Report from the MakerSpace: Room 1 Spring Roundup


Written by Alison Earnhart, MakerSpace Maven

It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with Room 1 as their engineering and technology specialist this year. Working within the class’ year-long theme of Paper, I was delighted at the limitless possibilities of designing and building with variations of that medium. Returning from my medical leave in T2, the third trimester offered the opportunity to collaborate and learn from the masterful Ms. Kathy on a few projects, and further explore engineering themes with paper as the primary medium.

Arlo’s backpack featured many pockets and durable straps for wearing on his back.

After relishing the creative excitement of building Rube Goldberg machines with Ms. Kathy, I chose to take inspiration from our everyday school experiences and challenged students to design and build their own functional backpacks, purses, and messenger bags using a variety of thick papers. Quality engineering projects always allow room for students to get creative and make their own designs, and also challenge students to deliver some kind of functionality that is obvious and testable to students and adults alike. With the backpack project, students could independently test, revise, and iterate on their designs until they had functional pockets and clasps, and could carry cargo reliably.

After backpacks, we turned our attention to learning about the basics of gear systems

and fabricating our own functional gear set using corrugated cardboard and specially laser cut cardboard. This activity was inspired by the Tufts University Center for Engineering and Education Outreach center’s “Constructopedia”, a free resource that guides teachers and students through building complex and functional devices with everyday materials.

Chloe and Kai work test to see if their gears turn.

On Eclipse Day, we built pinhole projectors out of cereal and cracker boxes to demonstrate a safe alternative for eclipse viewing. Returning to an earlier T1 theme of balance, we next designed and built our own hanging mobiles out of straws and thin cardboard. In addition to building the mobiles themselves, students also collaborated to construct a large scaffolding structure in the classroom from which to hang all the mobiles.

As the trimester draws to a close, we are pulling out all the stops and utilizing every kind of paper medium and all our practiced skills of cutting, taping, folding, gluing, and more to tackle one of my favorite engineering challenges: carnival and board game design! Students are excitedly creating everything from skee ball ramps and ring toss games to tabletop mini golf and entirely original games invented by the students themselves – all out of cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, newspaper, and printer paper.

Rebecca built an extra cool well balanced mobile with 3D shapes.

The students’ creativity never ceases to amaze me, and I am constantly learning just as much from them as they are from me. It has been a lovely first year for me to work with children in this age range, and I believe I’ve developed a new career passion for working with this grade level.