, Editor and Chief of Make Magazine and Boulder native told an audience at the Colorado Association of Libraries 2014 conference yesterday. I was on a panel at the conference and was lucky enough to sneak over to Mark’s talk.

Mark said that 100 years ago, 80 percent of Americans were natural makers – we lived on farms and had to create the things we needed. Then there was the Great Making Lull (GML) of the 1970s through early 2000s, when the perfect storm of desire, access to inexpensive research and development tools, prototyping materials, funding sources like Kickstarter, access to manufacturing like 3D printers, laser cutters etc. and DIY sales channels came together to lower the barrier to entry to innovation and making.

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5 Ways to Foster Innovation in Children

Last week, Maker Boulder published a series of short posts by Alice Kembel describing how to foster innovation in kids. She should know: her husband, George, is Global Director and Co-Founder of the Stanford D-School and Alice is a thought leader in maker education. The Kembels are new to Boulder and bring with them their three innovative boys. And after last week’s series a couple of you intrepid readers asked if you could pretty please just have all the tips in one place instead of having to click post-to-post and inevitably getting lost in the process. So here they are: Alice Kembel’s 5 Ways to Foster Innovation in Children!

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Calculate Best Bucket Size for Halloween Haul

Want a real Halloween nightmare? Imagine filling your child’s too-small bucket in the first three houses and going home with only a small slice of your kid’s potential rake. But if you allow your little monster (or in my case, blue whale with pink and purple barnacles), to carry a big bag, you should be prepared to spend the hours and hours (and hours) needed to fill it. Bad news: there are nightmares on both ends of the bag guesstimation spectrum.

So instead of playing the equivalent of Russian roulette with your child’s Halloween bag size, use the equation below to calculate—with the power of absolute mathematical certainty (wink, wink)—the bag size that’s best for you and yours.

•  T= Total time in hours you plan to spend trick-or-treating

•  A= Trick-or-treater’s age. If over 20 (or below zero…), shame on you. You’re stealing my kid’s goodies.

•  Hc= Hours spent on costume. If store-bought translate into hours at $20/hr.

•  Pd= Population density in trick-or-treat neighborhood. Enter 1 for “rural”, 2 for “open suburban”, 3 for “tight suburban”, or 4 for “Apt or dorm”

•  Ma= Estimated median age in neighborhood. For comparison, median age in the Gaza Strip is about 15 and in Japan about 41.

•  X= Your child’s ineffable, illogical, but very real lust for candy. Enter 1-10 with 10 being “has strategized since last Halloween”

Interpretation Key:

If Bckt is less than 1, your pockets are more than enough

If 1<7, use small-size, plastic jack-’o-lantern bucket

If 7<Bckt<15, use the standard trick-or-treating bucket

If 15<Bckt<25, use a grocery bag

If 25<Bckt, use a trash bag


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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 5)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the fifth and final suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Praise the effort children put forth in the creative process, not their innate abilities.  

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Cardboard to the Left, Monsters to the Right…

C’mon, we know you want to sing it: Here I am, stuck in the middle with you-oo! And we’re right there along with you during these excruciating weekdays between excellent Maker events. We had a hootenanny at last weekend’s Cardboard Challenge. And we’re planning a hootenanny-squared for this Saturday’s Monster to Love building event. Consider registering early: we finally had to cap registration for the cardboard challenge and we expect Monsters to be equally popular.

You may have heard of Monster to Love, the Fort Collins company run by Ray Tollison and his sons, Sam and Ben, donates a hand-sewn monster to charity for every monster purchased. At Friday’s homegrown sew-fest here in Boulder, CO you and yours will have the opportunity to make two monsters: one to keep and one to give away. For $30 it’s not only a darn good deal for an opportunity to learn about the design-and-sew process from a family that lives it, but an opportunity to give a little monstrous joy to a child who could use it; Monsters to Love has given away more than 1,500 monsters to charities like Realities for Children in Larimer County and directly to hospitals around Colorado and abroad (because we all know that anywhere outside Colorado is “abroad”).

When you think about it, the idea flow is pretty logical for Sam and Ben, fraternal twins: you make two monsters, neither exactly the same, and then when you’re holding one monster you know that somewhere out there in the world is its twin.

“It makes you feel less alone,” says Ray, who by day is website manager for the aid organization World Relief.

Ben is the lead designer. Sam and Ray do the sewing. But they’re limited in their ability to reach people by the constraints of time and their 10 digits (well, 30 digits if you add them all together). Ray and the boys stopped by the Maker Boulder booth at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire and Ray said that he’s looking into the possibility of expanding past their basic Singer sewing machines. But until that happens, they need your help. And ours too: we’ll be there sewing and we hope you will be too!

Here’s the 411: Saturday, October 18, 3:00-5:00pm at Mackintosh Academy in Boulder. It’s $30 and preregistration is recommended. Parents should consider staying to help their kids under age 12 and the event isn’t necessarily recommended for mini-Makers under age 5 (you know: scissors, needles and all that).
Eventbrite - Monster to Love -- Create a Monster!

For inspiration, please see the Monster to Love Pinterest page, or the too-cute, ugly images below:

 

Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 4)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1, 2 and 3 HERE, HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the fourth suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Teach children to view setbacks as a opportunities to learn rather than as failures, and encourage them to embrace an attitude of experimentation.

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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 3)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1 and 2 HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the third suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Provide scaffolding for children in their creative processes.

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Cardboard Challenge: ARE YOU READY TO ROCK!

This is a pile of cardboard. This is Colt standing on top of a pile of cardboard. This Saturday, you can stand on top of this pile of cardboard with Colt. Not only can you stand on it, you can rip into it with zeal and gusto and perhapd even aplomb to build whatever cardboard monstrosities you can possibly imagine. We’ll be building arcade games and boxtrolls. You can build a city or a maze or a robot or a VAMPIRE SQUID ROBOT! Or you can built NOT A VAMPIRE SQUID ROBOT!

Help us rip into this pile of cardboard. The ball drops at 10am on Saturday the 11th at Horizons K-8 in Boulder. We’re expecting a heckuva turnout, so please consider coming at 10am, maybe with your own roll of duct tape and cutty-thing (in competent hands only, please). If you like, register HERE.

The event is free, but we just shelled out a ton of cash to make events like this and the Boulder Mini Maker Faire happen and could really use your help earning back our shirts. Donations appreciated at the event.

Carboard.Pile