Making: Play & Curiosity

NEKLS Innovation Day 2015 Keynote {live-blogged; please forgive any grammar mistakes or errors}

AnnMarie Thomas, Associate Professor of Engineering, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. Former director of MakerEducation (great resource for projects).

Stop playing around and get to work. The play is what’s important in the learning process.

AnnMarie is known around the globe for Squishy circuits project. Sugar playdoh has 1,000 times the resistance of salted playdoh. It was a project for her kids. Pictures, videos, recipes. 6 continents are using squishy circuits. Used all over the globe. TED Talk

“Joy and Wonder are powerful at any age”

In her labs at Univ. of St. Thomas, she is at the lower-end of tech, doing etextiles work, bringing community into working projects. Sewing bracelets and costumes so they light up.

Deaf school project — engineering, play, sewing circuitry and paper airplanes.

“Unusual combinations often lead to delightful outcomes”

Sound artist, geologist, and a robotist working on. What fields work together?

“It doesn’t feel like work if you’re laughing”

Circus school, engineering education, local band original song, running stream in her work is working with her community: libraries, schools, nonprofits, museums.

What is Making? What is the Maker Movement? All-come-in, very grassroots movement that has huge implications of those who do community and education-based worked. Making isn’t new, but it’s resurgence in the public mind, all over the globe. Maker Fairs all over the world.

Make: technology on your time…next rendition of Popular Mechanics. Step-by-step instructions, profiles of makers.

Maker Faires: play, empowering. Very different than science fair (polished, finished). Maker fairs, aren’t polished, in progress, non-working projects, topics all over the place. Not

2013: 100 Faires mark. 1 Faire in 2006. By 2013, over 500,000 people have attended these events. Kids, families, grandmothers showing up together.

By day people in normal professions, but by night, you never know how many people are building things in their garages, creating. It can be very regional and wide variation, but still a rallying cry that we are all makers.

As a teacher and parent, AnnMarie wanted to know what makers were like as kids.

Amon Millner; Dawn Danby; Lenore Edman; Kipp Bradford; Leah Buechley; Danny Hills; Jane Werner; Steve Jevning; Luz Rivas; Dean Kamen

  1. “How are you going to design something if you’re never built anything?” Dr. William Guilford, University of VA
  2. How are you going to build something if you’re never taken anything apart?
  3. It typically takes a playful, curious person to take things apart.

design; built; build; taken apart; playful; curious; take things apart –> makers, children

“Makes are curious; they are explorers. How do we nurture creativity in kids and adults?”

No one has to be expert. Expertise isn’t goal. Knowing how to find out things that you don’t know & who to learn it from

“Makes are playful. They often work on projects that show a sense of whimsy.”

We often tell each other to stop goofing around; maybe we need to encourage people to incorporate play more into work, figuring things out, trying.

“Makers are willing to take on risk; they aren’t afraid to try things they haven’t done before.”

Goal of parenting is to teach kids to do dangerous things safely.

The golden book of chemistry experiments” book

“Makers take on responsibility. They enjoy taking on projects that can help others.”

Why farm kids are such good engineers: farm kids do grow up fixing things when they break; they also take on responsibility.

7yo trusted with a butter knife to fix electronics. Showing kids that they can be contributing member to family, community, and society.

“Makers are persistent; they don’t give up easily.”

“Makers are resourceful; they look for materials and inspiration in unlikely places.”

Making things doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes we give people too many things to try. Limit possibilities that way?

Place and makers to create a maker space — not tools.

Kon-Tiki: Across the pacific by raft; Alone in the Antarctic (Rink)

Instead of a book report, build a working research station. Walking down grocery stores picking up things to figure out what to do with them, led a guy to solving a major research problem — building a robot out of materials on a research vessel, after the original robot was destroyed.

“Makers share: their knowledge, their tools, and their support.”

“Makers are optimistic; they believe that they can make a difference in the world.”

People who are working together to solve problems. A counter to watching the world in the news today.

Another kid maker story: Read books like these: “An investigation of the laws of thought”; “The wonderful flight in the mushroom planet; “Have space suit, will travel”

What is Play, its qualities? joy, wonder, exploration, process (not about outcome), openness; give and take

We can’t test how well people play. Yet, so important to human development & creativity & drive

Ending question: What are you going to make in your own communities and houses?

Resources for project ideas, especially in time-constrained situations:; Exploratorium tinkering studio.