Maker Moments: January 2017

Making MAKING Happen Through Maker VISTA 

Our Maker VISTA program focuses on overcoming poverty through maker education. Maker VISTA members serve at partner sites around the country to impact organizations and the wider community through partnership development, volunteer recruitment, community building, resource creation, educator training, and much more.



Bethune Middle School

At Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles, Maker VISTAs Shelly Tersolo and Corina Penaia facilitated a successful community engagement fair called “Hands Around Bethune.” The fair engaged over 300 community members, including parents and local organizations, for whom Corina and Shelly provided hands-on making activities (in collaboration with the school’s science department). Families and students explored paper circuits, and built and raced their own “eco-vehicles.” Shelly shares:

A little boy, Ryan, spent all day at the Makers Booth with us at our Hands Around Bethune event, crafting and recrafting his “robot car.” As we were packing up and preparing to leave, Ryan’s mother came to pick him up from our booth. Before they left, Ryan gave me a big hug and screamed, ‘I love science!’ He told me he was going to be a scientist when he grew up. It was so rewarding to feel like I had inspired scientific creativity in Ryan by spending the day making with him!”

Last month, Shelly and Corina facilitated the “Made by Milk” contest at Bethune. This month, they learned they won a prize for their entry, “Bethune Rover,” a prototype for a new Mars Rover-type robot, made out of 156 recycled milk cartons. Congrats!



Maker VISTA Shubha Arehalli kicked off the new year with preparations for a host of ReCreate maker events, including a simple machines workshop, a Makey Makey Music workshop, and a Makey Makey Arcade, by developing lessons plans, presentation slides, and program components. Prior to that exciting start to 2017, Shubha and the staff at ReCreate set their minds to maker projects, piloting and trial-running exciting demonstrations for their students, taking advantage of some restorative and collaborative time during the winter school break:

Our Executive Director Donna and our Education Director Amy had a lot of fun building a light up cardboard model of the golden gate bridge. Amy and I collaborated to make an animatronic robot kangaroo using cardboard and a Hummingbird board. Donna and I are building a marquee light sign for our makerspace using laser cut letters and old Christmas lights. Finally, I worked on building a roll-up floor piano with recycled vinyl, aluminum flashing, copper tape, and a Makey Makey controller. While we all were working on these projects, we each experienced frustrating setbacks, and our problem-solving skills were challenged. In the end, it made seeing our finished products all the more rewarding.”

Up next for Shubha will be ReCreate’s Family Maker Night at the end of this month.

Shubha’s roll up piano


San Fernando Middle School

In Los Angeles, Maker VISTA Lyna Abal implemented a project geared towards empowering a 7th grade math class to design and construct chairs out of cardboard using mathematical concepts. In considering measuring, angles, proportional ratios, and integers, students not only practiced everyday applications of math, but also learned to take ownership of their work and pride in their making. The project epitomized the impact and power of making for Lyna, and reminded her of making’s potential for self-efficacy.

This month, Lyna is engaging parents, teachers, students, and the school administration in a beautification project, intended to further position the makerspace as a welcoming, appealing, and creative atmosphere and encourage investment from the community. Lyna reflects that her community has been valuable to her own efficiency in capacity building, in that the people she works and interacts with often lead her in the “right,” most applicable or genuine direction with regard to interest, need and resource creation.



At Computers4Kids (C4K) in Charlottesville, Virginia, Maker VISTA Blair McAvoy is growing the organization’s mentor orientation program, by integrating maker education into the training agenda and further emphasizing the needs and benefits around youth mentorship as a whole. Blair incorporated key skills developed through maker projects and introduced findings around inquiry-based learning into the mentor training. She also included a maker activity to help orientees have a full-scope and firsthand experience of making, using both the materials and makerspace at C4K.

This month, Blair also realized the critical nature of materials in a makerspace and the importance of securing resources, beginning with… a drought of hot glue! Blair knew that hot glue was utilized in countless maker projects, but until all the makerspaces’ guns stopped working at once, she had not realized its true value as C4K currency. This experience made Blair even more mindful of need and sourcing when she reached out to a local carpentry business to establish a partnership through which discarded wood could be donated to C4K. With sustainability and best practices in mind, Blair simultaneously secured a good long-term source of quality wood and provided the carpenters a means of recycling their materials.


Grass Valley Elementary School

Maker VISTAs Crystal Le and Maria Renteria coordinated a comprehensive Project Expo, a showcase and culmination of students’ three month efforts to develop their own board games. During the Expo, each group of students pitched their games to their peers, prompting them to select which games they wanted to play. Students demonstrated their learning as they offered problem-solving feedback or questions of curiosity to their fellow young makers.

Maria and Crystal also had the opportunity to participate in the OUSD’s Maker Fellows Program, a series of workshops aimed at guiding maker educators in facilitating making in their classrooms and exploring what it means to develop a maker mindset. Their first class introduced a number of thinking routines, all of which Maria and Crystal intend to apply and incorporate in their teacher training and project guidance at Grass Valley. The VISTAs found a table building exercise particularly provocative and productive, as the 2-hour challenge prompted them to consider the importance of embracing and improving upon failure.

Students play one of their own newly minted board games. This one is called “Starbucks Coffee.”
Cards!! And impressive game figures.


Maker Ed

At Maker Ed, Maker VISTA Sam Erwin furthered his support and amplification of development efforts, specifically Maker Ed’s successful End of the Year individual donor drive. Sam crafted email campaigns, fine-tuned imaging and branded content, and drafted and edited the annual Year in Review letter for the Board of Directors. Sam also applied his mindful marketing and development eye towards additional collateral design, collaborating to create infographics and icons for the website as well as upcoming Maker VISTA recruitment materials. Throughout his varied research and drafting processes, Sam is sure to carefully document his iterations and systems, in order to guarantee the sustainability of his work and efforts post-service. To that end, Sam is also writing guides to fundraising, social media marketing, and other development resource creation for future Maker VISTAs and organization team members.

rmc cog logo

Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative

Maker VISTAs Becca Hoskins and Jenn Torres are making the work of the Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative more visible through social media and community engagement. This month, Becca is manning the RMC Twitter feed, creating content for the RMC Blog, and cultivating new avenues for volunteer coordination. Meanwhile, Jenn is focused on helping to design the curriculum for the Fibonacci Math Project and updating the RMC Blog and website with the latest Web 2.0 flourishes.

In a recent undertaking, Jenn (with Becca’s enthusiastic support!) improved the efficiency and speed of RMC’s computer system by wiping and then re-installing the software for 110 donated computers to be used across their seven makerspaces. This is a key way to ensure that the laptops are virus free and ready to be used in the classroom. Jenn and Becca have also continue to develop ongoing training Ravenswood Makerspace Tinkerers and Tinkerer teachers on how to use systems set up by the VISTA team, such as their photo organization and curriculum log, in order to maximize consistency and sustainability of program components.


Art 120

At Art 120, Maker VISTA Hannah Hahn is working closely with Red Bank Elementary on developing curriculum and compiling case studies for a grant-funded exploration into early elementary maker learning. Through this project, Hannah hopes to generate and develop project plans, tools and parameters which can be sustained by Red Bank educators and volunteers in the future. Hannah will also be working with Chattanooga’s Bethlehem Center to create a mobile children’s art museum with local artists’ work, which can visit schools or be “rented” by other institutions/events.

Concurrently, co-Maker VISTA, Dan Mailman, continues to develop curriculum and program components for the Howard School, creating well-documented and tested code for classroom modules and writing useful explainers for non-coders. Dan and Hannah both enjoyed facilitating a recent exploration at a virtual reality exhibit at the Chattanooga Public Library, during which Howard High School students verbally and visually expressed their excitement and interest in the technology.

Lighthouse Creativity Lab Logo-445x445

Lighthouse Community Charter School

In Oakland, California, Maker VISTAs Gary Hall and Tobie Irvine supported Lighthouse and Lodestar Schools with their “Expos,” events intended to allow families to learn about and experience their children’s work in school. As a team, Gary and Tobie led several maker activities, including paper circuits and scribble machines. Gary made this engagement work visible through documentation and maintaining the Creativity Lab blog, where he recently posted an exciting account of a bottle rocket experiment. Gary and Tobie have also been shaping project guides and professional development guides for teachers and administrators. In particular, Gary revamped the vinyl cutter project guide, a reference which high school and middle school students will make use of later this year when they design their own laptop decorations and embellishments. 

A 3D-Printed Tower from the Expo


Drew Charter

In collaboration with Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics & Computing, Maker VISTAs Greg Robbins and Caitlan Cole organized and led a 3-hour professional development training for Drew Charter’s Literacy Center teachers. With this event, Greg and Caitlan empowered teachers interested in integrating STEAM and making activities with literacy lesson plans that they researched and compiled. The VISTA team guided the teachers through using one of their STEAM Trunks and inspired the group to generate action plans and ideas for implementation, including tactile letter books, a vowel board game and homemade alphabet puzzles.

Caitlan and Greg have also devoted recent time and efforts to intentional documentation around maker-related data, developing reports and findings around STEAM Trunk usage, the number of professional development trainings, as well as creating user guides for tools and software programs. This work not only lends itself immensely towards program sustainability, but increases the likelihood of teachers, students, and other staff or volunteers immersing themselves in maker content and accessing these thoughtfully-crafted resources.

Maker Moments is a monthly series that profiles the achievements and capacity-building work of our Maker VISTA team. Check back next month for monumental moments in making!







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *