Maker Corps initiation: moving to Omaha and getting the feet wet

Posted on May 17, 2014 in Teaching

Last Thursday I started my new job as a Maker Corps Mentor at the Omaha Children’s Museum, and it looks like I’ll be in for quite the ride this summer! From day one I was greeted by a flurry of activity and talented people, which will no doubt only intensify as the experience develops.

My fellow Maker Corps Mentors and I started by meeting all of the important people throughout the Museum and becoming familiar with all of the various spaces and exhibits. Then we all jumped into the action at the Museum’s Makerspace, checking out all of the behind-the-scenes procedures and learning about the tools and materials that guests can use.

On Friday I got my first glimpse at what being a Maker Corps Mentor is all about as I (and one of my fellow Mentors) was tasked with doing a bit of dumpster diving at the Museum’s donation bin and repurposing some of the found materials to create a MaKey MaKey interface.

Making DIY pressure plates

The Makerspace had three Raspberry Pis set up, with Minecraft and Scratch installed on each of them. I realized that I had seen some plans online a while ago for making DIY pressure plates out of found materials, and thought it’d be fun to make a physical Minecraft controller that requires the kids to stomp on switches on the floor to play the game.

I started making the interface, but have not yet had time to complete it. Hopefully you will get to see the finished project next week!

Makerspace demo

Every day at 1:30PM there is a live demo in the Makerspace to teach kids about something cool, so on Friday I taught kids how to make their own pressure plates! Four kids all made their own pressure plates from cardboard, aluminum foil and foam, then connected their plates to a MaKey MaKey and played some sounds on a virtual piano!

It was a great feeling to see all the kids succeed in making a plate, and to see how excited they were that they could make something that actually caused something cool to happen on the computer!

Next week

Next week will be all about learning about how to work with guests at the Museum and getting up to speed with the core activities that the Makerspace is currently built around. Normally, the Makerspace will host activities in a single theme per week, but next week we’ll host entirely different activities each day so that the Mentors can see how they are run. For example, Monday will be about making wire automata sculptures, and Tuesday will be about paper circuits!

I will attempting to post weekly updates about what goes on at the Museum’s Makerspace, though updates may vary in length and quality based on how much energy and material I have to share! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment!