The holistic experience of making that is somehow able to integrate the learner’s mind and body, along with the efforts and energies of fellow learners and community members was undeniably achieved and excitingly evident during a recent STEAM extravaganza weekend held at Maker VISTA partner site, Drew Charter School, in Atlanta. Powered by the school’s STEAM support staff, featuring Maker Ed’s Maker VISTA members Greg Robbins and Caitlan Cole and helmed by Maker VISTA supervisor Courtney Bryant, this weekend of making included two annual STEAM themed events: STEAM Day, on Friday March 17th, and DESIGNORAMA, on Saturday March 18th. Both highlighted STEAM, making, community and collaboration.
The weekend festivities ignited with STEAM Day, a day that included making, designing, creating, experimenting, and all-around “verb-ing,” so as to encourage Pre-K through 5th Grade Drew students to further explore the many ways STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is relevant to, and applicable in, their lives. Throughout the school day Drew students got hands-on with STEAM through a wide range of activities like making, racing, and redesigning nerdy derby cars, an egg-and-coding obstacle course, a science magic show, and many other experiments. The hubs of support and encouragement formed by collaborating students, teachers, volunteers and the event coordinators, audibly and visibly exemplified the important role that a sense of community plays in making with confidence and with joy.
Our Maker VISTA Caitlan served as a behind-the-scenes work captain and all around wrangler of details during this first day of events. She coordinated volunteers, documented, and troubleshot logistics, her energy continuing to contribute to the festivities via the hourly announcements she led in order to guide all students, teachers, and volunteers through the various STEAM adventures throughout the day. On the other side of the campus’ hill, Maker VISTA Greg delivered an impromptu talk on a few of his passions points—jazz, STEAM and making—to a curious group of high school students. Both Maker VISTAs played integral roles in helping make the day a success for all participants, even while prepping for the following full day of offerings and activities for DESIGNORAMA.
On Saturday, DESIGNORAMA kicked off with this year’s theme of user experience, providing an opportunity for a diverse range of young and seasoned makers including Drew students, siblings, friends, families and neighbors, to explore the world of STEAM through making (at no cost to attend). Participants were invited to explore/make through various hands-on, interactive, engaging activities, performances, conversations, and games, set-up along stations, workspaces, and creative surfaces. Youth and adults alike enjoyed a lovely day of getting their STEAM on, buzzing with curiosity as they explored stations that moved from a STEAM museum with interactive maker pieces created by K-12 Drew students, to making wildflower seed balls, designing drones, and more. There was even Drew’s first auto show, coordinated and sourced by Maker VISTA Greg, that showcased cars through the ages, offering the community further examples of how making and innovation shows up in their everyday lives.
An awesome intersection of collaboration and community cropped up at the “Play Well TEKnologies station,” where a young maker and Lego enthusiast explained to the crowd awaiting a scheduled Lego battle, the benefits of using Legos to prototype designs. He loved making with Legos because “they allow you to see what works and what doesn’t for a real live model.” As he shared how he constructed his Lego vehicle to increase the ramming power, while also making sure his vehicle would not get destroyed during the battle, he noticed his soon-to-be opponent in the battle was experiencing issues with his vehicle design. Excited for a worthwhile and equal battle, this young Lego-er thoughtfully suggested that his opponent tinker with his design to increase his vehicle’s traction on the track. After one last iteration, both young makers were ready to rumble—or at least their vehicles were. After the battle, both the crowd and these two young makers seemed newly pumped for the next opportunity to redesign and implement the knowledge gained from this iteration. Discovering that their peers (and spectators!) supported their trials and errors proved to be both a motivational and bonding moment.
Conversations, collaboration, co-creation and feedback flowed throughout both days of STEAM powered events, leading to new groupings and gatherings of community members coming together to tinker, explore and learn. The high-touch, in-depth planning and coordination fueled by Courtney, Caitlan, Greg and the rest of the STEAM support staff, proved efficient, enlightening, and engaging not only for their entire school, but for their greater community in Atlanta as well.
Want to know more about the events at Drew’s spectacular STEAM events? Here’s quick rundown of activities, and some photos from the event:
- Science Magic Show
- Nerdy Derby Races
- Egg Coding Obstacle Course
- Sensory experience (blindfolded activity)
- Musical performances by students
- Action verb-ing: making, creating, designing, playing, redesigning, testing, coding, collaborating (all student-driven or student-authored)
- Atlanta Science Festival
- Build a Drone
- Lego Battles
- Wildflower Seed Balls
- Scrollsaw Alphabet
- Tinker, Play and Learn
- Auto Show, Through the Ages
- Climate Change/global warming Rapper
- STEAM Museum (created by K-12 students)
- Virtual reality experience
- Coding obstacle course (with other strategy games)
- Video game truck
- Food trucks!