Thursday, March 21, 2019

Day 21: How to get started Creating, Making, and Learning with AI

Did anyone see today's Google Doodle?

If you missed,  it definitely head over to the Google Doodle Archive page to give it a try.

While playing with this Doodle today over our morning coffee, my husband and I had a long discussion about AI or machine learning.

We are still in Austin, reflecting on the many workshops, and even workshops we did not get to attend at SxSw EDU and SxSw Interactive.

AI was definitely a hot topic!  You can tell for yourself by just reading through the titles of the different AI related sessions

There were at least 10 sessions related to AI at the SxSw EDU conference.

Meanwhile there were over 35  AI related sessions at SxSw Interactive, which definitely points to the fact that AI is not in the future, it is something that is part of our world NOW!

These students will not only hold jobs that we don't know exist, some of which will be creating AI applications,  but they will also be making decisions throughout their lives in a world where they are interacting with AI. 

So where do we begin preparing our students for THEIR future. 

Could it be as young as pre-school?   Randy Williams thinks so.  

Randi Williams is a graduate research assistant in the Personal Robots group at the MIT Media Lab.

Listen to her chat about her PopBots Toolkit
and look over the related Activities Document:
to get a feel for how preschool children might be introduced to AI.

Learn more about Randi Williams project. 

As students get older, you can introduce them to Scratch which also came out of MIT Media Lab, and then add the work of Dale Lane  @dalelane from the project Machine Learning for Kids  filled with step by step worksheet that can help students (and teachers)  learn about AI by creating AI related projects

Learn more at

Another way might be to have your students create a chat box. There are numerous tools your students can use to create their own chatbot, ranging from – a chatbot service that runs on Microsoft Azure to - a solution for quickly creating a chatbot recommended by AJ Julina in this blog post.  

Or perhaps you might start by bringing a Voice Asssistant   into your classroom and not only learning to use it in meaningful ways, but also have some in depth conversations about the implications and ethics behind future development of technology such as Alexa and Google Home. 

But don't just be a consumer with of your voice assistant,  learn to use code to gain control over your Alexa from sites like Code Academy.

There is no shortage of digital tools to explore AI,  but never underestimate the power of analog to really help you understand what's happening under the hood of a digital tool.  
Let the  folks from the LA Makerspace show you how with this step by step guide to lead your own  hands on workshop on AI  using EGG CARTONS.  Yes, I said EGG CARTONS! 

What are you waiting for -  start collecting those EGG cartons! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Day 20 - Calling all Create, Make, Learn alumn to Dynamic Landscapes

For the past several years our Create Make Learn community has had a strong presence at our  two Vermont conferences (Vermont Fest) . and (Dynamic Landscapes) either through presentations or as part of the Innovation Lounge.

 I have been  working tirelessly  with a committee of dedicated educators and librarians on building a schedule of over 100 presentations for the spring Dynamic Landscapes Conference.  As registration went live tonight I took a quick look at how many of those workshops involved some type of creating and making as a vehicle for learning and I counted over 45 sessions!

This warmed my heart!    Check it out for yourself - and spread the word to your fellow educators that this is a conference they won't want to miss.

Don't forget to register before the early bird discount runs out on April 12.

But its just the beginning because the next part of the conference planning is setting up the Posters, Projects, and Playground area (formerly called the Innovation Lounge)

Do you have a project that your students created that needs a wider audience?

Might you join us to create a playground area filled with hands on experiences that might engage other educators or fellow students?

Perhaps you want to talk about a project or process you use using a Poster.

Calling all Create Make Learn alumns to think about how they might join us in the Dynamic Landscape Posters, Projects and Playground area!     Drop me a quick note at with your ideas!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Day 19: Turn your microbit into a remote control

On Day 19 of our March Maker Series, we'll share a HOW to MAKE skillbuilder in our micro:bit series of tutorials.

Yesterday I shared some tips on how to get started using a servo motor with your micro:bit

Today I’d like to add one more fun way to extend your micro:bit using another micro:bit as a remote control using radio signals.

Check out this short video of how I can use 1 micro:bit to open a box that is controlled by a microbit and a servo motor

The first step was to write a program that opened the box when you pressed A and closed it when you pressed B using only 1 micro:bit

Now let’s add another micro:bit as a remote control.

Start by adding the following code to the SECOND microbit

You’ll also need to use this code snippet to allow the microbits to talk on the same channel.

Now go back to your first micro:bit and change the code you were using for button A to this:

Take a look at the code and see if it makes sense.

Now continue to build on that code until it looks like this

Great… you’re almost there..

Now let’s add the code that tells your microbit what channel to listen to.

Now it’s time to see if your code works.

I kept the microbit with the servo plugged into the computer to give it as much power as possible. Tomorrow I’ll look for some fresh batteries.

Reset both microbits

And try pressing A and B on your remote microbit to open and close your box. 

Tomorrow we’ll work on an escape game narrative that uses our new micro:bit duo!

What would you create with these new skills in your toolbox.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Day 18: Introducing the Servo Motor to the Micro:Bit

Adding a Servo Motor to your Micro:bit can expand the potential of your micro:bit.
But I must warn you.. they can be a little finicky, so be prepared for some troubleshooting.

Here's how to get started.

Start with a simple micro:bit Go pack

BBC2546862 Micro:bit go

Next  you'll need  a servo motor.  For our classroom projects we  started with some inexpensive SG90 Micro Servo Motors like these:

SG90 Micro Servo Motor (about $1.50 each)  

Then you'll need some wires to attach the servo motors to the micro:bit.

The easiest way to connect your servo motor to your micro:bit is to use three premade wires like these croc-clip to jumper wire (male) 

But if you have alligator clips and jumper cable,  you can make your own - like this

Most standard servos have three wires, each a different color. 

It's important to know that the color of the wire indicates how it should be communicated to your micro:bit 

  • brown or black = ground  and should connect to the -negative or GND connector 
  • red = servo power  and should connect to the + Positive or 3V connector
  • orange, yellow, white, or blue = servo control and will connect to pin 0, 1, or 2 on your micro:bit
Unfortunately, the servo as a 3 prong female connector, so you'll need a way to attach each of these colored wires to the microBit.   Here is where your croc to male alligator clips come in handy. 

I like to color code my alligator clips, so I selected a BLACK, RED, and YELLOW tipped Alligator Clip

Then I connected my
 BLACK tipped alligator clip to the BROWN/Black Servo wire
 RED tipped alligator clip to the RED servo wire
YELLOW tipped alligator clip to 'other color' SERVO wire
      depending on your Servo wire, the other color may vary. Mine is orange this time.

Next connect your GND (Black) alligator Clip to your Micro:bit GND pin

Connect your RED +3V alligator Clip to your micro:bit 3V pin

and Finally connect your 'other colored' - (YELLOW) to PIN (0) on your micro:bit

Any pin  (0, 1, 2) would work, but let's start with PIN 0.

TEST your Servo 

The next step will assume that you know how to create simple code using MakeCode and download it to your micro:Bit to run it.

If you want to test your servo motor connection you can try to create this simple program, which will allow your servo motor to change directions based on how you tilt your micro:bit.

You will find the RED commands under ADVANCED and PINS

And the purple Acceleration command under INPUT

Or you can download TEST SERVO CODE hex file here!

IMPORTANT: servo motors require significant power.
Test the code with your micro:bit connected to your computer.
Now Test the code with our micro:bit running on battery.
Notice the difference in power.

If your servo code is not working as expected, always test with your micro:bit being powered with your computer, to see it the problem is not a lack of sufficient power from the battery pack. 

NEXT STEP!  Calibrate your Servo.

Use the code found on this page to see if you can change your servo by pressing the A and B buttons

You can download the code from this page

My first challenge was to understand the way the servo motor records angles.  By creating this very simple project,  I got a much better understanding of how to control my servo motor. 

I grabbed an empty box, and created a cut out for the MicroBit. 

Then I attached the servo motor so that its plastic arm pointed toward the center of the box. 

Finally I created a graphic with the letters A,   B,  and AB. 

The challenge was to write code that positioned the arm next to A, when you pressed button A,  and for the arms to point to B when you pressed Button B, and then point to AB . when you pressed both buttons (A and B) 

Once you are able to complete this challenge, you'll have have a better grasp on how to control your servo motor with a microBit. 

Our next challenge is to create a game that uses the servo motor in some way.

Here is the game I created.   What would you create?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Day 17 Meet Toad- Bobbie's Art in Tow!

One of the reasons Craig and I travel around the US for 6 months of the year is that we are in search of creatives, creative spaces, and creative convergences.

One of the highlights of this year's trip was meeting Bobbie and Kurt when we were out in Desert Hot Springs.  Every day we walked by their campsite we could see Bobbie working on making art with her car and RV as her canvas.

How cool is that, to be able to take your art with you, even when you don't have much space!
And to always be creating and making where ever you are!

Today our paths crossed again as we were both in Texas, and I asked Bobbie if she would give us a tour of her masterpiece!

Meet TOAD - the Art Car! 

And for those who ever towed a car behind an RV, you'll appreciate the name! 

and Bobbie Pieres,  who created TOAD! 

Take a peek inside and you'll see that Bobbie's artistic work both in and out of the car

The roof will help you understand where it got it's name. 

The attention to detail everywhere is amazing! 

 And there is even a special place decorated especially for their dog, Adelphia!

As I walked with Bobbie, I asked her what high school school was like for her, and was not surprised to hear her say that she pretty much lived in the art room. This had me thinking of how my boys pretty much lived in the music room during their high school years and how knew the library well, but didn’t really spend much time in either of those spaces.

What would it be like if we schools had a place that welcomed many different types of creatives to create and make together or alongside of each other. And what if we expanded the definition of creative to be those who create with code or with words.

To me that sounds like another reason for schools to create maker spaces. I can’t even imagine the amazing outcomes of such a place that welcomed all types of kids to come create, make, and learn together.

Thank you Bobbie for the tour of your car and also for helping me consider the role a maker space might have to bring all types of creatives into one place to create, make, and learn together.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Day 16 -A case for making movies in your #makerspace

As our SxSw festival/conference experience comes to an end,  Craig and I decided to navigate the process of using our badges to go see a film.  After reviewing the list of options for ours, we settled on the Texas High School Shorts!   With so many #makerspaces including places to make movies, I thought it would be enjoyable to see what type of short films student film-makers who made the cut of getting into the SxSw film festival were creating.  Getting accepted into the SxSw Film festival is quite an honor, and these high school students shared amazing short films that showed they were no longer aspiring film-makers -  they had earned the right to call themselves film-makers.

Listening to these young film makers during the Q&A left me thinking about how important it is to honor different types of making in our makerspaces.

A popular reason for having a makerspace at our schools is to create problem solvers and problem finders.   I hear many conversations about making sure that there is "learning" happening in our makerspace and not just "arts and crafts".  This makes me flinch!  Yes,  we want meaningful making!  But there are are many meaningful ways to make.   Creating something that solves a problem is ONE way to unsure meaningful making, but it's not the only way to make meaningfully.

I love the way Michael Pope  (Barre Town School)  guides students towards meaningful making in his #makerspace using the following  project selection framework.   His students can select projects that  meet a need in their community,  but they can also could meet a more personal need  -  the need to learn a skill or the need to communicate a message or inspire others to understand your perspective.

I find Michael's project selection guideline an inclusive frame that welcomes many different types of making and also honors where young people are at in this time of their life where so much identity making is happening.

As you define the WHY in your MAKERSPACE  - ask yourself

-- is my WHY inclusive enough to welcome many different type of creators and makers?
-- does my WHY expand WHO can call themselves a maker
-- does my WHY honor HOW students want to make

I walked out of the theatre thinking hard about the issues that our students face today and how they are different than those I faced, and even those my children faced.  These young talked about their process (ranging from  6 months to 2 years) to produce their very short film and how they wanted to communicate their perspective in the making of their films.

Just reading the description of the  entries that these young film makers submitted will provide you with some ideas of the films we watched this afternoon, and why I think it's important that we make room for creative personal making in our makerspaces.    Sometimes what we make is not to solve a problem in our community.  Sometimes our making is to understand ourselves better or to help the world understand us better.


Winner: Fifteen
Director: Louisa Baldwin

"A lovely narrative of a teenage girl falling in love and experiencing the unique highs and lows of a lesbian relationship. The voiceover wonderfully expresses the complexities of publicly expressing her sexuality. The visuals provide snapshots of the journey, allowing the audience to feel with the characters."

Special Jury Recognition: Double Cross
Director: Amiri Scrutchin

"A short that skillfully exhibits multiple drawn styles of animation while telling an enjoyable story about a basketball game."

Our viewing included the following films
from SxSw Program


As various animated illustrations and colors appear across the frame, the voice of a human trafficking victim tells her story from the very beginning to the very end.

Sex is Weird

A boy and a girl sit in awkward silence at a coffee shop. He breaks the tension with "I googled it." Her confusion prompts rambling justification: he googled how to be good at sex because he wants her to get the most out of their first time as possible. Touched by his awkward sincerity, she asks if he is a virgin and he says yes. Upon confirmation, she opens up about a scarring past sexual experience, asserting that she doesn't feel ready to introduce sex to their relationship. The boy realizes how vulnerable she has made herself, and reassures her their relationship means much more than just sex. If she's uncomfortable with it, sex can wait. Both agree that sex is weird, relieved at last.

Learning to Swim

This film is about an innocent, naive young woman falling in love with a boy who has been prone to substance abuse. They experience many firsts together only to end apart because of his self-loathing and depression, all of which surround his partying habit.

By the Pool

Two friends are relaxing in a pool at night. As they talk about an awkward event at school, they come to some strange realizations.

A Pinch of Love

Amy (Madie Riley), a young housewife with a passion for cooking, attempts to rekindle her relationship with her work-a-holic husband, Jack (Jack Young) after they've become distant.


A teenage high school student is constantly reminded and holds a detrimental amount of anxiety about the chance of a school shooting. As she carries throughout her day, her fear grows and she has a breakdown, feeling helpless and insecure at a place of learning and sanctum.


Dawn constantly messes with her neighbor, Miles, on her nightly dog walk, pretending to live out her fantasies of being a spy. After Miles disappears, a strange turn of events presents Dawn with the chance to achieve her goals of being a secret agent, but her mission's outcome is nothing like she expected.

Forbidden Fruit

While roaming around an unusual and vaguely sinister landscape, a cat and her witch come upon a strange presence that has dire consequences for both of them.


Another mailbox full of college letters throws a teenage girl into a state of anxiety. After she fails to achieve a peaceful state, she looks beyond her mundane life into the bigger world that is full of wonder.

The Making of Chase Humes

"The Making of Chase Humes", is a 5 minute documentary about a female-to-male transgender student, who just wants to be accepted and treated as a normal person. He talks about how the current political climate makes him fear for his future, as well as how people don't take trans-gendered people seriously despite the high suicide rates; most his family isn't very supportive despite all him asking for is acceptance. Due to his coming out he lost friends, but he goes on to say he gained his best friend from coming out. To wrap the film up he sends out a message to everyone who is going through a similar experience by telling them that all the fighting for rights is worth it in the end.


Fifteen is a tough age for a girl--especially when you fall in love for the first time with another girl. People stare, friends suddenly turn judgmental, and parents just don't understand. But it's worth it.


Two characters stand in a studio space, a female and a male. They are preparing for a performance of some type. The live studio audience watches their every movement. The two figures have a conversation about how they want to perform and how “they” will judge them. While conversing the male undresses from formal clothes and the female gets dressed up into formal clothes.


An experimental short film in which the themes of societal norms, staying inside the lines, and the fear of the unknown are challenged. Like a bird in a cage, we often let our notions dictate the paths we chose. This short film portrays the beauty in going beyond everything you have ever known.


“Abby” tells the story of two childhood best friends from the perspective of Abby (Lizzie Shaw)-an eccentric high-spirited girl. Chloe (Brinley MacKerron) is not as social as other kids her age, but a friendship starts when Abby comes up to her one day, and they have been close ever since.

Double Cross

In the fourth quarter of the championship basketball game, our hero is down by one. The home team desperately tries to gain the advantage but their attempts are thwarted by the opposing team and their leader. Our hero tries to face the enemy one on one, but is overwhelmed by the enemy's sheer power, sending our hero into a spiritual experience that grants him immense power. Our hero uses this newfound power to overpower the opposing team and send the adversary into oblivion, winning the championship game.


A young man is walking home from school as an unexpected situation abruptly interrupts him. The young man gets himself involved and helps out gaining himself a friendship. The friendship goes on until the young man realizes his new friend is a bad influence on his life. The young man tries to change his ways but it is too late.

A Grand Gesture

Gunter has been moping around for months since his ex-girlfriend broke up with him. Infuriated by this, his best friend Harold, devises a plan for Gunter to win back her heart. From stealing candy to a serial killer on the loose, who knows what might happen.

Yellow Fever

Five friends fight over who gets to pay the bill at dinner.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Day 15: Add more lights to your micro:Bit creations

In conversations about makerspaces in your school it's important to consider different types of makes that your students might be engaged with.   As I mentioned in Day 4, there are many different types of makes and a  makerspace should  includes the opportunities to try many different types of make.  Today I'd like to share a skill building activity that I designed as an introductory fun (somewhat silly) project that can extend the type of projects you and your students might make with your micro:bits by adding external lights.  I'll also share some what that you can use this activity to build familiarity with materials, some basic skills and foundational understanding of circuits and code,  but then extend the activity from a skill builder to a problem solving challenge that leads to inventive thinking and design thinking.

Now... meet Crafty Carla - a fun character I built to get us started!

We'll start with the basics - 1 micro:bit, a battery pack, and a usb cable!

Next, gather the following materials.

Now it's time to punch two LEDs through the foam plate and use copper tape to create a paper a way to create a parallel circuit.

I like to demonstrate the concept of the parallel circuit (without the micro:bit). It's important to understand the circuit before we bring in extra variables into the mix. So I use a coin cell battery in a battery holder, and some alligator clips to test my circuit construction.

In this circuit you will notice that I use a black alligator clip to connect the short leg of the LED to the batteries negative pin, and any other color to connect the positive end of the battery to the copper tape that is taped to long leg of the LED.   Take time to really unpack that and make sure that you and/or your students really understand the flow of electricity that is happening here.

If you need more help understanding circuits check out this  Sparkfun tutorial.
Now that you and your students understand the basics of circuits, let's add a micro:bit to the mix.

Take some time to create an animation that will help you connect with your creation.  Make it smile; Make it silly;  Make it something that makes it fun!

As you code the animation, consider the flow of electricity and try to understand the path from your powerpack to the LED animation.

Now unplug the coin cell battery and put it aside, and plug your black and colored alligator clip to the micro:bit connectors.  The black one should go to the connector labeled GRN and the colored one should go to the pin labeled 3 volt.  Note

Once your circuit works and you understand the flow of the electrons,  unplug the colored alligator clip and connect it to the connector labeled "0".   Your lights will go out, until you learn to code it in the next step.

Now it's time to learn to use code to light up our eyes again.

You'll need to start by dragging out these two pieces of code.

Select PO  because your colored alligator clip is hooked up to the connector labeled Pin 0.
Select (0) to indicate light OFF.

Now duplicate this code with a 1 instead of a 0 to turn the light on.
Add a pause in the middle and you will see the light turn on.

If you're following along with the code above,  you'll notice that the light does not look like its turning off.  Why do you think that is?

What would you need to add to the code to keep it turned off for a fraction of a second, so it will look like the code blink?

Try additional challenges

Now time to take a break from coding and decorate your character to make it your own.

If you want, you might want to try to engineer a base. As you students work through the different parts of this project, take note as to who gravitates towards the mechanical part of building the stand; who loves to engage with the code; who got in the flow of building the character. Some kids might shine as project managers, some might enjoy each part of this, and some might find themselves focusing on one part of the process of another. Watching this and having the kids discuss which parts they liked and why can them understand their interest and strengths.

Here is an additional challenge you can try.

Congratulations!  Now that you  have additional skills in your toolkit that can extend the power of your micro:Bit, how might you use this new skills to create something new?

Having a skill building tasks like the one above gives students some of the foundational knowledge they will need to be move from a  follow these steps type of skill building type of make to one where you provide students with an example of something they could make and allow them to do some close looking and examine the complexities of how it's made, and then let them try to replicate it without walking them through each steps.

Perhaps you  next challenge might be

"Can you make a traffic light or some other type of light sculpture where the lights change as a result of an event?"

You could provide a couple of models for students to examine and try to reconstruct.
Or you could post some pictures on a bulletin board or poster for those who have less experience and might need some help getting started.   Don't assume everyone is entering this challenge with the same background knowledge or experience. 

I'm always intrigued to watch what happens when I put up a model.  Some kids use the model as a guide, and others don't even go look at it before they jump in and make.   You might even want to debrief how they each approached the challenge differently and how we might learn by watching how others approach a problem.

Here are some pictures from my various stages of my original traffic light build with microBits.  Feel free to use them if you find them helpful.

Finally the next prompt might encourage students to thing big!  How about creating a giant brainstorm board with lots of post it notes using this prompt:

What type of problem could you solve by being able to control external lights?
Then set the students on a mission to develop a prototype that helps communicate their idea!
Remember that a good prototype does not necessarily have to have all the parts working perfectly.  It's goal is to help you communicate your ideas and to facilitate a discussion about whether to and how to move forward with an idea!  The process of making the prototype is made to help clarify your thinking as much as the product itself.

Stay tuned for my next micro:bit post which will introduce you to how adding a servo motors can make the ears wiggle.  And we'll even learn to add a remote control that changes your character's expressions!