Monday, June 30, 2014

BPC Maker Club at the First-Ever White House Maker Faire!

On June 18th, 2014, two now 8th grade students (Jane & Sam) and I (science teacher) had the wonderful opportunity to attend the first ever White House Maker Faire.  Our invitation came as a result of our proposal describing our work with the Advanced Light Source earlier this school year, where we used high energy xrays to scan small samples, then 3D-printed them out many times their actual size.  (Feel free to check out the ALS news briefs following our adventures from the initial student field experience, through the Maker Faire results and our invitation to the White House!)

I want to begin by recognizing the many people in addition to Jane and Sam that our invitation recognizes.  Thanks to:
  • Dula Parkinson, Beamline Scientist, for patiently mentoring me during my IISME summer 2013 internship and having the vision to design and implement our November 2013 ALS experience, as well as his continued support through the data analysis / printing process.
  • Howard Padmore, BPC parent and ALS Division Deputy for Experimental Systems Group, for his role in organizing the 7th grade trip, as well as his encouragement to apply to the White House Maker Faire.
  • Justin Blair, scientist, for his help with data visualization and his 3D printer assistance.
  • The Maker Club (again) for a very successful debut at the San Mateo Maker Faire in May 2014, especially to those 7th graders (Flynn, Abe, Alexander, Jane, Daniel, Sam, Kyra and Emily) who volunteered their time at our booth.  Also, Gigi, Alex, and Luka (all 6th grade) and Isaac (8th grade) for their help.
  • Finally, those BPC students who spent long, sometimes frustrating hours with our initial 3D printer back in 2010, which was far more finicky that our current machines: especially Adam (BPC Class of 2013) and Cole, Noah and Daniel (BPC Class of 2014)

I am sure we are leaving folks off this list, but the point is that the kids (and their teacher!) did not accomplish this on their own and we are grateful for the opportunities for collaboration we have experienced along the way.


The excitement began exactly one week before the Maker Faire.  We received the email (below) 6 days prior to the event with scant details beyond we were invited and the event would occur sometime on Wednesday, June 18th.  In addition, we were asked not to discuss our participation until the morning of the event.  I've since learned this is how things roll with White House Events.  

Two days before the Faire, we received clarification that as "honored makers" we were able to attend the event, but we would not be presenting our project. Well, that certainly made packing easier!

Once the event was underway, we were thrilled to learn that President Obama officially declared June 18th a National Day of Making! Watch his speech below (or read the text here.)

There were about 30 makers set up throughout the White House's east wing.  Some of our favorites included MaKey MaKey, Squishy Circuits, the crowd-pleasing Robotic Giraffe, and LittleBits. 


You can read the full version about our trip on our Maker Club blog by visiting BPC's Day at the White House Maker Faire.

Here's our media roundup re: our White House Maker Faire experience:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sewable Electronics in 7th Grade

We wrapped up our inaugural year of making with special guest, Tenaya Hurst, who brought sewable electronics to our classroom.

Here are some photos of the process:

Here are some photos of our final results:

Read more on Ms. Mytko's post on her blog, Post-Its and Ponderings.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

BPC Maker Club at the Maker Faire

The BPC Maker Club had a booth at the San Mateo Maker Faire last weekend, showcasing the work of the 7th grade science class: 3D printing data scanned at the Advanced Light Source.  (For more information, you can read more about the original projectfollow the latest ALS-tagged blog posts on our Maker Club blog, or read the most recent ALS news feature.)

The Maker Faire is a "a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement" and this year's flagship faire brought together over 1100 makers of all ages.   The Maker Club was thrilled that we were placed in the 3D printing section rather than in the Young Makers tent.  We don't know why this happened, but it gave the students an opportunity to network with some big names in 3D printing such as Formlabs, Ultimaker and Type A Machines.  In fact Sam, a 7th grader, was even inspired to engage eight different companies in a friendly competition of printing our eggshell file!

We are also grateful to Brook Drumm, Founder of Printrbot, for generously donating a new Printrbot Simple to us just a few days before the faire.  Brook was the one who helped us get started with 3D printing back in December 2011, and it is always a pleasure to stop by his booth and hear about what he is working on next!

Sam, Brook, Alexander

The kids did a great job and were awarded an "Editor's Choice" blue ribbon for demonstrating great creativity, ingenuity and innovation, and a "Best in Class" red ribbon in the Education division.

Congrats to the entire 7th grade class for the recognition of their work, especially to Flynn, Abe, Alexander, Jane, Daniel, Sam, Kyra and Emily, who worked the Maker Faire booth.  (Also, a shoutout to Gigi, Alex, and Luka (all 6th grade) and Isaac (8th grade) for showing up as representatives of Maker Club!)

Here are just a  couple of pictures from the faire.  Please visit our Flickr page (tag: makerfaire) for more!

And finally, it was exciting to have three functional 3D printers up and running all at the same time.  

If you find 3D printers as fascinating as we do, you may want to check out our blog, Tales of a 3D Printer, "like" us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ducks in 7th Grade Science

(To be continued… this is just a draft 5.14.14) 
Embryology is an important part of life science. 

After 28 days of eager anticipation, six ducklings hatched.  They started off quite small.

At first, they used a paint tray for swimming.

As they got bigger, they graduated to a metal bucket. 

Finally, they were getting too big for their brooder… 

Finally, it was necessary to take drastic measures.

A final swim… 

Along the way, we enjoyed our time with the ducks.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cardboard Arcade using MaKey MaKey & Scratch

This beautiful video tells the story of Caine's Arcade.  Caine Monroy is a nine year old from Southern California who spent his summer vacation building a cardboard arcade inside his dad's used auto parts store.  He had a hard time getting anyone to play his games, until one day when Nirvan Mullick happened to walk in and buy a Fun Pass.

Recently, inspired by Caine and his arcade, BPC's 7th grade students designed, built, and shared their own cardboard arcade creations.  We were able to add a bit of technology to the challenge, using Scratch for programming and MaKey MaKeys to incorporate some simple circuitry and provide input to the Scratch program.  BPC students from grades K - 6 were invited to come over and play!

Here is a brief highlight reel.  You can read more about our project (including the lesson plans) on Mytko's Post-its and Ponderings blog post.

More photos:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

BPC Students' Entry in the White House Student Film Festival

Last month, 7th grade students Daniel, Jane, Abe, Flynn and Alexander collaborated on producing an entry for the first ever White House Student Film Festival.  Their task was to "highlight the power of technology in schools."  These BPC 7th graders created their film entirely on their own, without any adult intervention - from conception to writing the scripts, and filming through editing, and even composing all of the music you hear in the background.

The White House committee had a tough job whittling down the over 2500 submissions down to 16 finalists.  While our BPC's students' entry was not ultimately selected, the kids' final product was a nice showcase of the work the 7th grade has been doing with 3D printing this year.  Congrats to all of these students for a job well done!

You can watch President Obama's opening remarks from yesterday's event in the video below, and see all 16 finalists' films on the White House Film Festival page.  There are some extraordinary stories represented and all the films are well worth watching.

Friday, February 28, 2014

SNAPSHOT: Harnessing the Power of Maker Club as Tech Support

BPC's Director of Technology, Blake Hansen, offered Maker Club the opportunity to assist him with fixing our collection of broken Chromebooks from this school year.  He offered up tools and a few suggestions, and let the boys disassemble the machines and combine working parts to create functional machines.  The group was more than willing to participate.

The four boys planned, organized and collaborated; replacing cracked screens and motherboards with bent charger ports.  Through tenacity and creativity, the kids were able to put 3 functional machines back into circulation!

Friday, February 14, 2014

BPC at Julia Robinson Math Festival

On Saturday, February 8, an enthusiastic contingent of sixth and seventh graders from BPC attended the Julia Robinson Math Festival at Pixar Studios. The students engaged in a wide variety of math challenges in a collaborative, noncompetitive environment.  The student built flexagons, folded fractals, solved problems for Cookie Monster, estimated, played Criss-Cross, and wrestled with the Prisoner's Puzzle. 

Here is what some of the participants had to say about the event:

"I liked the event because it was an interactive way to solve math problems. It was fun to share ideas with friends and learn new things from other people." - Ella

"I really liked the Julia Robinson Math Festival; their events really challenged me a lot." - Dylan

"The math seemed less like a challenge, more like a game." - Nicola

It was an engaging event in an inspiring environment. Each student was pushed and did some great mathematical thinking. We hope to organize a trip again next year.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

BPC Kids Participate in Live Video Chat with Dan Norton, Video Game Designer

On Thursday, Feb 13th, BPC students had an opportunity to join a videochat with Dan Norton, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Filament Games.  The event was part Jason Learning's focus on STEM careers.

Students from all three grade levels joined an 8th grade science class already watching the broadcast.  

It was interesting to hear more about the day to day work of a video game designer, and we were particularly thrilled to hear Dan Norton suggest that getting involved in creative extracurricular activities, like improv (?!), is a good way to find inspiration for future ideas.  Of course, we couldn't resist asking our own question. The kids were SO excited when our question was picked to be answered (at 39:50).

In case you can't read the blurry screenshot, it reads. 
(Christine Mytko, middle school teacher from Berkeley, CA): I am here with my class and we were THRILLED to hear you suggest improv as a creative outlet (we have an active improv after school club here).  Do you have a favorite improv game? :)

Dan Norton's answer? 
There is a game I used to play where you had to set a scene and not be funny.  You had to be a unfunny as possible….  What would often happen is that the scene would become really, really, really, really funny 'cuz everyone is working super hard at the opposite.  I always thought that was really great because the outcome was unexpected.

Other good advice comes from answering a question at 37:50: 

A lot of the best opportunities to be creative and to come up with great ideas is by collaborating with other people [be]cause other people know lots of things you don't.   And learning from them and working with them and getting their opinion back and forth is a really critical part of a great creative process.  … [W]orking on your own project… to get better at your skills, but if you want to make something great, you should work with other people to make it happen.

After the presentation, we took a few minutes and discussed how technology is changing opportunities for learning. Students noted that interactive webcasts like these allow for interaction with experts, or tours of places, that we might otherwise would not have the time, money, or resources to experience.  We all are looking forward to our next virtual experience (TBD.)

You can watch the entire interview on the Jason website, or embedded below.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SNAPSHOT: Virtual Field Trip to the Berkeley Lab via Google Hangout

Earlier this week, we learned that Berkeley Lab was hosting a "virtual field trip" on Google as part of a new series of Google+#connectedclassrooms hangouts at the National Labs.
Check out how our scientists use the Advanced Light Source to image microscopic life in 3-D. Tour a clean room at the Molecular Foundry, where scientists create nanoscale structures. And learn what’s possible with one of the world’s most powerful electron microscopes at the National Center for Electron Microscopy, which can see individual atoms. 
The three scientists featured included: Dula Parkinson (beamline scientist at the Advanced Light Source), Deirdre Olynick (staff scientist at the Molecular Foundry), and Jim Ciston (senior staff scientist at the National Center for Electron Microscopy).  We were especially excited to "revisit" with Dula Parkinson since he helped make our recent real-life field trip to the ALS happen!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SNAPSHOT: Fruit Loops Ratios in 6th Math

The sixth graders are beginning their work with ratios and proportions. To kick off our unit, each split took samples from a box of fruit loops and created ratios comparing the different characteristics of the fruit loops. Those ratios were then applied to help them make predictions about the larger sample (the whole box). We used Google spreadsheets to collect and process the class data and to share across splits. They also used skills learned in tech class to make the spreadsheets do sum calculations.

Each split enjoyed the hands on research and loved "encrypting" their fruit loop data after the research!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

7th Grade Visits The Cultured Pickle Shop!

This week, the 7th grade took a walking trip to The Cultured Pickle Shop.  This cool little shop is in West Berkeley and has been a passion for Alex Hozven and her husband, Kevin Farley, since 1997.  There were interviewed in 2010 in this Berkeleyside article.  They aim to create naturally fermented foods (no vinegar, water, or heat) like sauerkraut, kim chee, and kombucha with "a locavore sensibility and seasonal twist."

Photo reprinted with permission from Alex Hozven

We went to learn about the positive roles of microbes in food production and the process of fermentation.  We amassed interesting vocabulary words like zoogleal, SCOBY (various SCOBYs pictured right) and terroir!

The class split into two groups:

(1) one group learned about kombucha and asked general questions about microbes

(2) the other group went back and toured the pickling room full of fermentation vats!

I really enjoyed learning about how fermentation worked, and especially the containers for fermentation with the seals, and how important it was to keep them in an airless environment.  - Jane

We were grateful to The Cultured Pickle for sharing their shop with us and the kids made a big thank you card.  We also threw in a little BPC special: a 3D printed pickle! (pictured below)

And finally, a dramatic interpretation from Flynn:

Fade from black. Dramatic music plays. A high pitched scream is heard then, "IT'S COMING!!!" Footsteps. Suddenly, a gravely voice. "Ko- KOMBUCHA!!!" The footsteps get louder. A slurping sound is heard. "Yes.... VERY GOOD..." More screams are heard as other kombucha particles are sucked from their homes and are forced into the deep pit of the monster's stomach. No. Seriously. That kombucha was really good. Besides the wonderful tastes, I learned alot about the fermentation process. I was interested when I was told that their 'Classic Dill Pickles' are seasonal. Very interesting stu- SLUUURRPPP!! Ne- NEED MORE!!!