Monday, June 16, 2014

Tricia's Summer Camp for Maker Kids

My son's basement lab.  One kid turned the
 corner and stopped dead - "oh god this is
beautiful he said.  I knew we had 'hooked
a new one'.
I think I have to explain the absence - I started getting email about where I had gone!

Well, most of the time I seem to be running an online maker camp for ladies (and gents) who love to embroider.  But in my 'off time' I spend time running my two robotic teams.  It is the summer all of a sudden and my older team decided to get started in May for the season that actually starts in September!  I think they were just a bit starved of spending time together and inventing.

As their schooling becomes more intense, it also has lost that sense of adventure, mystery and curiosity.  I know this to be true as they wanted to start 'roboting' the afternoon of graduation (from 8th grade).  So my house has been full of teens since the last week of May.  It has been quite the grind for me to have them around all day and work in the night!  My house is a wreck.  But as you can see from the pictures - they are having a BLAST.

Conductive clay.  They made it themselves.  Oh god what a
mess.  And they decided to make a double batch when
I wasn't looking - eight cups of flour!
It just really hits home how much of how we educate our
Light up paper airplanes
A boy's dream
Tail 'fire' anyone? We aren't going to show
you how we do this - that is our
product secret!
children has gone wrong.  They all text me at night to see how early they can come over the next day.  They are all standing outside my door the minute I say they can (how many teen boys are out of bed before noon on a summer day?).  Saturday my phone was buzzing all day (please guys - let ME have a day off!).  And Friday on our weekly trip to the local electronic supply house (too cool - so many LEDs and components to figure out what to do with), they bought rockets with their combined change.  So I insisted that they take over the organizing and get a bunch of dad's to supervise them with the explosive
charges (I needed a weekend off).

Well, the group texts went around like mad and somewhere around 11am on Sunday - my son informs me proudly that they have it all organized.  Noon at the Nguyen's house to build!  WHAT??  My stitching day gonzo.  They sent the Dads out for chips and Mountain Dew (they

Happy boys with explosive rockets.  Too much glue.  That
was once a nice dinning room table...
needed the bottle for water rockets in the front yard) and the door seemed to be open all day.    The World Cup at ear splitting volume and enough glue vapors to send us and not the rockets into the stratosphere.  They left at 9:30pm only to return today at noon!

We have been having fun.  This year the research topic is 'World Class' which means 'how to change education for the better'.  They have taken to it with gusto.  My walls are full of paper with what they don't like about school all over it and how to make it better.  They have settled on coming up with a STEM curriculum for kids that emphasizes creativity, invention, and exploration using competition and interactive physical games together.  They spent
Matchbox car + Dremel Drill +
this evening analyzing all the different channels they could get the 'product' out into the public.  Some really great ideas.  Seems I will be supervising some test bed summer camps in my future as well.

As example of some of the stuff they are doing - check out the pictures.  They have come up with challenges to learn different things about electronics.  One was 'can you light up a paper airplane and have it do tricks in the dark'.  Another was 'what can you do with surface mount LEDs, matchbox cars and glow in the
Tick tack toe in the dark with one
of the creations.  Or 'how many boys will fit
into a dark bathroom?'
dark paper?'  I know when things are a winner when these boys are working like mad and having a blast inventing and all of a sudden we realize that three hours have passed without a
A bunch of test bunnies for the paper circuit activity they
invented last week!
break.  We have some really great stuff and already started testing on all the third graders in the neighborhood.

We made conductive play dough and used it to make circuits, electrified a frisbee for nighttime ultimate, and made light-up origami puppets.  I guess it is not a surprise that two local boys beat down the door to join the team this month.

I have to pack Stumpwork kits tomorrow, so I had to tell them to stay home.  I can't risk having someone open their kit and find flashing paper airplanes in it.  But next week, they promise me they will invade again.  If the blog goes dark again… you will know they did!



  1. You know, I wouldn't mind finding a flashing paper airplane in my kit! I wish every kid had this kind of opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time.

  2. Gee, I wish something like that had been available when my kids were in school. I think the 27 year old would be there now if he could!

  3. Those boys, and their parents are so lucky! This is the type of learning that stays with you for a lifetime.

  4. CONDUCTIVE PLAYDOH???!!! Awesome - I'd love to see some of that, or a lit up paper airplane in my next kit!! Hmmm . maybe some sort of led+a mini solar panel+glow in the dark paper to line a secret drawer in a casket?...OK - so it's not what! It 'could' work...maybe...

    Anyway, It's nice to know that if the blog has 'gone dark' it means your home and your life is lit up with the amazing energy that only teen boys can generate...thanks for sharing their progress and inventions - Oh...and it's ok to tell them they have to clean up after themselves or they can't come to play...Elisabeth in CT

  5. Oh WOW ! What lucky youngsters! It is amazing how well you foster creativity in people, both young and old. Back in the 50's when I was a girl that age, I would have love to have been one of these kids. You definitely win my admiration in so many ways. Thank you for all of us. J G

  6. WOW! What a great experience for everyone. Amazing - and looks like a lot of fun.

  7. You're Awesome!

  8. This is absolutely wonderful all around! To have kids so enthused to experiment, explore, and enjoying every minute of the learning process is priceless (and you won't regret a minute of it in the long run). How my grown son would have enjoyed all this when he was a teen. You are an incredible mom!

  9. Your house will be quiet in a few years when they all scatter to college or other adventures. Enjoy them!

  10. You are amazing to do this for kids!! My niece works for The Little Shop of Physic's in Ft. Collin's CO, and is working with schools to get sciences back in there and making it fun for the kids to learn. loved this blog!!


  11. ooooooh. Can I move to your neighborhood and subtract a handful of decades from my ageand...
    I'd bring cookies too!

  12. You are a wonderful creatively artistic lady, so, why should you not have chips of the old block? Congratulations and Kudos to all these wonderful creative kids.