SUMMIT, NJ - An Summit Educational Foundation (SEF) grant has enabled Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS) librarians Beth Thomas and Megan Hartley to  create an inventor’s workshop called iMake Makerspace. Grant funds were used to purchase high tech materials that include several MaKey MaKey kits, Raspberry Pi computers, plus a 3D printer.
MaKey MaKey is an inventor tool kit that allows a variety of conductive objects such as gummy worms, bananas, or clay to replace the keyboard in almost any online game. Students can create their own game controllers by connecting alligator clips from the circuit board to the conductive object. While Makey Makey is proving to be a clever way to introduce circuitry concepts using video games, Rasberry Pi introduces students to computer programming. Once connected to a keyboard and screen, students use the inexpensive computer to code using Scratch or similar programs.
The most anticipated component of the grant, a 3D printer, arrived this spring. Using online applications such as Tinkercad, students design objects for printing. Through trial and error, students learn which designs are most effective. Sixth grader Sophia Howson was one of the first to experiment with the 3D printer by designing a pencil case. “My first design didn’t work because it was too big, and its sections were not grouped together properly. I thought about it while ice skating, and decided to refine the section grouping and print again.”
This experimentation is exactly what Thomas and Hartley envisioned. “This is problem solving at its best. Through what has been called 'productive failure,' our students are imagining, creating, trouble shooting, collaborating, and modifying. There has been no fear of failure – just an eagerness to keep trying.” Looking ahead to next year, both librarians will work to integrate 3D printing into the curriculum in a variety of classes such as math, technology, art and science.
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