Maker Moments: March 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 Corina Penaia and Shelly Tersolo supported their students participation in the USC MESA competition, where they tested their maker inventions through a variety of challenges, including mouse trap cars, egg drops, and popsicle bridges. One student from their seventh grade MESA class won first place for her egg drop creation! This was the culmination of months of work, and although some of their students did not place in the event, Corina and Shelly were extremely proud of all their work and enthusiasm for making. They believe that by offering this opportunity to their students, they have sparked their interest in STEAM principles through a competitive lens and they hope that the students will be able to take what they have learned from this process to the next level.

This past week, Shelly and Corina were also able to bring Interaxon, a USC student-led neuroscience group, to speak to the students and engage them in activities about the brain. This was the second visit from Interaxon and a great next step in the partnership building process. Based on the enthusiasm and eagerness of the students, Shelly and Cornina could tell that the students had a blast and learned a lot from the workshop.



This month at ReCreate, Maker VISTA Shubha Arehalli supported the launch of the Light Play curriculum for their GeniusMobile program. With Shubha’s facilitation and scheduling, the ReCreate team brought the light play lessons to second grade students at Pershing Elementary School in Orangevale, CA. Per the developed curriculum, students used reading lights, shoeboxes donated by a local store, littleBits circuitry kits and various objects and crafting materials, to design dynamic light box displays. Students also made CDs that reflect unique “snowflake” patterns onto walls and the ceiling. Each of these projects helped students connect the concrete to the conceptual as they learned to differentiate between translucent, transparent, and opaque materials, and to experiment with shadows and reflection.  

Shubha is also making strides in engaging the local community through ReCreate’s maker carnival program, focusing specifically on bringing a maker carnival to schools serving Title 1 middle school students in the area. Shubha and the ReCreate team met with administrators and teachers at four regional schools, and plan on spending eight days in these schools in order to collaborate with teachers on tying-in ReCreate’s program offerings with each school’s needs. Shubha is proud of setting up the maker carnival program because it is fostering new community connections, partnerships, and reaching underserved students. ReCreate has two maker carnival events coming up at the end of the month, and then two more in May, and Shubha is excited to see the program continue to flourish.


San Fernando Middle School 

At San Fernando Middle School, Maker VISTA Lyna Abal continued to partner with the the architecture, design, and art company La Fabrica Makes in order to plan and develop a sustainable vertical garden project for one of San Fernando’s sixth grade sciences classes. Lyna planned the project and collaboration with care and an eye for detail; she had weekly conversations and meetings about the project with La Fabrica Makes in order to update teacher objectives for the students and discuss the design process of actual making. After a month of preparation, Lyna brought La Fabrica Makes to San Fernando in order to talk about how they use design thinking and processing in their everyday work. The La Fabrica Makes team then supported student groups as they designed their own vertical garden and started the making process. This experience not only modeled the how-to and value of long-term planning for students, but also related design thinking to real world applications.

Another project Lyna is working on is called Hacker Furniture, where students build tiny furniture to fit within a platform of 8 ½ x 14in. Lyna shares the impact of this project on one student:

An aerial view of Tiny Furniture.

“There is one student in this class who isn’t usually motivated to do anything. She misses class very often and doesn’t always finish projects. However, to my surprise she was actually motivated and inspired (or finally bored enough) to make something for this project. I observed her working diligently and keeping to herself instead of the ruckus and distraction she usually causes in the class. I saw another side of this student, someone determined to finish something, and take ownership of their capabilities in making. This moment gave me a different perspective on a student’s self-efficacy and reminded me that students have different paces in how confident and comfortable they are in hands-on learning environments. She ended up finishing the project, and was excited and pleased with herself when she realized she was able to do it.”   




In Charlottesville, Virginia, Maker VISTA Blair McAvoy helped C4K develop organizational methods, including a new system for storing mentoring pair works-in-progress and a clear sorting system for electrical components like wires, breadboards, Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. Blair has also been helping with the digital organization of C4K’s resources through the creation of an online resource library that will feature information about mentoring, making, C4K policies, and project ideas on the website. Blair herself is contributing to the content of the resource library with a two-pager on maker education and a few resources on where to get started with a project.

Blair is proud to have a partnership with an engineering program at UVA that helps build the capacity of C4K’s mentorship program. Through the partnership, UVA students get credit for volunteering with C4K and sign up per semester. Despite the frequency of turnover in those types of volunteer arrangements, C4K has retained a high number of valuable mentors through this program—half of the students that signed up this spring are returning from the fall, and several have committed to one-on-one mentoring.


Grass Valley Elementary School 

At Grass Valley Elementary, Maker VISTAs Crystal Le and Maria Renteria planned, facilitated, and hosted a celebration of African American Innovators with the school’s Black History Month Family Maker Night and Heritage Potluck (read a recap of the event here!). It was a rousing success and Crystal and Maria were pleased to experience the enthusiasm and engagement from the community. In fact, several nearby neighbors who had been living around

Maker Abassadors.

Grass Valley for nearly 50 years, but had never set foot on campus, attended this event and were struck by initiatives underway within.

During that event, four students who had devoted their time and research to month-long maker projects, presented and were honored as the school’s first-ever Maker Ambassadors. Crystal and Maria relate their experience of watching this moment come to fruition:

“A moment that inspired us was seeing our Maker Ambassadors enthusiastically present their creations onstage during our African American Innovators event. Despite some setbacks or frustrations during the development and building process, it was such a delight seeing our students’ glowing faces as they proudly shared their water gun, gas mask, and LED stoplight to the community. As Maker VISTA members, we were thrilled to have been a part of making this possible.”


Maker Ed 

At Maker Ed in Oakland, Maker VISTA Sam Erwin is researching different grant opportunities and practicing the skill of Letters of Inquiry (LOI) composition. He is also working with a number of Maker Ed partner schools as they apply for the LRNG Innovators Challenge Grant, which allows him to reflect and build upon his collaboration strategies, and gain vital experience about the grant process. Sam felt especially proud of his work with Maker Ed’s Making Spaces program partner Kailua Elementary school, and his relationship cultivation with two teachers at the elementary school. Their cooperation and communication styles laid a strong (and hopefully successful!) foundation for partnership.

In addition to his grant work, Sam is also working towards the launch of  Maker VISTA Month, which is fast-approaching in April! In preparation, Sam is actively coordinating with other Maker VISTA members, as well as internal teams at Maker Ed in order to plan content, design roll-out methods, and calibrate timing.

rmc cog logo

Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative 

At the Ravenswood Makerspace Collaborative (RMC), Maker VISTA Jenn Torres organized and documented methods of managing makerspace materials and inventory in Ravenswood’s STEM Center, with the assistance of the Ravenswood STEM Materials Manager/Librarian. Jenn not only helped make materials more easily accessible and surveyable for the STEM Center, but also initiated the creation of a more sustainable system that can effectively mitigate the manager’s absence

A programmed robot gears up to begin the chain reaction of a Rube Goldberg machine!

when her role transitions this spring. Jenn also completed marketing materials for a Teacher Engagement Initiative, working with the support of Maker VISTA leader Hadiyah Shabazz to hone her InDesign and Photoshop skills. The result of this collaboration was a beautiful flyer for an upcoming teacher making event.

Meanwhile, Maker VISTA Becca Hoskins wrote and presented a volunteer recruitment appeal for Mountain View tech company, Pure Storage. Becca knew her appeal was successful when all 24 attendees expressed high interest in learning more about the RMC program and signed up to receive email updates and newsletters. Becca was even able to turn 5 of those interested attendees into committed volunteers. In the realm of social media, Becca and her supervisor, STEM coordinator Nico Janik, created a Quick Fire Design Challenge everyday for one week, as a way to spur engagement on Twitter. Thus far, Becca credits this initiative with increasing their followers on Twitter by 20%. Finally, Becca set up an incredible lunch making station at Belle Haven Elementary, where children could make their own Rube Goldberg machine. With very few instructions, students as young as eight years old were coming up with ways to play a xylophone without touching it!


Art 120 

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Maker VISTA Hannah Hahn collaborated with The Howard School and Red Bank Elementary School to facilitate student participation in an art contest at the local and iconic Bessie Smith Cultural Center, which is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of African American History. Hannah worked with teacher teams at both schools to develop lesson plans for the visit, and coordinated the sourcing of found or inexpensive supplies and materials for the students to utilize in creating their works of art. Students toured the exhibit, and later connected historical components to visual expressions as they listened to excerpts of Bessie Smith’s music. The experience of creating their own art in a “professional” artistic space engaged the students more than Hannah anticipated, and she observed ways in which they shared aspirations and/or re-envisionings as to how they would display their own work and stories in a gallery.

Hannah’s co-Maker VISTA Dan Mailman devoted time—and a newfound metaphor—towards facilitating teacher and student training sessions at a local makerspace. This month, Dan utilized a clear picture of a Raspberry Pi, treated it as a map, and set a “rule” that the inhabitants of each of the territories on the map spoke a different language. As makers, it was his and the class participants’ quest to learn to speak each language quickly; to write a simple program that would send or receive native information from the inhabitants. Via this exercise expedition, a 12 year old student, Isabella, discovered something that surprised Dan: a port that he had only previously been using for audio, was actually capable of video. This ah-ha moment was exciting, silly, productive, and pride-inducing for both Dan and Isabella.

Lighthouse Creativity Lab Logo-445x445

Lighthouse Community Charter School

In Oakland, Maker VISTAs Gary Hall and Tobie Irvine are supporting teachers and students in planning ahead for the upcoming Lighthouse Prototype Faire in April, along with Lighthouse’s participation in Bay Area Maker Faire in May. In these early stages of preparation, Gary and Tobie are recruiting and meeting with staff and youth interested in participating, organizing and tracking down materials, drafting shared agendas to track action items and tasks to be completed before each faire, and an overall layout of all the activities/projects. The brainstorming and designing of these activities and projects is the most exciting to the Maker VISTAs, as they visit with classrooms and discuss methods and means of bringing their ideas to life.

Tobie and Gary also secured an in-kind donation of maker materials from Galileo. These materials included small pom poms, furry pipe-cleaners, and paper-towel tubes. They were distributed between the After School Program (ASP) making program, the high school making class, and the middle school Creativity Lab. Tobie and Gary are pleased to see inspired students already incorporating the material into their art and maker projects.


Drew Charter

 Maker VISTA Greg Robbins and Caitlan Cole are in full “crunch” mode for Drew Charter’s DESIGNORAMA next week. The preparation for the event requires Greg and Caitlan to collaborate closely, with Caitlan working on marketing and promotion, and Greg coordinating with vendors and organizations. In a recent success, Greg established a partnership with a local car repair shop called Motor City South. The shop will be a major sponsor for DESIGNORAMA, and the repair shop owner, Mike, is also giving Greg advice about how to make the awards for Drew’s upcoming car show. This sponsorship will further the sustainability of the event and the making expertise is invaluable.

Outside of event prep and planning, Greg and Caitlan continue to find inspiration in the impact of their everyday maker-centered work in Drew Charter classrooms. They share:

“Kindergarteners in Ms. Button’s class 3D printed for the first time, and the students were amazed by the most simple of shapes (square boxes, spheres, etc) that the printers were printing. It was inspiring because it reminds us how amazing making is—we are taking raw materials and turning them into beautiful shapes that should fill us with awe and thankfulness. Kids remind us to be excited about the seemingly mundane, normal things in life.”

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







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