#2501 ARDUINO CHALLENGE

What to do, what to do?

I know that I want to make something useful for the one and only Lovely Lula Belle, service dog extraordinaire. There is currently less certainty over whether it should be something that makes my life easier or her life a little more fun. I’ve done a little research and found one really cool project that makes a dog ball throwing machine. This would accomplish both of the goals and Lula loves fetch almost as much as she loves swimming. Unfortunately, I will not have access to the necessary woodworking equipment until we move to the new house. And we do not do that until after this project is due, so moving one. There is an interesting combination of wires and water for a automatic dog water bowl filler. By interesting, I mean concerning. Anyways, it isn’t really necessary for us because Lula is always with me and I like to empty and clean out her bowl everyday. Oh, a GPS. That could be interesting. It is especially cool because Lula runs around so much more than the distance I cover on walks. I would love to see how much exercise my crazy pupper actually gets. Additionally, I do not want to have her on the lease all the time at the new house. So maybe this would be a good way to keep track of her. It is decided. I will create some sort of Arduino powered wearable for Lula that has a GPS tracker in it. That sounds sufficiently cool.

– Wednesday, March 15th


Will it work, will it work?

Let the research begin. I immediately found a very cool project that uses a FLORA sewable micro-controller to connect the components to a vest. The only thing is that it is only able to track the movements after you bring the device back to a computer; it does not track GPS in real time. I think it would very very very cool to be able to track Lula in real time, just in case a squirrel ever runs a mile away into the woods.

So, I have to refine the search to some kind of real time GPS tracking set up. It looks like there are two main ways to accomplish this goal. One option, is to tie the device to a SIM card. This option – through presented as the most straightforward – frankly confused me. The second option seemed very cool at first. It uses these little devices that contain antennas called X-bees. Unfortunately, this is a very costly option. It requires multiple arduinos that communicate via the X-bees, the X-bees themselves need an arduino shield and special attachment to code them, and the cheapest X-bees only work at 100ft. It was getting way to costly, way too fast.

All in all – for now – it looks like I will be going back to the original GPS idea that retroactively tracks where the pup has been. It will be a good way to see how much more Lula is moving than I am on her squirrel chases and runs in the woods.

– Thursday, March 16th


It will work, it will work, hooray!

So new plan! I went back to the basics of what I wanted. An arduino wearable that had some GPS tracking capability, albeit retroactively.

  1. Research different models of wearable arduino

It turns out there are two main sewable arduinos: lilypad and flora. The FLORA ended up having a wider variety of add on options and was less expensive. So, FLORA it will be.

     2. Decide what I want to do given the variety of additional components available.

There are so many things to choose from, including beautiful ropes of led lights. So many thoughts running through my head, from a collar made out of led ropes to some kind of accelerometer/compass combo that would track movement. The collar would be too gaudy and it was unclear just how I would make use of the latter. Eventually, I had an idea.

3. Flesh out the idea and order the components, finally!

I am going to use a light sensor that will turn on led lights connected to a dog harness. The lights will turn on when the light sensor senses the darkening sky at nighttime (or when it is rainy). This would be combined with the original GPS idea and help me to make it my own.

Monday, March 20th


Finding code is hard to do ♫♫

All of the parts arrived during the first week of April. This is good and exciting and yay! I got all the parts hooked together with alligator clips in the right places before the first setback arrived. The Arduino coding center does not have the Adafruit Flora as a board option and to make things worse the alternate coding site that was suggested is shutting down. It took me a great long while and some very creative google searches to figure out the solution. It is about adding a third party board and involves updating certain preferences to include a json file. On the bright side: look at all the gibberish words that make sense to me now!

In another stroke of luck, this solution helped me with the next roadblock in my Arduino path. I had found a variety of tutorials about the first steps in testing out both the GPS and the light sensor. What all of these tutorials had in common (besides not explaining things well) was the use of the arduino software’s example files. On my personal computer’s version of the software none of these specific example files existed. Enter the preferences section again…. I had to install a new Arduino Library, which a very nice tutorial explained to me.

I was then able to successfully track the light readings using the Arduino Serial Monitor in real time, turn the GPS on, and light up an led. All of this was completed using a variety of sample codes from the same tutorials I had used before. Then I realized that I knew how to do all of those things independently of each other, but I did not know to make the led dependent on the reading of the light sensor or connect the light sensor/led array and the GPS array to the FLORA at the same time. At this point, I had been at it for approximately four hours and was burned out. So, the plan is to put this problem away for another day.

– Thursday, April 13th


Have I found a solution yet, I sure hope so….

Adafruit wearable Wednesday is useless. They say cool things you can do, without explaining how to do them. Case in point, this video that simply announces a FLORA light sensor.

I found the key! I spoke too soon. Perhaps another key? Nope.  The problem is that all tutorials are for regular Arduinos, perhaps they would have workd better with the Lilypad instead of my Adafruit product… There are no guidelines for how to use the Flora light sensor as a switch; I can see how much light is coming in at a given time, but cannot mesh that tutorial with the other pure Arduino ones. I have tried just about everything I can think of for the moment.

The next step is to see if I can get the GPS part up and running, before troubleshooting the light sensor LED switch.

 – Saturday, April 15th


♫ Its the Final Countdown ♫

It is almost midnight.  After working for for more hours on Sunday, I am still stuck on the light sensor/led/on-off switch problem. I have tried everything from going through the basics again, to reconnecting the alligator clips (and later resewing the connection), and all the google searches possible. Still no progress.  I have been working since 2pm. It is disheartening to have made next to no progress in 8 hours.

I have not yet had the chance to go out and test my GPS tracker, but it is with crossed fingers I take Lula out for a walk. And the verdict is in, I have a faulty battery pack that does not allow the GPS to track when it is disconnected from the computer…. Another roadblock. This time with not time to fix or trouble shoot it. I had the best intentions when starting this project, but now it seems I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. My desk is littered with alligator clips, ends of conductive thread, and one broken battery pack. It is not an impeccable surface with a shining example of introductory Arduino maker excellence. I am not giving up, but am sorry to report that I may not have a working example due to the many setbacks laid out in this diary.

– Monday, April 17th


Conclusion

I started this process with great belief in the Arduino’s accessibility to all users. Looking at all the projects from a ball launcher for puppies to cat feeders that identify the specific cat (so the other does not steal food!). And I was just looking at pet based projects, it seems like there were endless possibilities that could be created with an Arduino, a few extra parts, and some creative coding. Then I began hitting a great many roadblocks.

Once I fleshed out my original idea, I began to realize that actually making a functioning Ardunio creation was a bit more complicated than I believed. It was a bit disillusioning to discover that I would pay more getting all the separate parts for a real-time GPS tracking device than I would spend to buy one – that was waterproof too! That specific project’s estimated cost was well over $300.  The project I ended up attempting was slightly over $100. While the first was way to much for me to spend, the later is still much more than some people can spend. And from what I can tell from looking around to make sure I got the cheapest option, many projects follow a similarly and unexpectedly expensive trend. Expensive, in this case, being in opposition to democratization.

Oddly enough, in attempting to spend less, I went for a third party adafruit FLORA product over the lilypad arduino. There were no indications that this could be the case, but this decision set me up for a great many setbacks. The FLORA, unlike the Arduino, does not connect its light sensor to a specific pin. All of the examples that deal with photocells and leds, require that sensor be assigned to a specific pin. I was unable to bridge this gap. What I am saying is that there are a great many of complex idiosyncrasies that exist in the Arduino-verse. These unexpected ins and outs are difficult to know from the outside, raising the barriers to entry for those new to the Arduino.

The only way I can see of avoiding these barriers seems to be following a tutorial directly with the exact same products used in said tutorial. However, this leaves very little room for users to customize their creations. A phenomenon that is directly in contrast with the maker movement’s theme of making things uniquely fitted to the creator’s needs. For instance, I did not just need a GPS. I also wanted my creation to turn on the lights when it gets dark out. I pictured the tutorial being helpful, but not the only thing I could accomplish. It was a starting point, instead of the ultimate goal in my mind. A truly democratizing project would allow makers to reach this ultimate goal, not be stuck at the starting point.

I spent what amounts to days of time trying to reconcile all of these factors that I was unaware I would  need to reconcile with my coding of the project. In all of this time, I made practically no progress towards my goal. I found it very disheartening. I found my mind in a blur. And I found myself feeling that I was a failure for not understanding a process that was supposed to be accessible to everyone..Even after I tried the most basic tutorial, I hit a roadblock of faulty battery packs. If it was unaccessible to me, then I must be missing something obvious. This implications makes me feel like it will be a long time before I attempt something like this again.

Additionally, there would be more support for new users who are having trouble. Almost all discussion boards speak in complicated language that make the problem even larger. Even a simple error message about a missed curly bracket appeared in bright red text that only served to confuse the user.  To someone experienced, I am sure they made a lot of sense. To the novice maker, there was not easy way to figure out where I went wrong or what I needed to fix. The design of the software, discussion, and tutorials did not seem to me made to help the new user. The word tutorial implies steps that will help a user to their ultimate goal. What I found in multiple tutorials on using a light sensor was simply an announcement that it was now an option from the site. It was disappointing to find no helpful tutorials on the problems I was encountering and only indecipherable discussion forums.

For all these reasons, I do not believe Arduino is available to everyone. Even if you can ignore the relatively high cost that leaves many people out of the Arduino process, there are many less apparent barriers to becoming a successful maker using Arduino. I found that the third-party products are not necessarily translatable to the Arduino platform, which turned out to be the only place to code. Many extra complicated steps had to be taken to even be able to upload code to the Flora Board, and that was just the beginning. I did not know, as a novice maker, that these were considerations that had to be taken into consideration. To me, a game-changer would be universally adaptable and allow users to choose their own products without fear of being cut out of the process. At the very least, it would be made apparent to novices that this was a possible issue. To truly democratize access and make the Arduino accessible to all, it would need to be more transparent in its cost, reach, and design.

Waking up the morning after writing the other paragraphs, I had one more thought that represents an extension on all of my previous analysis. Instead of saying that Arduino is not accessible in current form, I think it is more accurate to say that Arduino is not immediately universally accessible. When you start, it is not accessible. Then you learn and you end up knowing a few more things that make it slightly more so. I believe that he increased transparency and assistance would most definitely help move the process along immensely. It would lower the barrier of entry and allow novices to more quickly reach a level of understanding that allows for truly democratized access in terms of understanding how Arduino works, what products to buy, and how to use them.

In the fog of dejected confusion, I did not realize I do know more now than when I started this project. Given time, it is possible that it would be within my scope. If there were resources directed at people like me, who are struggling to grasp certain concepts, I would reach that place much sooner and with less feeling of failure. That feeling made me feel like throwing the Arduino project in the trash and never looking back. With a little clarity this morning and realizing that the resources I needed are not available, I can see (with some effort) my project as a puzzle to be solved. It is something that I will continue working on and documenting, so that others can benefit from my journey. Perhaps, it will be the start of a phase where more advanced users use language that novice makers understand and where they walk you through each line of code to explain its purpose instead of leaving you to decipher it. As for my projects future, only time will tell.

– Monday April 17th to Tuesday, April 18th

#2507 Start A Spoonflower Fabric Shop

Dynamic Duo Designs Marketing Plan for spoonflower.com Shop

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The five current designs available at Dynamic Duo Designs

First and foremost, the goal is to raise awareness. By starting my focus on local community, I will aim to develop a solid foundation of customers for my shop. To accomplish this first obstacle, I plan to develop a series of social media posts. However, these will not be simple black and white 140 character tweets or unassuming Facebook posts. Instead, I will use Canva to create eye catching images that highlight my various designs and invite viewers to check out my Spoonflower shop.

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An example of an advertisement that would be posted to social media. 

As you can see, the above design highlights a single design. This was intentional. My site features a wide variety of media to maximize the chance multiple groups will be drawn in. Rather than focus on a single format or theme, my shop offers diversity of design. This means someone may love one design, but not prefer another. To avoid putting off customers by highlighting multiple designs in a single advertisement, I will focus on one design per social media post.

To garner the local foundation, I will use these designs on my own social media sites to reach my immediate circle that includes the Ann Arbor, Traverse City, and University of Michigan community. After that first round of social media blasts, I will send another that encourages my circle to share the post with their friends. For instance, I can double my possible viewership simply by asking my boyfriend to share it with this peers. This would allow me to reach Eastern Michigan University, Wisconsin, and business professionals. As more people share the designs they like best, more and more people will know about my Spoonflower shop; my pool of possible customers will grow.

To maintain interest, I will continue to send out bi-weekly media posts on Tuesdays and Fridays. These will highlight different uses for my designs in a variety of settings. For instance, one week will show the above image. Then in a few weeks, the same design will be shown as gift wrap at a baby shower. It is the hope that showing how the designs can be used, will inspire people to make purchases.

In addition to purposefully growing my viewership and possible customer pool through social media strategies, I will make the best use possible of an integrated Spoonflower feature – tags. A tag is like a keyword that is used to describe an individual design. For instance, the above design is tagged as romantic, minimalistic, and delicate. Each of these tags was sent through multiple iterations to determine if minimal or simple was a stronger tag.

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Dynamic Duo Design’s Marketing Plan, including back-up plan.

As a backup to this original marketing plan, I will initiate a custom design program for my shop. This program will offer customized designs for people who want individualized wrapping paper for a birthday party or a wallpaper decal of a poem that is special to them. This program will be rolled out in a similar manner to the first part of the marketing plan. However, it will also target the less tech savvy older generation and busier individuals without time to invest in their projects. It will include also include an email of a newsletter to my contacts who do not have social media (once again targeting the older generation) and would be interested in the designs.

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Back up marketing plan announcement.

 

 

#75 Youth Maker Bibliography

The Ann Arbor District Library possesses several subjects of books that meet their maker movement needs of youth readers. There is a very large and diverse collection of volumes devoted to DIY children’s projects, programming books, and guides for cooking and gardening. However, the collection contains a less comprehensive collection of books aimed at younger children, traditional crafts, and science or technological experiments. The aim of this annotated bibliography is to address those shortcomings and include books that embrace the maker movement from a variety of angles from hacking to robotics to sewing. Besides making the collection of maker related books interdisciplinary, it hopes to include books that contain interdisciplinary material as well. This focus will allow children who love video games to learn coding and language, while science focused learners can integrate English into their studies through scientific themed poetry. This method allows for a dynamic collection that encourages children of all ages to learn through self-directed exploratory play and develop a philosophy of lifelong learning. These additional materials will allow young and older children to take charge, learning about the tools collection at the library, by checking out a sewing machine or a microprocessor kit. Each of the volumes listed in this annotated bibliography aims to tease out one of these themes to create both breadth and depth in the AADL children’s maker movement collection.


Bull, Jane. Get set, sew: the beginner’s sewing machine book. New York : DK Publishing, 2015. Print.
Jane Bull has an entire series of books with DK publishing that aim to inspire young makers. This particular book is about sewing on the machine. What is unique from other sewing books it that it takes the jargon – that some need a dictionary to unravel – out of the equation, all while displaying step by step photos to make everything clear. By focusing on crafts rather than fashion, this book appeals to a wide variety of users and is suitable for children as young as three.* Additionally, it fills a gap in the children’s AADL collection for traditional crafts. While STEM is very much encouraged today, the maker movement also includes these traditional crafts. By including this in a collection, it shows children that makers come in all shapes and sizes. With this book as a starting point, children (and their parents) can check out a sewing machine from AADL and get sewing.
*according to the Children’s Book Council

Burnett, Christie. Time to create: hands-on explorations in process art for young children. Beltsville: Gryphon House, 2014. Print.
Christie Burnett has years of experience working with young children in her private life as a mother and her professional life as an early childhood educator. Additionally, she writes a popular blog called Childhood 101 that she writes herself. This book is a compilation of freeform activities that encourage children to discover on their own, by discouraging structured craft activities. This more free form approach to creativity ties in well with the maker movements’ approach that encourages people to follow a self-directed journey. By adding this collection of activities, younger children will have the opportunity to take charge of their activities in a hands-on way that encourages creativity and the maker mindset from a young age.

Doorley, Rachelle. Tinkerlap: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors. Boulder: Roost, 2014. Print.
The founder of the very popular creativity blog Tinkerlab, Doorley leads workshops on both visual thinking and hands-on creativity. Concepts that she hopes to pass down to her two young children through tinkering. This book aims to make visual thinking and hands-on creativity accessible to young children, up to age 6. It encourages children to indulge in their natural tendency to learn by exploring, testing, and playing. The book also spreads this experimentation to all fields, from simple robotics to nature exploration. Besides the small number of books about scientific experimentation in the AADL children’s department, there are no books on this subject for very young children. With the STEM fields in vogue, it will be important for children to learn about these subjects in a stress free and fun way that allows them to build confidence from an early age. These ideas tie into the make movement’s idea of lifelong learning that hopes children learn to have the confidence and desire to explore from a young age. Why wait to teach children chemistry, when you can start them off in witches hats testing magic potions?

Doudna, Kelly. Kids’ Book of Simple Machines. Minneapolis: Mighty Media Kids, 2015. Print.
This book has won a wide variety of awards from the Gold Award for the 2015 Parents’ Choice Award, the 2016 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year (age 9-12), and the Midwest Book Award Winner for Children’s Nonfiction. The author brings her lifelong love of science and pours it into this book. Despite being kicked out of the meteorology program in graduate school and failing Calculus twice, she has never flagged in this innate love of science. With her own set-backs in mind, Doudna creates accessible guides that take the information out of intimidating textbooks and allows children to learn about simple machines in a fun and engaging way. The AADL currently has three books that relate to science experimentation. None of those in the current collection focus exclusively on machines. It is an opportunity to expand the children’s concept to science. With schools and the maker movement’s focus on STEM activities, it is important for the collection to provide information on these subjects. Instead of looking to a textbook, this book embraces the maker movement’s hand on approach to learning about STEM activities.

Iggulden, Conn, and Hal Iggulden. The dangerous book for boys. New York: William Morrow, 2013. Print.
While Conn mainly writes historical fiction and Hal a artistic theatre director, these brothers expertise as throwback mischievous boys won them the Time Person of the Year 2007 for this book. In a world where most DIY projects are straight out of the frilly, chevroned, and pastel world of Pinterest, boys may feel left out. This book bridges that gap, providing readers (both boys and girls, alike) with a combination of inspirational stories that teach them about famous battles and the solar system with creative activities, like making secret ink and making a periscope. The current content of the AADL DIY children’s project section is not only chevrons and pastels. What sets this book apart is the hands on learning, created by the stories and projects. This idea of hands on learning ties in well with the maker movement, which is not just about making origami. It is about making origami while learning about science or Japanese culture. It is a more well rounded experiences and that is just what this book offers. Additionally, there is The Daring Book for Girls that accomplishes the same unique blend of note passing skills and stories of historical female heroines.

LEAD Project. Super scratch programming adventure!: learn to program by making cool games. San Francisco, CA: No Starch Press, 2014. Print.
A project that connects the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and MIT Media lab, LEAD has been tasked with promoting creative educational tools since 2005. This particular volume connects programming with a favored childhood pastime since Atari, video games. To create these games, children drag color-coded blocks of code together, making the fundamentals concepts easily absorbable. Scratch is a visual programming language that offers a simple way to approach more advanced computer programming and can easily be used to create animations and games. It is currently not a part of the AADL’s children’s programing collection. It is a great stepping-stone to the other books in the collection that deal with more widely used programming languages. One of the main tenants of the maker movement has been constructed around making technology accessible. This book is a way to continue that tradition. It allows children to learn about variables and subroutines that they can carry with them into the next steps of their programming journey.

Peppler, Kylie, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Melissa Gresalfi, and Rafi Santo. Short Circuits: Crafting ePuppets with DIY Electronics Short Circuits. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2014. Print.
What happens when an Assistant Professor in the Learning Sciences Program and Director of Creativity Labs from Indiana University Bloomington connects with a Professor in the School of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University, who is also Chief Designer and Researcher at the Institute of Play, get together and write a book with another Professor of Mathematics Education and a doctoral student. The answer: circuit magic. This book is all about very cool, cutting edge, and tech-based maker projects in wearable technology. It is the physical side of the programming books currently in the AADL children’s collection- a physical side that does not currently exist. It is one thing to make video games on a computer and another to create tangible things. Part of the maker movement is about filling individual needs. One great way to do this is wearable technology, which this book demonstrates through projects that explore solar powered backpacks. It also ties into the interdisciplinary nature of the movement with projects that create shadow puppets and bring in language and writing skills. This book offers a great opportunity for children to explore microprocessors in a tangible

Scheunemann, Pam. Trash to treasure: a kid’s upcycling guide to crafts: fun, easy projects with paper, plastic, glass & ceramics, fabric, metal, and odds & ends. United States: Paw Prints, 2013. Print.
Scheunemann has a lifelong passion for making stuff that she has shared with young readers through over 100 books. In short, she is a maker who enjoys the hacking aspect of the movement; she finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places. This book is the optimum of that passion, which is why it was a Booklist 2014 Top 10 Craft and Gardening Book for Youth. It teaches children that anything can be used in a wide variety of ways. It encourages readers to bring their creativity and discover what they can make with everything from paper to odds & ends. This book is aimed at older children, who are currently well represented in the AADL children’s DIY projects collection. What is unique about this volume is that it embraces the maker movement’s passion for finding inspiration from everything. It also highlights the movement’s trend towards using found objects to make unique and useful projects. The AADL has a great many DIY books, but they lack is this “something from nothing” (where nothing is junk) philosophy that pushes children challenge their conceptions of what can be used and shows them endless opportunities to create.

Vardell, Sylvia M., Janet S. Wong, Frank Ramspott, and Bug Wang. The poetry of science: the poetry Friday anthology for science: for kids. Princeton, NJ: Pomelo , 2015. Print.
Three Newbery and Newbery Honor winners, a National Book Award Winner, and two Children’s Poet Laureates wrote and compiled 248 poems from 78 award winning children’s poets that take themes various sciences and make them accessible to children through a unique and amusing medium. With emphasis on STEM in the maker movement, there is likely to be increased demand for science themed materials. This is evidenced by the large collection of books pertaining to science experiments currently in the AADL’s collection. By presenting these concepts through poetry the complicated and intimidating textbook formats are removed. Additionally, this volume ties into the interdisciplinary themes from the maker movement by tying science to English and language. In doing so, it shows that science can be creative. Picture books are one of the best ways to teach children about the world around them in a fun and engaging way. The AADL currently lacks such books that tie to the maker mindset, which is why this compilation of poetry is recommended.

Yamada, Kobi, and Mae Besom. What do you do with an idea? Seattle, WA: Compendium Inc., 2014. Print.
An Independent Publisher Gold Award and Moonbeam Children’s Book Award recipient, this first time author delivers his message simply through the eyes of a child. In doing so, the lesson of welcoming ideas, no matter how odd or big, comes through in a way that directly connects the young reader to a peer. This book features great illustrations where you see black and white illustrations become full of color and complexity all because of an idea. As the protagonist learns and grows in confidence, the reader gains confidence to act on their ideas and bring them into the world. Picture books are one of the best ways to teach children about opportunities and lessons, just look at The Boy Who Cried Wolf and telling lies. This phenomenon is equally applicable when the goal is to educate kids about the maker movement. The core of the maker movement is ideas, specifically learning the skills to see your ideas become reality and then sharing those ideas with your community. To do those things, it is important to understand the power of the idea and that is what children will learn through this book.

Blog Post #11

Reflection on Class

I left class last week with a desire to tear all my clothes apart and create. This was surprising to me; it was an attitude completely opposite from the one with which I had walked into class. I was standing in front of the table with dozens of discarded clothing and I was thinking that I could take a few home to wear them. The last thing I wanted to do was tear, rip, and cut them into pieces. My brain was personifying clothes. Oddly enough, I found a lot of the tutorials were aimed at preserving the integrity of the clothing item. For instance, a t-shirt turned into a bag maintained the logo front and center – the feeling of the shirt was not altered.

Making the first cut on my long sleeved button up men’s shirt was liberating. Although, I have to confess I only cut off the sleeves. So technically, it could still be a vest… That being said, I transformed those sleeves. They no longer resemble long tubes of fabric made for arms. I realized it was not a waste of a shirt, but a sort of rebirth. They have an entirely new life as the lining for a bag. And yes, I am personifying the shirt again. But, I would (and probably no one else would) ever have worn that shirt again. Now, the fabric has a new use. It isn’t wasting away in the bottom of a drawer or the rack of a consignment store. I now understand the desire – that embodies the DIY movement – to reuse and make use of any available material.

In a way, the results are much more authentic than simply picking fabric out at the store. You can make everything match and look perfect, but you also do not get the opportunity to adapt. If I had used regular fabric, I would not have ended up with my a very unique and cool closure made from the cuff of the shirt for my little bag. It would have been much more generic. The uniqueness of the maker movement’s final products is inspiring. I may start doing my fabric shopping at Salvation Army instead of Jo-Ann Fabrics.


Reflection on Readings

I find the pressure for each successive generation to be “ahead of the times” or ahead of the previous generation a rather fascinating phenomenon. There is this pressure that arose in the post war era to be better, to know more, and to achieve more than those who came before. Talk about pressure. It is a pressure that I see in the maker movement today.

When you decide to DIY something you could buy, there is a pressure for it to cost less, be better, or be individualized to better meet your needs than the store bought item. Just like all the children’s shows attempted to tell a story about the future and direct the cultural narrative towards tomorrow’s high achieving space kid, there are hundreds of shows devoted to both professionals DIY-ers meant to inspire the masses of makers. Each of these shows demonstrates some kind of social utility, like that surrounding children’s interest in space and bringing family together.

The relationship between science and the social sphere that was alluded with the idea of social utility comes to a head in the discussion of the Exploratorium. The romanticism of science was in decline during this period and yet, the pressure to be ahead of the times remained. In all of this confusion of a generation realizing the repercussions of scientific exploration in the form of war and pollution was a sort of throwback utopian museum – the Exploratorium. There was a freedom to exploration in the promotion of interactivity that erased the pressure of being the future.

In the backdrop of this seemingly stand alone throwback to childhood creativity and freedom in a disillusioned world was another social group pushing for freedom. The liberationists wanted children to have more rights and for their worlds to become commingled with those of adults. I find it intriguing that the Exploratorium was able to reverse this view, using childhood curiosity to encourage both children and adults to revisit exploration without fears or doubts. It brought all ages together by focusing on children, while the liberationists wanted to bring children up to the level of adults. Regardless, each group was able to reach out and create a space that brought two different groups together. I wonder how the maker movement will bridge the gaps between its current followers and those left out due to race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Just one last thing. Shout out to Heinlein for recognizing the difference between scientific knowledge and the necessary social science background that allows you to make sense of the implications and repercussions of the pure physical sciences.  When you take the maker movement and learning a new skill that is the physical science. Recognizing that not everyone has access, tools or skills to accomplish the same task is the social science of the situation. I think that learning with a conscious mind is one of the most important things.

 

Blog Post #10

Reflection on Class

It doesn’t matter what your doing in a makers space. If I have learned anything in the past weeks in the Secret Lab, it is that the act of simply being in the space is half the battle of becoming a maker. I had previously discounted the importance of sharing as a part of being a maker. The more I am in class and in that creative space, the more I realize that I was missing a key element. Even if you are not the one making and sharing, you are there. You are experiencing making, simply by being in the space, being an observer of the process, and being a sounding board for others projects.

Even overhearing conversations can be a form of sharing. Last week, I was in a severely uninspired state. Then I heard a classmate talking about their final Arduino project – cue a minor breakdown about not having any plans for that – and the very cool wearable they were figuring out how to create. While, I should note, using another person as a sounding board for ideas and best materials. Hearing the enthusiasm in their voice and the excitement over the project, lit a tiny little spark in me. A few days later, I had figured out (finally!) a project that made me just as enthusiastic and excited as my classmate.

Most importantly, I think sharing one of the best ways to help spread the maker movement beyond its current community. To become involved in something, you have to know it exists. To become inspired to do something, you have to know what is possible. To become engaged in the movement, you have to know what it stands for. All of these things can be accomplished through the act of sharing.


Reflection on Readings

There seemed to be two main themes coming out of this weeks readings. One, comes from The Next Black. The others stem from a concern I had while reading about the MAKE Media Kit 2016, that was confirmed by Leah Buchley and Innocent Experiments. 

I found the concept of anticipating the needs of the industry to be very refreshing. It seems that often some part of any movement is falling behind. It was especially interesting to see the investigation did not stop at the idea that they simply need ways to develop more sustainable clothing. Instead, the documentary and the industry interviewees contemplated questions that went to the heart of the issue. They are not thinking about simply adding sustainable practices, but transforming the industry itself.; the concept is not considered something new to pursue, but what is actually next for the industry.

In the rush towards innovation, it is not abnormal for groups to be overlooked. Take the STS’s push for extroversion in the postwar era. Despite the evidence at the time that introverts were the more creative group, they were overlooked by the selection process. This is a phenomenon that continued into the standardized testing period. The fact that a student does not perform well on tests may have very little impact on their ability to be a good scientist. We know it has no impact on their ability to be a maker – it is something everyone can do. Yet, the maker movement’s focus on STEM and science is most likely exclusionary to groups (women, those who fail standardized tests, underrepresented groups) who have been told they have not future in those types of subjects. I see the maker movement as having the potential to make room and encourage everyone. So, it was a surprise to see that the organization that comes up first in a Google search about making was so one dimensional.

I was shocked by the MAKE Media Kit – shocked. It was so unbearably braggy, especially about reaching the entire global maker community. This seems entirely unfounded when you see their statistics and realize that more than double their participants are men and practically the entirety are college educated. Can a company claim to bring together the entire world when it only represents (at most) the affluent male half of it? While there were not statistics about the ethnic diversity – we know from other parts of the semester – we can make an educated guess that it is mostly white. Is it possible this stems from the normalcy of boy’s industrious scientific experimentation, like that of Edison? If so, we are telling the same story that the “thrill” of discovery is a purely male phenomenon almost a century later.

Where I was shocked, I was equally enthused by Buchley’s Keynote. It was a relief to know that someone is speaking out about the troubling homogeneity of the make movement and MAKE. Her keynote is a call to arms. A call to arms that hopes to highlight both the troubling trends and need for understanding about their existence. Her idea to move the story away from MAKE’s demographic is one of the most important things. If she is right and there is a direct connection between making and being human, then I think sharing will be more important than ever. Sharing our experience is another part of being human. It is also a part of being a maker. By finding ways to share the movement with under-represented groups, maybe we can begin to change the story. We can change the role of women from the pleased onlookers of the early-twentieth century to something more akin to their male counterparts.

Perhaps if we took the same progressive attitude with which we have approached the problem of sustainability, we could begin to come up with truly innovative ways to approach the lack of diversity problem in the maker movement and demonstrate a better understanding of how to address it. If a big company – like adidas and Patagonia – can devote time and resources to addressing a sustainability problem, perhaps one day they will feel compelled to take action to improve diversity in the maker movement both on a industry and community level. Instead of relying on white manpower of the postwar era to be the future of American discovery, we can begin to look at the intrinsic merit in everyone.

 

Blog Post #9

Reflections on Class

3D printing is so much fun! There is a certain sense of accomplishment in seeing something that exists only on your computer screen appear in the real world. If I had to describe it, I would honestly say that it is like high tech knitting. For some reason, the learning curve for the high tech version of knitting (3D printing) had a lower learning curve than the low tech needle and thread version. I had to learn to knit three times before I could reliably complete even a single row – this over the course of years. Last week, I walked into a room with a bunch of 3D printers having never used one before, and walked out with a one of a kind luggage tag. My first knitting project took me over 2 weeks to finish (and it didn’t look nearly so good!).

The other thing I found interesting about 3D printing is the ease with which someone can design something of their own to print. With knitting, I am still considerably dependent of patterns that other people have created over the years. This isn’t a bad thing – there is a certain feeling of carrying on some grand history that people have passed down for hundreds of years. However, it does serve show the amazingness of the 3D printing platforms. With what I can barely call moderate competency with a computer, I made a labrador retriever in a little under an hour.

That sense of almost instant accomplishment in seeing your computer pixels become a real object has so much potential to empower. I found that empowerment with knitting during a tough period of my life, but it was also a period when I had time. I had time to spend months working on a single project. Not many people, or even children these days, have the luxury of waiting that long for that sense of completion. It seems to me that 3D printing offers the right mix of timeliness and learning curve to inspire confidence. That confidence is so very important for people of all ages. For some it proves that they can learn, for others it is confirmation their ideas have merit, and for others it is simply fun.


Reflections on Readings

Having never considered the relationship between scientific inquiry and childlike curiosity, I am surprised to find the concept fitting so nicely in my view of the world. It is a very similar way to how I have always felt about the World Fairs and Columbian Exposition, which has always exuded a sense of purity to me. It was a celebration of accomplishments and hope, much like childhood play.

What does not fit so well, is the seemingly constant need society seems to have to define and shape it depending on what is going on in the world. That is not to say it isn’t interesting or a real phenomenon worth exploring as it has a real affect on our world. It is like when we talk about makerspaces and STEM. It has been articulated in Kristin’s blog that there is a sense of continually being bounded by coding and STEM activities. When we talk about the very pure celebration of the basis on scientific exploration in children, we then bind it down with ropes of perception and expectation. In short, it bothers me. Just because the current ideology prescribes something be a certain way, does not mean that it should be that way. Just because STEM exists (promotes “valuable” activities) and is applicable to makers spaces does not mean that it should be the only thing valued in those spaces.

The scientific utopia of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum community ties in a little bit here. I am torn. I feel the rub of the idea that a child could do whatever they want, as long as it is what the museum promoted. I also feel the acute necessity for spaces like this museum which was open for everyone to experience and learn. However, I also know that it was only that for the middle class who had the leisure to spend time there. Working class and immigrants were not reached by this movement. This is contrary to the World Fair phenomenons where it seemed like almost everyone was aware and impacted by it in some way. Further, the museum exclusion seems to mirror the tension that currently exists in the maker movement.

For many, 3D printers are irrevocably beyond reach. In a world where 3D printing and related skills are valued above knitting, this creates a bit of an exclusionary problem. Yet for some reason, it is a problem that seems to be systematically pushed aside throughout history. That sense of inclusion that surrounded the World Fair seems to have disappeared.

 

 

 

Blog Post #8

Reflection on Class

As I was not in class last week, having been regrettably sick, I thought I would take this space to talk a little bit more about Dougherty’s ideas in chapter 11. Where the majority of my reflection can be found below, I wanted to reflect on what we have learned and what I have read in this section today. However, that ended up lacking a certain continuity. The discussion intended to here, is now a very long reflection on the readings.

 


Reflection on Readings

The world, the library community, and all levels in between struggle to concretely define the concept of goodnessWhat differentiates good legislation from bad? What characteristics make a collection development policy good? Some would say that goodness can be measured by the impact it has on the most amount of people – 75% of people are positively impacted by a policy, then it is good. It is a theory that runs into trouble when you consider the possibly larger negative impact it has on the 25%. A lot of bad for few people versus a little bit of good for many. My answer has changed as I’ve grown. I no longer consider fruit by the food to be a good snack and I now consider Men in Black to be a good movie. The movie scared me when I was little, so I deemed it bad. Something that scares me today, I know to not necessarily be bad.

In this ever evolving world, it is no surprise to me that the idea of goodness comes up in the discussion of the maker movement. What concerns me with the discussion in Dougherty’s book is that goodness is continually tied to productivity. He talks of making itself as good and productive, without ever concretely defining what it would mean for the maker movement to do good. Instead, there are many anecdotes presented of makers who have conceivably done good in a variety of fields from medical to environmental to underserved communities. It is implied that each of these projects are good, but it does not specific in what way they are deemed good in the eyes of the maker movement. Is it because they made an environmental project more productive, because they helped poor communities, or because they simply recognized a phenomenon in medical spheres To end the chapter, he brings up the concept of caring. I am left wondering if he meant that all along – that the maker movement’s idea of good is if you care – or if he even knows.

Another thing I don’t fully understand is why you would start a book with a lie. This wasn’t some big reveal for me. Instead I felt like my entire reading of the book was skewed. If I had read it with the concept presented in the last chapter – that I need to make something today – I wonder if I would have understood the author better. There is a push here to integrate making into your life, but it is presented in a very absolute way that allows little wiggle room. It implies that not only do I have to make something this minute, but I also have to do it to live, be engaged, and possess a deep sense of purpose. I find absolute statements like these alienating. I agree that when it is something you are passionate about it fills your life in unexpected ways. However, the attempt to connect his views to the audience falls short. Instead of allowing people to come to these conclusions naturally on their own as they have integrated and experienced over time, he make is seem like you must do all this at once if you ever hope to have a full life. I would simply reserve that there are other options and different paths that would reach a similar place. It is ultimately the urgency that alienates.

What I want to discuss further is the idea that children are the future of the maker movement. First of all, some would argue that children are the future period. As a parent, you might want your child to be the future of medicine. Despite all your conviction, that child turns out to be a very gifted violinist and the future of the symphony. That is assuming that a single child can only be the future of a single thing. Could a child be a maker and also a senator or a environmentalist or all three?

Second, who is the author to decide that all children must become makers. For some reason, Dougherty’s slightly earlier discussion of moral imperative behind the maker movement does not sit well with me here. It occurs directly before his discussion of children and begs the question of are the two connected. Is he implying that it is a parents moral imperative as a maker to guide their children to be makers? At the heart of this objection is the fact that I believe children should be allowed to make their own decisions and take charge of their learning. If a child wants nothing to do with making, then the idea that someone must make that child a maker is a bit absurd.

Third, I am a proponent of making. I further believe that making has an integral place in the classroom. I also believe the same of play and informal learning opportunities. Making has great potential to unite students to whom science does not come naturally and vise versa. I do not think that the underpinnings of making are a fad. Anything that contributes to a desire for lifelong learning is wonderful. What I am unsure of (and goes back to my second point) is if the maker movement is a true movement or a fad. I do not mean a fad like glittery makeup, but like the other participatory cultures that have come and gone in the span of several decades.

If it is a lasting movement or a fad, the most important thing is that their be a choice. There should be no call to arms using absolute statements about what the collective we must do. There should be a presentation of facts and choice. Every individual should decide what makes their life full and be free to pursue it. Given that the pursuit doesn’t hurt the collective good of others or mess with another’s pursuit – read as follows laws and doesn’t hurt anyone. So when arguing for the maker movement, tell me why, rather than tell me I must.

Blog Post #7

Reflection on Class

I am still very much intrigued not just about the relationship between making and learning, but my peers perception of it. I am fortunate enough to love learning to the point that reading textbooks, doing math sheets, and taking tests are fun; I have always felt a connection between learning and play. That is simply the way my education was presented to me from a very young age. What is difficult to realize when you grow up assuming something, is that others have had very different experiences. Not everyone considers learning and playing to be synonymous.

Both my peers and I are not part of the workforce driven Common Core generation, but of the era when education focused on creating good citizens. What this tells me is that priorities in education are continually changing. If integrating maker movement features into k-12 education is the next step, I do not know. What I do believe is that is would not be a negative step. At the moment, education is focused on successively adding skills. A sort of scaffolding, that is being build up to something. Whether that something is getting into a good college, or being a positive part of the workforce is up for debate. Some students are very good at learning foundational skills and building upon them throughout their K – 12 education. At the moment, these kids are seen as the most promising, the ones to raise up and support. But, what about the children who are not good at creating a solid scaffolding?

By integrating the maker movement principles into K-12 education, there could be a shift from the scaffolding approach to a more natural attainment of skills. Instead of a single set building plan for every student, each student could freely decide what shape their skills would take for themselves. It is a bit radical and so, a major tension in the maker movement making its way into schools.  It is the kids do not know enough about the world to choose their own path versus the idea that they should have at least some freedom to decide what skills they wish to attain. It was even suggested in class that the maker movement approach would allow schools the freedom to raise up and support the children that do not currently thrive under the current system. As Michigan Makers and other maker programs integrate themselves into the community, it will be interesting to see how these tensions play out.


Reflection on Readings

This weeks readings focus on the manufacturing potential of the maker movement. With all the political talk about the new industrial revolution and frustration among blue collar workers, there is a desire to see the same high paying, high volume jobs that our grandfathers had in manufacturing. As the world becomes increasingly automated, we may not see that type of manufacturing jobs again. However, the maker movement and the DIY shift into technological spaces may offer a solution.

One very interesting component was the idea that making returns to physical materials, even as manufacturing becomes more technologically driven. This materiality offers hope for the concept of the new industrial revolution. As the paper (EmergingSites of HCI Innovation) point out, the insights from this material driven movement are key in the transition from prototypes into products. That transition is key to move a simple DIY into a true manufacturing process. The idea from Why the Maker Movement Matters: Part 1, the Tools Revolution suggests that anything that encourages manufacturing is a plus. If the maker movement is one of these encouraging factors, then it should be prioritized and funded as a way to improve manufacturing.

However, the maker movement manufacturing will not be the same as that our grandparents experienced. The Five ways the Maker Movement can help catalyze a manufacturing renaissance points out that maker movement will support a more decentralized manufacturing sector. This makes sense, as the maker movement thus far has been driven within a unique local community. American manufacturing was once a large scale, large volume phenomenon. If we continue to support the maker movement as a way to increase and improve manufacturing, we may begin to see a smaller scale, smaller output approach that values personalization and creativity.

Thus far, my interests have been primarily focused on the concept of makers and education. These readings help expand that discussion further. They seem to answer the question of what one type of end goal of maker education would look like – in this case it would be an smaller scale manufacturing surge that stems from the creativity and democratizing technology of the maker movement. I do not believe this is the only merit to a maker education, but I do see how it would be valuable in formulating arguments for why the maker movement principles should be integrated into schools.