Quotable: On the power of handmade

Decorative graphic that reads, "When we make something with our hans, it changes the way we feel, which changes the way we think, which changes the way we act." Quote attributed to Carl Wilkens in Terry Tempest Williams's book The Hour of Land

Source: Williams, Terry Tempest. 2016. The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. New York: Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016: Strawbees, Junk Box, Toy Take Apart, and More!

This was our next-to-last meeting before the holiday break, and we were busy!

Our menu:
MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
We’re still disassembling Santa from a few weeks ago …

MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
Time to tackle Santa’s feet and base! MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
So many resistors and capacitors inside the base of Santa!

MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
Best set of capacitors and resistors we’ve seen so far this semester — all lurking under Santa’s feet. MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
Look what was inside Santa’s head!

MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
ANOTHER speaker inside Santa’s feet? MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
Roominate remains popular — so much furniture was made today.

MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
New this week — Strawbees. So many enormous straw snowflakes were made. MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
Trevor was first to tackle Strawbees – he set a high bar for imaginative use.

MM@Mitchell 12/6/2016
Junk box creations


For more photos from this week, check out our Flickr album.

Next week is our last of the semester. We’ll have special gift-making and gift-wrapping stations!


Photo of boy taking toy apart

MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016: So much taking apart!

This was session three of our five-week sprint. Take a look at what was on offer:
MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016

We saw great maker mindset in person when the laptops could barely hold on a charge — they had gotten a workout during the day — and the students went with the flow and flexibly swapped out laptops to make things work. That’s the kind of approach to life we like to see!

The popular stations this week were definitely toy take apart (with Ben this time as your mentor) and the Roominate kit.

Check out our makers in action!

MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016
Two pairs of hands make toy takeapart a lot faster!


MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016 This mechanical Santa had so much to unpack that it took three pairs of hands!   MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016 Who knew Santa’s arms were wires but that his legs actually have knees?   MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016 Poor Santa — but so interesting to take apart!  

MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016
It’s great to spread out with the LEGOs. We have a fuller box this year, so there are plenty of bricks for inspiration.


MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016
M realizes that he can connect a motor from the Roominate box to some fluff left over from last week’s take apart. Not only does the motor attach itself into the fluff, it can actually twist it into yarn. Check out the video below!


MM@Mitchell 11/29/2016
Who knew we could invent a knitting machine?

Here are some things we are learning:

  1. It’s a new thing to use a screwdriver!
  2. “Lefty loosey, righty tighty.”
  3. Press down with the screwdriver while you turn it.
  4. The inside of toys can be a big surprise!

For more photos from this week, check out this week’s Flickr album.


Photo of inside of an electronic toy guitar

MM@Mitchell 11/22/2016: Teamwork

After not having enough for everyone to do this week, we loaded up our van! We introduced toy takeapart, brought back some building tools like Tinkertoys and LEGO, and did some more Code.org. Check out our photos here and in this week’s Flickr album.
MM Toy Take Apart 11/22/2016
We worked in partners this week not only with Code.org but with toy takeapart as well. We had two groups of technicians, one taking apart this toy guitar, and the other taking apart a mechanical bear.


MM Toy Take Apart 11/22/2016 When you work with mechanical/electronic toys, you add scissors to your toolkit!  

MM@Mitchell 11/22/2016 Blockly photos by KF
Paired programming with Code.org.

MM@Mitchell 11/22/2016 Blockly photos by KF
We are impressed by how well the Mitchell makers work together on projects. That’s a great life skill, makers!


MM@Mitchell 11/15/2016: Activate!

YAY! We are back at Mitchell School for five week this fall! We planned to introduce kids to Code.org and make buttons for name tags. But OOPS! We didn’t realize that the laptop cart was locked up and forgot to bring a Plan B. So we sent Kamya back to campus to get some engineering toys, and Kristin had some yarn in her car we used to teach braiding. We like how Mitchell makers go with the flow when things get weird and steer clear of whining. We don’t like to be unprepared, so your good attitude made a big difference!

Here are some photos of the day:

Michigan Makers at Mitchell 11/15/2016 - some photos by Jo!
Welcome menu

Michigan Makers at Mitchell 11/15/2016 - some photos by Jo!
Using Kristin’s computer to test-drive Code.org for next week (fingers crossed!)


Michigan Makers at Mitchell 11/15/2016 - some photos by Jo!
Using the punch to cut out templates for making name tag badges


Michigan Makers at Mitchell 11/15/2016 - some photos by Jo!
Whew! We were relieved when Kamya brought us some other things to tinker with!
Michigan Makers at Mitchell 11/15/2016 - some photos by Jo!
Ben says, “Activate!” whenever they push the button on the Badge-O-Matic II. It is funny every time. We observed how closely the makers watched the people ahead of them so they would know how to set up their button with little prompting from us. Nice strategy, makers!   Michigan Makers at Mitchell 11/15/2016 - some photos by Jo! Success! Check out additional photos in this Flickr album. Kristin

Michigan Makers returns to Mitchell on Tues 11/15 after school!

Hello, everyone! If you’re a third grader who likes to take stuff and turn it into something else, you just might be a maker. See Mr. Hilton at Mitchell for a permission slip. Space is limited, and we cannot wait to see you in two weeks!

Kristin, Kamya, and Ben

Last Makers Session of the Year at Scarlett! :'(

How did an entire school year just fly by? Because a majority of the Mentors will be graduating in a few short weeks, this week marked the last Michigan Makers session until we return in the fall! We had a full range of STEAM activities for our students to dive into: resistance dying, LittleBits, Rainbow Looms, Legos, and TechBox Tricks. There’s something for everyone!



I was inspired by this simple yet cool idea for using rubber bands, paper, and cardboard (which we had lying around and went unused by our students for some time):  https://babbledabbledo.com/easy-art-projects-for-kids-rubber-band-art/


Can you believe that with a little bit of water color, you can make that? We brought this idea to our students, and they all went for it! You could hear a lot of, “Hey, how did you do that?” and, “How did you make that effect?” going around among students. Our Makers were more than happy to share with their peers how they made a certain effect and to share tips on how to make the rubber band lines more distinct (TIP: Gently dab the water color onto the paper, no wiping!).



One of our students admitted that she’s terrible at art and was convinced that whatever she makes is going to look bad (thus deciding not to try). We reassured her that if she didn’t like what she made, that’s OK! We encouraged her to try anyways and let her know that all the Makers were there to experiment and ask/offer help to each other when we needed it. One of her friends made a design that she liked, and after asking her friend how she could get her paper to like her friend’s, she engaged more with the activity and stuck it out to the end, making her own custom design.


Legos have been a hit with our savvy Makers, and this week was no exception! Students dove into the bin, building airplanes, landscapes, houses, and cars.


We had sets of TechBox Tricks out and tipped them off on how a simple circuit from the Techbox Tricks could power up and bring their Lego cars to life. You should see how hard they worked: Tinkering away, they were tried balancing battery packs in the vehicles and positioning a small motor to spin a car’s axles. Other vehicles ran on potential energy stored in a wound-up rubber band strung across the axles! Watch out, world. We’ve got some problem-solving, super motivated engineers coming your way in a few years!





It’s been a great year with these Makers. Every week, we’re impressed with how these students put their heads together and commit to making something. We’re proud of all the hard work they’ve put  in this year and hope they continue to be Makers in the future!

So You’ve Got a Stack of Old Magazines, Eh?

A big part of being a Maker is creating new things out of things you already have around you. After chatting with our middle school’s librarian, I learned that she had book shelves filled with old magazines, available for anyone in the school to take. It got me thinking about how we could repurpose old magazines and turn them into something new….


After poking around the internet for ideas, I came across this inspiration for magazine strip art: http://suzyssitcom.com/2012/06/feature-friday-cut-paper-art.html  We had stacks and stacks of colorful magazines at our disposal, and this artsy activity looked like something the students could get excited about.

The prep work didn’t take very long; After 30 minutes of tearing out magazine pages and slicing them up in a paper cutter (the kind that has a blade on a guillotine-like lever), we mentors had a box full of magazine strips ready for the students to create with!20160331_162808

We let the students pick out the designs that they wanted to appear in their piece. It’s exciting to see the students get revved up about taking ownership of their work! We, the Mentors, might have given them some advice on selecting images, but it was they who pulled together designs and put their own spin on how they wanted the magazine strips to look.20160331_16061220160331_163334

Some students looked at the sample we put out and instantly went, “Nope. I’m gonna do it a different way” and  confidently went in their own direction. And that’s okay! We want to see students think outside the box and experiment. There are so many ways to make this activity your own, and I’m glad to see students fearlessly creating something they hadn’t made before!


20160331_163125For a variation on this activity, check out this link: http://www.pinkstripeysocks.com/2014/02/diy-magazine-strip-silhouette-heart-art.html 

We’ve got more pics form this activity! Find them in our Flickr album HERE.


Have you ever walked into a souvenir shop and seen drinking glasses with frosty designs on its surface? As it turns out, you can make these yourself!  With the help of a Cameo machine, some Contact Paper, and some etching paint, we were well on our way to creating our own uniquely designed glassware.


Because our students could put almost any design on their glass, the number of options was daunting. At the beginning, we heard a lot of “What should I put on mine?” . To get them started, we suggested ideas like their favorite video games, game characters, places to visit, their names, and famous logos. When selecting their designs, we recommended that they pick simple images with clean lines and few details since these tend to show up best on glass. A great place to look for images is The Noun Project.

Once they picked their designs, we loaded the designs into Cameo’s design software and etched the designs onto vinyl (think Contact Paper). The students then peeled and placed their vinyl designs onto their glasses, removing sections of vinyl and exposing glass that they wanted an etched (frosty) design to appear.


Watch that Cameo go!


It’s hard to see from here, but the Cameo machine is cutting the student’s design onto Contact Paper.

After slathering a coat of glass-etching paint onto their glasses, washing the paint off, and slowly removing the remaining vinyl off their glass, their etched design was finally revealed! They were excited to see something go from concept to final product and take it home. Our glass artists did a great job of asking for advice on implementing designs and helping each other along the way.


Glasses are wrapped in vinyl (Contact Paper) and ready for etching paint!


Personalized glass: check.


Video game character on a glass? No problem.


Na na na na na na na na BAT GLASS.

For instructions on how to etch your own glass, Mayank (a fellow Makers Mentor) has blogged them HERE.

Making in miniature

This week at Michigan Makers saw the junk box and 3D printer still going strong! We also brought back many of the same things from the past few weeks, including littleBits, Hour of Code, Lego, and Kinex. We also brought back the Dash robots as well as the tiny Ozobot, which follows the path you draw for it and changes the color of its lights accordingly.

We finally were able to draw a path for the Ozobot

We discovered through experimentation that drawing a path for the Ozobot takes some serious pigmentation, and also that it works best when the turns are gently curved instead of right angles.

Tiny table for some tiny Shopkins!

The junk box was as popular as ever, especially for making miniatures like the tiny table for Shopkins above, and an equally tiny teacup.

Hour of Code has become a real hit with some of the kids

Hour of Code has remained a hit with a lot of the kids, some of whom have spent the majority of the last two weeks on the Blockly-based coding activities. One student told me he can’t wait to keep practicing at home and show his mom what he has been up to!

Prying off 3D prints is harder than you would think

Last but certainly not least, we have been making progress ensuring that every student who wants to print something using the 3D printer has their chance. We have been consistently impressed with how careful the students are around the printer!

One more week to go, Makers!

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Images © 2015 Regents of the University of Michigan. Text available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise stated. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of​ ​Museum and Library Services RE-05-15-0021-15.