Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Interactive Audible Garden at Champlain Mini Maker Faire

(Click on Video Above to Listen to part of the Interactive Garden)

Flowers, Mums and Pumpkins that talk
Squash and Gourds that play a fun beat
A Ticklish Skeleton with an evil laugh
A Witches brew that makes creepy spooky sounds when stirred
A Chicken that clucks if you try to steal her eggs
A noisy pig covered in conductive mud
A cow that moos when you touch its cowbell
       along with an ONOMATOPOEIA Garden and more...

were a BIG HIT at the 2016 Champlain Mini Maker Faire
not only because it was a FUN NOISY INTERACTIVE EXHIBIT
but because it was all CREATED and CODED by Vermont students Grades 5-8.

After a 90 minute visit by EMMA (Lucie deLaBruere's mobile studio for Creating and Making), Ms. Boucher and Ms. Ellingson's fifth graders at Mallets Bay Elementary School had learned just enough coding to imagine all types of possibilities for an Interactive Audible Garden Exhibit. The students started learning coding concepts such as algorithm, sequence, and events through an unplugged learning activity. They then pulled out their Chromebooks and wrote their first computer program in SCRATCH - a coding environment developed at M.I.T. Media Lab. By the end of the hour they were coding physical objects using an inventors kit called a Makey Makey.

By the next time EMMA visited Mallets Bay school, a committee of 10 students had designed the most amazing garden exhibit and had already started to code it.  After a mini lesson with Lucie who clarified a few coding concepts and introduced 'loops' the students design started to come to life. It was amazing to see the constructivist theories of  Piaget and Seymour Papert in play where student questions naturally lead them to deeper and deeper understanding of how CODE works.

Also at play were the principles of Project Based Learning.   The students were driven by their goal to have the garden ready for their school Open House in just a few days before the Champlain Mini Maker Faire at Shelburne Farms where their Garden would be seen and experienced with hundreds community members.  Flexible learning was evident as Ms. Boucher and Ms. Ellingson flipped lesson times around to allow the students to meet their goal and gave students choice about how they met some of their learning goals during their daily routines.

Finally on the day of the Open House, the students took out the wire cutters and worked collaboratively to connect their props to the Makey Makey as they tested and tweeked their code. Transferrable Skills such as Problem Solving,  Self Direction, and Integrated Thinking were evident throughout the morning as the interactive display came to life.  Evidence of Effective Communication started with properly commented code and grew as they explained the phenomena of circuits and code to their parents and school community.

Bringing the exhibit out of their school to the Maker Faire not only gave the students a chance to further grow their communication skills, but it also brought citizenship into the mix.  They helped visitors from young children to senior citizen experience grow confidence with circuits and code as they explained how their interactive garden worked.

On the second day of the Champlain Mini Maker Faire, middle school students from St. Albans  City School and North Country Junior High School and the Northeast Kingdom brought their contribution to the Interactive Garden.

St. Albans City School, STEM teacher and tech integrator, Erica Bertucci,  used  Open House as a target to engage some students from last year's coding class (CODESMYTH) back into the coding scene.  The students spelled out the word ONOMATOPOEIA  with a variety of conductive material and used a Makey Makey to add sound to it, to flowers, and to an interactive fishing game.

 Building on previous understanding gained from last year's coding class by introducing new elements such as the Makey Makey provided a connected learning experience that prepared these students to communicate that knowledge to visitors of the Maker Faire.  Their section of the exhibit lent itself to explaining how circuits and code were used  to make flowers talk, chickens cluck, and skeleton's laugh.   It allowed visitors to get a look under the hood and walk away with a better understanding of circuits and code.

The clucking chicken and singing mums and musical squash were contributions of a group of middle school girls who had carried their design down all the way from the Northeast Kingdom.  The girls had been introduced to the Makey Makey and Coding through TechSavvy Girls Summer Camp and were hungry for more.  They are on a mission -- to increase this type of learning in their school. They will be working with Lucie deLaBruere and their teachers on a project  that will bring EMMA to their school so that more students can experience this type of creating, making, and STEM/STEAM type learning.  Project partners, Google, University of Vermont, and Tarrant Institute are excited about the opportunity to provide rural schools support in establishing their own spaces for students and community to CREATE and MAKE together.

With support from educators and parents and few visits from Lucie and EMMA,  these middle school students were totally self directed and turned a hunk of found debris into a beautiful conductive railing for their fun noisy chicken, cow, pig, eggs, and  mums that captured the attention of both YOUNG and SENIOR visitors at the Maker Faire.   With tools in hand they were quickly able to make minor repairs needed to keep the display working throughout the day.  They are returning home proud of their success and ready to lead a movement to create a makerspace for students in their community.

The reaction of the community was  NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING TO WATCH!

Every time I heard a comment like

My kids go to this school or that school, are they getting this type of learning opportunity? Or Wow I wish I could have learned this way!”
and Every time I was able to respond
"Yes... MS/MR ____ at that school is doing fantastic things with STEM/STEAM or Creating and Making"  
I knew that  we were doing more than providing these students with a learning opportunity.  I knew that we were sending out a message to our communities that amazing learning is happening in our schools.

And I can't say enough about the  the Create Make Learn Institute tribe of educators who helped deliver this message to our community via the Champlain Mini Maker Faire.   Each of us increased our own learning as we supported this project and are making plans to use our new knowledge to spread the experience of creating and making to others.  Caty Wolfe (Center for Technology at Essex) challenged herself to learn new coding routines that allowed a single pot of flowers to generate multiple sounds as she and her children prepare to work with students at  Fletcher School.  Several students from Integrated Arts Academy who visited the exhibit shared how Ms. Walters had introduced them to both Scratch and Makey Makey, therefore they understood how the garden worked.

THANK YOU Kate Ellingson, Aimee Boucher,  Erica Bertucci,  Caty Wolfe, and Shannon Walters!

Written by Lucie deLaBruere (9/28/16)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Create Make Learn early bird deadline April 15

If you are thinking of attending Create Make Learn Summer Institute this summer.. here's a tip you can't miss.

If you register by April 15 there will be a $100 Bonus Toolkit waiting for you when they arrive on August 1
The content of the toolkit depends on what strand you register for
Strands incude
-- Create with Chrome
~ Create with iPads
~ Steam Powered Learning (beginner)
~ Extend your Maker Skills (intermediate)

Here are just a few highlights of some of the fabulous local and global presenters who will be joining us

Back by popular demand is Kevin Jarrett who has a national reputation for transforming spaces and programs to amazing innovative learning spaces

New this year.. Lisa Yokana - who has a national  reputation for helping educators and schools integrate design thinking in ALL content area

Check out their introduction to design thinking at IGNITE last week via Google Hangout Out
and more global and local educators doing amazing things in their classrooms

Jill Dawson - leading beginning and ADVANCED Paper Circuits and exTextiles

Leah Joly - sharing her tips for using Makey Makey and Scratch in ways that intersects code, design, inventing, and making

Sarah Sutter from the American School in Japan..
Check out her recent presentation at FabLearn Asia
Go to for more details or directly to
Registration Options

~ options for Create Make Toolkit
~ options for Recertification or Graduate Credit
~ Bonus Toolkit (Value $100) if registered by April 15

Monday, March 14, 2016

Create Make Learn Summer Institute - Early Bird Countdown

I just want to invite everyone to join us  the week of August 1 in beautiful Burlington Vermont  for the Create Make Learn Summer Institute where 50 educators will converge to experience a week of creating, making, and learning together.

This will be the fifth consecutive year of professional development aimed at fueling creativity and innovation in our schools by first experiencing it yourself in a very personal way.

What will you Make this Summer? 
Early Bird Incentive if registered by April 15, 2016.

1 Join the Maker Movement with STEAM Powered Learning 

For educators looking to add S.T.E.A.M. to their classroom and to get started with Maker-Ed by exploring a variety of topics including, design thinking, design challenges, 3D printing, soft circuits, eTextiles, Arduinos, Makey Makey, Little Bits, Cardboard Creations, Scratch, Creating Games, Coding Robots, Minecraft, and more. 

2 Extend Your Maker Skills 

For educators looking to extend their skills into specific topics via full day or two day sessions. Topics may include Creating and Making with 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, eTextiles, kinetic sculptures and robots, vinyl cutting. 

3 Create and Make with iPads, iPods, and iPhones 

For educators looking for new ways for students to CREATE using iPads. Choose from sessions on making high quality movies, green screen, using Garageband, making eBooks, making art, making games, making interactive eBooks and learning to code, 

4 Creating with Chrome 

For educators looking for new ways for students to CREATE using Chrome and Chromebooks. Choose from sessions on making movies and podcast with WeVideo, creating 3D models, and 3D prints, making games and interactives, making ebooks, coding on a Chromebook and more. 

PreConference Sessions  

Build a 3D printer
Google Educator Certification Bootcamp 
~ Build Foundational Skills with Your Chromebook
~ Build Foundational Skills with Your iPad

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Inspiration from an 8 year old maker

As we travel, Craig and I like to visit and blog about creative spaces and convergences.  I'm always looking for some ideas that Vermont educators might benefit from at Create Make Learn Summer Institute.

While in San Diego we got to visit two different makerspaces -- The Fab Lab and MakerPlace.

During our  my visit  to the Fab Lab,  I noted four female makers on the poster board that featured their Resident Maker Experts -- one seemed a little younger than the rest.

Yesterday  I got to meet this most amazing young maker at the San Diego Fab Lab - 8 year old Isabelle (also known as IZZI).   When I met her, I could see why she was part of the Team That Gets Things Done at the Fab Lab.  

Izzi knows her way around a maker space! As you can see in this video, Izzi is totally at home with the space, the tools, and supplies.  

When I asked her to show me what she likes to make, she darted towards a back room, stopping  by a box of jumpers, and told me that she was learning to code and then identified a numerical value for each color jumper.

I was immediately curious to know more because, I had never heard anyone assign a numerical value to jumpers before.  But then Izzi proceeded to pull out a set of resistors calculating the value of the resistors by the color bands and then explained that one of her fellow resident makers used the colors on the jumpers to ‘drill her’ about these values. That is totally brilliant!  Izzi has some smart mentors who understand both making and learning!

Izzi quickly moved on to what CLEARLY was one of her favorite rooms filled with black and yellow crates that contained lockable plastic pieces, wheels, gears, pulleys, and a remote.  She pulled down a bridge from a high shelf,  rummaged through the drawers until she found a remote and then became entranced with the structure and its moving parts.  It was obvious that the world of mechanical engineering was one that fascinated her.  

Although I’ve seen a lot of different STEM products, I had yet to encounter the Rokenbok STEM kits and what better way to learn about them than through Izzi’s eyes. This reinforced my beliefs that STEM does not have to be pink or girly  to engage girls, but it does need to have a variety of entry points. The Rokenbok STEM kits quickly went on my list of  products with low threshold, high ceilings, and wide walls which I feel are  key to engaging a more diverse population of tech-savvy creators, makers, innovators, inventors and problem solvers.

When I  learned that another area that fascinated Izzi at the FabLab was the sewing area. filled with different types of sewing machines for various types of maker projects, I shared with her my interest in using Arduino in eTextile projects and showed her my latest hat project -- a black hat designed to show off an Arduino Bean that controls blue and white LEDs sewed into embroidered snowflakes. She was particularly fascinated with the fact that the project included a sensor that triggered a buzzer to play Star Wars music and started dancing to set off the accelerometer.

I asked her if she’d like to do some making together with some of my supplies.  We broke out some sewable LEDs, a sewable battery holder, conductive thread and quickly created a felt bracelet.   Her  comfort with circuits and ability to problem solve shined as she dashed across the room to find a multimeter when our LEDs failed to light on the first try.  

True confession:  My comfort with a multimeter pales compared to Izzi’s.   But her confidence with the tool inspired me to use mine more often until it becomes as second nature as it was for Izzi.  After learning that she had given the mayor of San Diego a soldering lessons, I was tempted to ask her for pointers.    But alas it was time to go and I wanted to leave Izzi with some supplies that would help her move our project to the next steps.   

I pulled out a  LilyPad Twinkle, some conductive thread and  some more sewable LEDs to leave with Izzi so  that she could  experience the way microprocessors  can be used  in her next sewing project. Then I showed her how I was using a more powerful microprocessor called the LilyPad Arduino to control some multi-colored neopixels on a unicorn headband project I was working on.

I would so love to come back and show Izzi to code a future Arduino project.  But my guess, is that Izzi is not going to need me to learn to code.  Izzi is fortunate enough to be surrounded with fabulous mentors from the FAB LAB who have taken her under their wing -- including her mom (Joy) who serves as  Community Relations Manager for the FabLab - San Diego.

The joy I was feeling while hanging out and making with Izzi was slightly dampened when hearing that Izzi school environment doesn’t seem to provide the opportunities for Izzi’s passion to shine.  The strong confident voice I heard from this young lady is not part of the Izzi you might see at school.

It’s sad that more kids don’t get to bloom the way Izzi obviously has by being surrounded in a rich environment for learning like the FabLab.   

It’s sad that students with passions for creating and making often don’t find a place to use that passion as part of everyday learning.  

Thankfully more schools are integrating more STEM/STEAM opportunities for students, and many educators I  work with are building their own maker spaces in their schools.

Thankfully more and more products like the Rokenbok STEM kits are being created with thoughtful attention to engaging a diverse group of students to “think like engineers gives them the skills and confidence to change the world.”

Thankfully many places like the FabLab are offering outreach opportunities to help our schools create tomorrow’s innovators.   

I can’t wait to see what path Izzi will follow as she continues to learn -- but something tells me engineering is somewhere in her future.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Create With Code

Middle School girls Creating With Code at
Girls Make It Day
You Can Do IT TOO!
I'm pretty excited about teaching a new course I'll be teaching at Marlboro (totally online) for educators who want to go beyond an hour of code.  If getting more confident with coding is one of your New Year's resolutions,  why not join others and do it together (as well as get college credit for it).

Here is the description - along with some notes answering inquiries about the course:

January 8 - April 16, 2016

The course is for elementary to high school educators with little to no experience programming, who want to learn enough about code to use it in their teaching. The information age, and activities such as Hour of Code, have revealed the importance of understanding basic programming in today's world. Students and educators are excited about learning to code and coding is finding its way into students' Personal Learning Plans. This course will give you the confidence to understand student's personal learning projects that may involve creating with code. It will also provide you with ideas for integrating basic coding into a variety of curriculum areas. Whether you decide to build a separate coding class, or integrate coding into your content area, this course will get you started using both graphical and text based coding platforms. We will combine graphical coding platforms (like Scratch/Blockly/SNAP) and Arduino's text based environment to 1: Create digital stories and games with code 2: Control physical objects with code. and 3: Examine ways to integrate coding and computational thinking into your learning environment. Participants will need access to an Arduino based microprocessor and one physical object that can be controlled by coding. These may be purchased, or borrowed via an optional $50 lab fee.

I have had several email inquiries about the specifics of this course,  so I thought I'd share my last email response to those inquiries in case it might help you decide if this is the type of course for you or one of your colleagues.

This is an online class.  WE will mostly be working asynchronously so you can work on it at your convenience, but there might be a few collaborative projects or options for synchronous Hangouts as schedules permits.

It will be very hands on and will introduce educators who have Little to NO coding experience to coding so they can  grow their confidence in Creating with Code and make better decisions about ways to integrate coding in their classroom.

We will be learning thinking routines and algorithms  that are key to success with coding and problem solving.  Computational thinking is not limited to coding and these routines align to both Common Core and Math standards of practice along with Next Gen standards.

We'll take a deeper look at what GROWTH mindset really means and how Coding can be used to develop a TRUE growth mindset.

We will be completing exercises that are available through many of the different coding curriculums along with other opportunities to determine which ones are best suited for your classroom based on grade level, content area, and goals. 

We will even be coding physical objects and exploring  pedagogical approaches that are researched based on the use of coding physical objects to help children learn and  develop creativity, problem solving, computational thinking, etc.

The class is NOT intended for those who want to become coders in industry but instead targets teachers who want to move beyond an hour of code.

Questions about cost of physical objects: Cost range from $30 - a few hundred dollars based on the objects.  Some schools may already have some of these objects.  I will have some for loan and will also introduce you to organizations that have a whole classroom set for loan.  

How much time per week?  That depends a lot on your learning style. 
Marlboro College along with other colleges have standards for academic rigor that are required by their collegiate certifications.  We will meet those.  

Yes, there will be readings and discussions  to help you make sound decisions about integrating coding in the classroom.   We will even do some virtual classroom visits.

Some of you may have some prior experience, others no prior experience.  NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE  is needed and the weekly lessons will be structured so that you can 'grow'  from your entry point.  If you do have prior experience, you will be encouraged to grow your skills using a variety of online resources.  As adult learners... you will be asked to gauge how much time you spend on problem solving if you encounter difficulty.  Hopefully you will encounter challenges that help you grow as a learner.  But there will be resources to help you so you don't stay stuck, and instead learn how to access resources that will GROW YOUR CONFIDENCE with code

Friday, February 27, 2015

Inspired by VentureLab in San Antonio

Here is post I just added to  my  Where the Girls Are series of posts from my TechSavvy Girls blog. 

As some of you know part of what we look for as we plan our travels is to be inspired by creative people and places.  Today's tour of VentureLab  was one of the highlights of our travels through San Antonio as part of our Living Learning Mobile Journey.   When I discovered VentureLab, one of the things that caught my attention right away was the 60% female participation statistic on the front page of their web site.

we're making a real difference

 724 students, 60% female participation,

Who are these people that are having such great results getting young women involved in high tech ventures?  I immediately started clicking around their website and discovered that not only are 60% of their student participants female,   but over 60% of their team are women -- SMART women!

And one of these women is their founder, Cristal Glangchai, PhD in BioMedical Engineering.   

Cristal is a scientist, professor,  entrepreneur , and mother of two girls who is passionate about teaching girls to become leaders in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Spend two minutes with Cristal in this short video and you'll see for yourself  how the lack of women in her university program, lack of women CEOs, lack of women investors, all fueled Cristal's desire to get  more women involved in the innovation landscape.  And one of the ways she is doing that is through VentureLab  ~ an innovation academy that focuses on hands on learning and teaching youth about entrepreneurship.

But  it's not just Cristal's passion for raising the number of females who play a role in shaping the world around us that is driving the success you see at VentureLab;  it is the passion of a whole team and their belief in a shared vision. 

Click on the WHO ARE WE Link and listen to children, parents, community members, and other stakeholders join Cristal (cofounder)  and Director of Programs, Nick Honegger. passionately describe the shared vision of VentureLab.    As Dirk Elemdorf cofounder of Rackspace,  describes "this whole industry has been dominated by dudes who look exactly like me~ young white dudes."   VentureLab is filled with a team of supporters who are passionate in making changes in an industry that currently "cuts off women and people of color".  They understands that

"diversity of view gives us diversity of solution by keeping people not otherwise exposed to this stuff in the game we get a better shot of having them actually take these roles that we need to fill our future"

The shared mission of the team of VentureLab came through loud and clear as Program Director Director of Programs, Nick Honegger, described what happens at Venture Lab during our tour of the space today.

Start YOUNG! 

VentureLab wants to start with kids as young as 5 years old!


Using our ESTEAM framework, we provide experiential learning in Entrepreneurship,Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, teaching students the key mindsets of entrepreneurial thinking, design thinking, creativity, and we provide hands on instruction in technology.  [VentureLab Website]

Let's Utilize our FULL WORKFORCE! 
Getting more women to participate in the STEM fields and take on entrepreneurial roles is not just about achieving gender equality; our entire country will benefit from this progress and development. To realize our full competitive and technological leadership as a nation, young women must be encouraged to achieve their full potential and receive more representation within ESTEAM-related fields. We want to ensure that our full workforce is being utilized, and that is why we strive to achieve gender parity within all of our programs.  [VentureLab Website]

Thank you, Hetali Lodaya and Nick Honegger  for taking time out of your day to show us around VentureLab today and fill us with inspiration that the world is filled with creative people doing amazing things. 

Cross posted by Lucie at

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Creating Collaborative Coding Garden Part 2

In Creating a Collaborative Coding Garden Part 1 I described how I created my first flower for my coding garden by hacking a votive LED tea candle and adding to it a beautiful flower made from colored stockings.

Once an emerging maker creates their beautiful creation, the next step is to add it to a collaborative garden and learn just enough code to give the flower its own unique presence in our collaborative garden.  I'm working on the premise that 'CREATING" something beautiful will lead to a high motivation to make it come to life.  And since learning some basic coding give your contribution to our collaborative garden the life you want it to have,  maker will have a very personal reason and high motivation to learn to code.   

We all know that motivation is the key to learning, and I truly believe that this collaborative garden will provide motivation to learn to code to a more diverse audience.   But enough philosophy -- let's get started with next steps to creating the garden.

In yesterday's post we hacked our flower, by removing the battery and switch from the votive candle and replacing the LED with a new LED with longer leads, making it more versatile. Today I took the remaining 5 votives in my six-pack and quickly hacked them all (removing the battery and switch and replacing the LED with one with longer traces).  

Now let's play with our new hacked votive candles and see how easy it is to control them with a a microprocessor and a little bit of coding knowledge.

The first step is set up an Arduino board so that it 'talks' to our computer.  I chose the LILYPAD  Arduino board  because it's inexpensive and once you learn some basic coding techniques, you can use it for all types of fun crafty projects.  Installing the drivers the first time  is the trickiest part to using this board, but Sparkfun provides some great directions on how to use a USB cable and FTDI (adapter) to connect the LilyPad to your computer, and set up the Arduino software  so it can talk to your Lilypad.

Once the drivers are installed correctly, you should not have to worry about them again, but you might need to double check that the Arduino settings are still configured for your LilyPad board.  (Check these AFTER the board is connected to your computer).

The next step is to use  alligator clips to connect the positive and negative lead  of one of your newly hacked votive candles.  I like to color code my negative and positive leads.  In this project I chose black and white alligator clips to connect the negative leads.

Take the alligator clip that is connected to the negative lead on your candle and connect it to the negative pin of your LILYPAD.

Then take the alligator clip that is connected to the positive lead on our candle and connect it to any PIN on your LILYPAD (except negative).  I chose PIN 5.

Let's load the sample code called BLINK.  We are going to change the code a bit  by changing PIN 13 in the sample code to PIN 5. (assuming your colored alligator clip is hooked up to Pin 5)

It should now look like this .

You'll want to click on the Verify button to make sure your code works.  This process compiles the code and checks it for syntax errors.  It's easy to accidentally delete a comma or make a syntax error when working with code. Verify is the first step to making sure you have all the "syntax" correct to that the microprocessor (LILYPAD) will understand our instructions.

If no 'orange' error messages appear at the bottom,  you're golden and can now hit the SEND button to send your code (instructions)  to the LILYPAD microprocessor.  You'll see some lights blink quickly on the microprocessor as the instructions are transferred from your computer to the LilyPad's microprocessor.   Then if all worked well your votive candle (the one connected  to your LILYPAD with alligator clips)  should start to blink.  

Now blinking might not be all that exciting (YET).  But once you start to understand how code works, you'll be able to add other effects like blink and fade.   And once you can control one flower, you'll be able to apply your new coding skills to control a whole garden full of flowers.  Imagine what you'll be able to do then.

In the next post we'll take a closer look at the code so that we can start doing more than blink a flower.