Science Center of Iowa Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals come to explore science and technology. To continue the learning outside our walls, we give you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities and in-depth information about science events.

Latest Posts

Jul
1

Making in the Metro: Ames teacher instills Maker mindset in students

Making in the Metro: Ames teacher instills Maker mindset in students

Make something that does something: That was the motto for Teresa Green’s fourth grade students, one she hopes to incorporate in every element of the classroom experience.

For Green, that motto means trading the traditional concept of a classroom for a “Makers Space,” where students own the learning experience through hands-on discovery and innovation.

Growing up, the Maker mindset was intertwined with Green’s everyday life in rural Iowa. With 10 brothers and two sisters, Green and her family upcycled and recycled everything.

“It’s all about learning to make do and thinking, ‘Well, what can we do with it before we throw it away? Can we turn it into something else?’ I think it comes from a creative mentality,” Green said.

With each round of hand-me-downs, jeans and overalls arrived at Green’s sewing station. She examined each pair’s holes and frays and designed a custom patch.

“It was my first engineering feat,” she said.

Sewing repairs led Green to custom furniture refurbishing, and in college, she studied the musical side of Making. Today, she is an instrumental band teacher turned librarian and instructional technology consultant at Ames Community Schools. And now, she has a newfound title for a lifelong mindset: Maker.

For Green, STEM learning is all about encouraging students to see ordinary objects in new, innovative ways.

Take Oral-B toothbrushes, for instance. At a recent Ames Maker Tech Camp, students transformed toothbrushes into whirring robots.

“They took Oral-B toothbrushes and made their own brush-bots. Then, some asked, ‘Oh, Mom, when you’re done with your toothbrush, can I have it?’ It’s that kind of project that makes them realize they don’t have to go and buy toys. They can make their own,” Green said.

Whether her students are asking Mom to borrow her toothbrush, or how to upcycle a beloved toy into a DIY lamp, Green is happy. Inspiring inquisitive, tech-minded Makers is her goal. 

“They realize technology is all around them, how sensors are used to open doors when you walk in or wash your hands, for example,” Green said. “Then they start to think, ‘Oh, what if I could Make this?’ That’s my favorite thing.”

Green invites students to explore Making through fun, DIY toys, but she’s quick to connect every hands-on activity with real-world STEM applications.

Take 3-D printing. Green hopes to give her students the opportunity to explore its practical potential through design and computer-aided drafting activities.

“I'm hoping to incorporate problem-solving challenges into students' thinking about what 3-D printing is and how to use it to its full potential rather than as a cool toy,” she said.

The same goes for educators. As she incorporates Making as an integral part of the entire learning experience, Green hopes to illustrate to educators that it’s not just about cool, high-tech toys. It’s about equipping the next generation of STEM professionals with the creative, resourceful Maker mindset.

“My challenge for the coming year is to learn to make it something that isn’t an extra or an add-on,” Green said. “Making is part of what we do.”

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
25

Making in the Metro: ‘Lifetime Maker’ builds custom circuit boards

Making in the Metro: ‘Lifetime Maker’ builds custom circuit boards

The electronics of Arduino weren’t clicking for Michael Landon’s 13-year-old daughter. He could have handed her an instruction manual. He could have told her to “Google it.” But for Landon, a self-proclaimed “lifetime Maker,” learning is a hands-on, collaborative process.

He built a small circuit board equipped with eight inputs, eight outputs and eight LED lights, and together, they learned to program it using Arduino. Landon captured the process, logging every mistake, triumph and A-ha! moment.

“I make notes, so in the future when somebody asks me how I did this, I can say, ‘Well, I did this,’” he said.

Each scribble added up to a programming book he’ll pair with the circuit board at Maker Faire Kansas City this weekend.

Though he can’t create a custom circuit board and book for every Arduino-stumped Maker, Landon is ready to share his project and most importantly, the process behind it, as a first-time Faire exhibitor.

“I made this circuit board and realized, ‘Hey, this could be something,’” Landon said.

After years of admiring other Maker Faire exhibitors’ work, Landon is (almost) ready to show off his own innovative work. Sure, he wishes he had another week to prepare, but Maker Faire Kansas City marks a long-awaited culmination of his lifelong knack for tinkering — one that started in the ‘60s and ‘70s with his first set of LEGO bricks.

LEGOs led to carpentry, electronics, circuitry and even tech writing. And three or four years ago, Landon discoveredMakemagazine. At last, he had a word for the innovative mindset that had weaved its way through every stage of his life.

“That was about the first time I was able to put a term to what I’ve been doing all my life and say, ‘Yeah, I’m a Maker,’” Landon said.

He now has a word for it, but his definition of the Maker mindset remains the same.

“It’s just the idea that, ‘Hey, I’m not the only one who sees stuff that’s being thrown away,’ and thinks, ‘I can use that for something.’”

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
19

Meet the Makers: Bridgett Harvey

Meet the Makers: Bridgett Harvey

Hi, I’m Bridgett! One of the biggest influences in my life as a Maker was growing up on a parade route in Adel, Iowa, and the transformative magic that happened on the floats with candy, color and confetti! I spent summers barefoot playing in creeks and riverbeds with my labs, Otis and Buddy. Here, I filled my pockets with shells, rocks and artifacts, looking up curiosities in the World Book Encyclopedia. My family encouraged my creative curiosity by providing endless arts-and-crafts supplies, often secondhand from thrift stores and instilling the idea that the box the new item came in is often more fun than the new item itself!

I took my interest for the natural world and my love for creating things on to study at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Here, I continued to care and expand my family of pets, adopting toads, guinea pigs and Lolli the Boston terrier, and transformed my dorm room into a tinkering studio covered in solder, screen-printing emulsion, vintage fabric and puff paint. I developed a strong body of work in fort making, circuit bending and printmaking and furthered my experience with animal rescue and advocacy volunteering with local animal shelters.

While wrestling with a major for my bachelor’s degree, I decided, “I just like to make things!” I graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s of fine arts in printmaking and environmental science. One of my favorite things about Making is the empowering ability to take ownership of a process and the potential to educate yourself and create anything you can dream of. I am excited to continue Making, working with animals and spreading my excitement for the world around me to everyone I meet at the Science Center of Iowa!

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
18

Makers talk project inspiration, the self-starter mindset and more on Twitter

Makers talk project inspiration, the self-starter mindset and more on Twitter

Missed Tuesday’s Iowa Maker Tweet-Up? Here’s a recap of our conversation with inventors, tinkerers and educators from across the state, featuring all things DIY and upcycling! Tweet #iamakerchat every other Tuesday from 7:00-8:00 pm through August 11 for a fun, fast-paced discussion about a new Making topic.

Next time: Join us on Tuesday, June 30, from 7:00-8:00 pm for a discussion about the role of technology in art, Making and innovation!

Making is all about inquiry, so naturally we started with a question:

Why is it important to have a 'self-starter'/DIY mindset as a Maker? #iamakerchat -@SCIOWA

If you don't have the drive, you're never going to get off the ground! #iamakerchat -@Area515DSM

If you're not a self-starter, you probably won't end up making much. So if you are making, you are one! -@MichaelELandon

Makers turn to a variety of resources for inspiration:

Question time! Where do you get ideas for DIY projects? Pinterest? Blogs? Other Makers? #iamakerchat -@SCIOWA

All of those things. Plus the drive to develop a solution to a problem or issue. -@AAMers, American Alliance of Museums

We learned there’s no right way to start a project:

When you get an idea, what’s the first thing you do? Sketch? Write about it? Tell a fellow Maker? #iamakerchat -@SCIOWA

Depends on the person. Any of those things. Some of them just dive right in as soon as the idea hits their mind. #iamakerchat -@Area515DSM

It’s OK to #MakeMistakes along the way, too…

What’s one lesson you’ve learned through Making? #iamakerchat -@SCIOWA

How to bounce back from failures. They’re not the end of the world. And they always make a fantastic story #iamakerchat -@baileymader

Join us on June 30 for techie talk. Get ready to discuss your favorite gadgets and gizmos at our technology-themed #iamakerchat on Tuesday, June 30, from 7:00-8:00 pm!

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
5

Share your ideas at Iowa Maker Tweet-Ups all summer

Share your ideas at Iowa Maker Tweet-Ups all summer

Makers from across skills and interests participated in the first-ever Iowa Maker Tweet-Up on Tuesday night, sharing their favorite projects and DIY plans for the summer. Electronics enthusiasts, artists, sculptors, educators, the American Alliance of Museums (and more!) joined the conversation. We discussed everything from the Maker mindset as a whole to specific projects and individual A-ha! moments.

Here are a few of our favorite tweets from the inaugural #iamakerchat:

We kicked things off with a question… In 140 characters, tell us why you’re a Maker! Why is Making important to you?

I'm someone who wants to DIY and figure out how to fix and do on my own. Passionate about building that spirit in my students. #iamakerchat -@tcgrn, Teresa Green

Then the American Alliance of Museums joined the fun…

Thanks for the mention, @AAMers! What does Making mean to your organization? -@SCIOWA

Big question! Just based on the varied skills and interests of our staff, anything from a stage set to a new garden to a community. -@AAMers

Makers shared their latest projects!

What’s on your must-Make list for the summer? -@SCIOWA

My main focus this summer is marketing a circuit board I developed #iamakerchat -@MichaelELandon, Michael Landon

Art is making. It takes math, science, spacial skills, and creativity to create a pot out of clay. -@AmandaMBarr, Amanda Barr

We learned about the role of Making in the classroom, too.

Work as a K-5 tech teacher / librarian and making efforts to provide making opportunities for all my kiddos and not just a few. -@tcgrn, Teresa Green

We explored Makey Makeys, Squishy Circuits, LittleBits, and Modular Robotics as our 'jump in the water' experiences this year. -@tcgrn, Teresa Green

Participants shared why Making is important for Iowa.

Because if we do not encourage making today, we will have a lack of engineers tomorrow. If I can help, I'm all for it #iamakerchat-@MichaelELandon, Michael Landon

Don’t miss the next #iamakerchat

Missed the first Iowa Maker Tweet-Up? Join us every other Tuesday through August 11 from 7-8 pm, featuring a new focus each week! At our next #iamakerchat on Tuesday, June 16, we’re talking all things DIY and upcycling!

Break out your best Making advice from 7:00-8:00 pm on the following Tuesdays throughout the summer:

  • June 16
  • June 30
  • July 14
  • July 28
  • August 11

Category: Make@SCI