Piedmont Makers

To Promote & Inspire K-12 S.T.E.A.M. Education

Donate Today!

S.T.E.A.M. Grants Announced!

Posted on Sep 22, 2016

Piedmont Makers are proud to announce S.T.E.A.M. Grants for curriculum, project-based learning initiatives, and professional development within Piedmont Unified School District. We see our initial offering of $5000 as the beginning and hope to raise more funds to promote S.T.E.A.M. education to its fullest extent. We invite and encourage teachers to apply for these grants in the hope of maximizing the opportunity for our students to learn-by-making.

With the application posted here, we are looking for original projects that demonstrate imaginative thinking. We are open to applications that include outside experts, additional tools and materials, and training for teachers at every level of the district.

Applications for the S.T.E.A.M. Grant are due October 17, 2016 at 9am. Applicants are required to notify their school principal of the grants they are submitting. Selected grants will be awarded before the end of October.

More opportunities for funding will be ongoing, this is just the beginning!

Read More

Piedmont Post – September 2016

Posted on Sep 7, 2016

by Jane Lin

It’s that scarecrow time-of-year again when classroom parents plead for volunteers to make a Harvest Festival Scarecrow by September 25th. It’s a great way for your elementary class to build together. And, it is also undeniably part of the scheduling madness that comes with the new school year. There’s a lot to organize: a theme, a building venue, the kids, materials, and plenty of snacks.

Piedmont Makers is kicking off this year’s Makerspace series with a Scarecrow Workshop on September 11 at Piedmont Middle School Room 125 from 1-3pm. Come jump start your creative juices before Harvest Festival weekend.

The scarecrow project is a classic Maker project. First and foremost, a scarecrow has to stand up and not fall over; it needs to have character; and it takes some understanding of tools and materials to make it. This fun project-based learning opportunity is the kind of STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) experience that Makers advocate for.

Scarecrows are a big project and the closer we get to the deadline, the more likely we run out of time and patience, and our fear of failure begins to take over. Remember the scarecrows of yesteryear? They have been spectacular, especially the ones that look like our favorite animated characters. They are displayed for months on porches around town. We know which ones are our favorite.

It’s a production, which has lead to a disturbing trend of ever increasing parent-built scarecrows. The expectation we set when we make an adult-built scarecrow is very high. It looks totally out of reach for a kid who has seldom used real tools such as a hammer, saw, exacto knife, spray paint, sewing machine, needle and thread, staple gun, pliers, drill, or table saw.

Luckily, the Piedmont Makers, are here to lend a hand. Don’t misunderstand us, just as parents should not build a kid’s project for them, we aren’t here to build your scarecrow for you. We’re here to support you working with your kids to get the most out of an engaging learning experience.

We invite group leaders to sign up for our Scarecrow Makerspace workshop where we will share tips for strategizing and designing scarecrows and try our hand at building basic scarecrow frames. There are a limited number of spaces so sign up now at http://www.piedmontmakers.org/makerspace. If you can’t make it, keep these three tips in mind for the next time you build something with your kids:

  • Make a kid-centered design. Let your kids decide from the very beginning what they want the scarecrow to be. They must be involved in this step if you want them to feel ownership of the project.
  • Re-use materials as much as you can. Go to Dress Best for Less, the East Bay Center for Creative Reuse, or raid your recycling bin. The class budget for scarecrows can go a very long way with re-purposed items.
  • Let them do it. Believe your kids can use hand and power tools. Show kids how to use a tool safely and then step back and try not to interfere. Try very hard not to say “Be Careful.” Do step in if you see true danger. Don’t cave in if they want you to do it for them. It’s their project not yours. And stick around, they will have more questions.
Read More

September 2016 News

Posted on Sep 5, 2016

Scarecrow Makerspace - THIS Sunday 9/11 1-3pm: Get a jump start on your Harvest Festival Scarecrow!  We invite parent group leaders & student helpers to sign up for our workshop where we will share tips for strategizing and designing scarecrows and try our hand at building basic scarecrow frames. We will provide a limited number of materials, tools and hardware.  Bring materials you have on hand to use and share.

2016-2017 Calendar of Events: Our calendar for the upcoming year is now available as a Google Calendar.  Get ready for a full schedule of Tech Social and Makerspace events including Lasercutting, Pokemon Go! & more — including the K-12 School Maker Faire in April.

S.T.E.A.M. Grants Kickoff Reception - Thursday 9/15 3:30pm: PiedmontMakers are excited to award grants to support S.T.E.A.M. programming for the 2016-2017 academic year to teachers in the Piedmont Unified School District. Please come to the S.T.E.A.M. Grants Kickoff reception to find out more about the application process and discuss ideas.  Applications are due in October for grants to be awarded in November.  Teachers – please RSVP to  our VP Grants Jane Lin if you have not received the Paperless Post invitation already.

PiedmontStore.com Donations: For families who have donated to PiedmontMakers already to support S.T.E.A.M. education in Piedmont, we thank you.  Piedmont Makers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation so your donation is fully tax deductible.  For those who have not donated yet, we encourage you to visit PiedmontStore.com.  Any donation level is appreciated!

21st Century Learning Workshop - Piedmont Makers hosted a 21st Century Learning Workshop on Monday 8/22 with PUSD Administrators, Teachers, School Board members, & parents that was moderated by the San Francisco design agency Method.  We were thrilled to be part of this conversation and we were very encouraged to see so much innovation already happening across the district.

There were 3 main themes we heard;

  • The tension between curriculum and hands-on learning. How do we meet the standards while providing these learning opportunities ?
  • There are very real constraints in time, space and materials.
  • Taking risks can be uncomfortable when there is so much undefined.

Our next step is interviewing teachers individually to learn more about the challenges they face and the creative solutions they are developing around 21st Century Learning. We would like to highlight these educational success stories broadly across the district for the benefit of all.

Have a great September,
The Piedmont Makers Board

Read More

Piedmont Post – May 2016

Posted on May 18, 2016

Design Thinking for Institutional Change
by Larraine Seiden

Over the past few years, there has been wave after wave of curriculum changes related to the Common Core. These changes represent an overdue shift from content emphasis to thinking processes, moving away from an Industrial Age education model toward so-called 21st century skills.

It makes sense that elementary teachers have borne the brunt of these changes, since they are responsible for teaching most of the core subjects. Among many goals they were charged with leading students to “go deeper” into subjects, even though the basic structure of the day hadn’t yet been adapted to support the new curricular goals.

Using design thinking to adapt the instructional day

In 2014, the tri-school elementary principals assembled a task force made of representative teachers, parents, and themselves to address this disparity. They made the remarkable decision to tackle the Instructional Program Design holistically, by using the design thinking process, which is also known as “human-centered design.”

Sally Aldridge, an entrepreneur and fellow PM board member, was an early parent representative for the group. Having participated in the design thinking process on more projects than she can count, she says that the technology and business sectors recognize the process as the most efficient and effective way to grow. Schools are just starting to use the process to effect change and there’s a lot of education needed by school leaders and their communities.

To their credit, the tri-school principals hired an expert consultant from CreatEdu to guide them through the early stages of the process.  By choosing this messier path, they rejected the tendency of most districts to hatch change at the highest levels of administration in a piecemeal way.  Often this leaves those most affected—the students and their teachers, almost as an afterthought.

In design thinking–speak, they are called “the end users” and this process actually also starts with them. In an early step called “empathy,” the design team tries to get inside the students’ experience to understand their needs.  The principals did exactly that when they followed and talked to students last year to get a feel for the flow of their days.

Then last fall, when the Instructional Design goals were being defined, they came directly out of this empathy step and were conceived to best support student learning in a 21st century context. Of course, there are significant constraints to consider, namely time and budget, but all future solutions had to directly support those defined goals.

Another valuable part of using design thinking, and it may be the most confusing to the uninitiated, is the use of prototypes and iterations.   When the principals presented their first prototype schedule last winter, the goal was to present their thinking at that point.

Like a concept sketch, they wanted feedback—from teachers and parent groups. They wanted to know, what’s working here and what do we need to work on more? Then, based on the responses, they refine and come up with the next iteration. Rather than trying to sell one idea over another, that feedback is what moves the process forward. This meant the principals had to be consistently open and responsive to all comments, even when it stung.

So how is design thinking really different?

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford’s D.School and self-described “design thinking evangelist” describes the process as adding to traditional analytical thinking, not replacing it. Now, need-finding comes before problem-solving in a process that is less linear, more intuitive, empathetic, and integrative. He thinks design thinking IS 21stcentury skills in a nutshell.

While the various iterations have been confusing at times and early information was maybe held too close, this imperfect process has given teachers and parent groups an unprecedented role in helping to craft the tri-school Instructional Program Design.  The result will truly be a team effort and it will continue to be somewhat iterative to respond to the needs of students and teachers in the future.

Fortunately, Sally is currently helping infuse some design thinking best practices into the district’s facilities master planning process. She explains that empathy interviews change minds so that goals don’t happen top-down like a “waterfall.”  She has learned that the best feedback comes from individual interviews, not big, public meetings. That way, the focus is on the content of the feedback and not selling a particular idea.

Now that you know how important thoughtful feedback is, please be sure to learn about and participate as the facilities master planning process evolves.

Read More

Meet the Makers!

Posted on Apr 9, 2016

We are so excited to kickoff the 3rd annual Piedmont School Maker Faire on Saturday, April 23 11am-3pm at the Piedmont High School campus! Check out below some of the 75+ projects from Beach, Havens, Wildwood, Piedmont Middle School, and Piedmont High School students along with community makers. Tickets are FREE and available now!

What’s New This Year? Keynote from Pixar’s Tony DeRose, Talks from Cal Professors Alessandra Lanzara & Alex Filippenko, Student Film Festival, Student Bands, STEAM Expo projects, and more!

Hands-on Making!:

Community Art Project
Exploring Natural Dyes
Fixit Clinic – Bring your broken stuff to fix & learn
Learn to Solder!
Oakland East Bay Symphony – Instrument Petting Zoo
PAINTS Rube Goldberg Project
So Sew Station
Wind Tube & Flying Paper Rockets
Wreck-It Destruction Lab – Bring stuff to break & learn

Piedmont High School Makers:

Computer Science Class Projects
LED Wheel
“The Martian” demonstrations by PHS Chemistry teachers
PHS Makers Club
Physics of Alternative Energy Class Projects
Service Learning Student Films

Piedmont Middle School Makers:

“Lucy’s Home Alone” Student Band
PMS Maker Club
PMS Maker Class Projects
Robotic Elephant
Soap Bubbles

Beach Elementary School Makers:

3D Printed House
Cat Tracker Citizen Science
Comparing Burn Rates of Drought Resistant and Non-Drought Resistant Trees
Holding Cookies Robot 160
How to Make Soap?
Lego Creation
The Life of Elephants
Popsicle Stick Bridge
RC Race Dynamics
Singing Glasses
Soap Makers
A Tea Investigation
Troll-Bear Robot
Vincent van Gogh and His Style
What is the Science of Tennis?
Which Liquid Will Seeds Grow Fastest In?

Havens Elementary School Makers:

Flippy The Tumbling Robot
An Isaac Clone
Lego Master Builder
Nails and Screws: Which is Stronger?
Pet Rocks
Pinball Machines
San Francisco’s Amazing Buildings
Scorpion Coaster
Stop Motion Video
Sugar Crystallization
Wind Power

Wildwood Elementary Makers:

Car-Generated Electricity
Dry Ice Bubbles
Model Mania
Solar Still
Squishy Circuits
Team Robomaster
Which dog breath freshener is most effective?

Community Makers:

Boy Scouts – Piedmont Council
Chabot Space & Science Center
CHIME Student Concert
Dress Best for Less
Eclipse Chasing
Girl Scouts of Northern California
Moog Synthesizer
OakLabs Laser Fabrication
Oculus Rift Virtual Reality
Piedmont Student Film Festival
Piper – DIY Minecraft Computer
PUSD Instructional Technology
Suitcase Amp
Tape Heads

Food Trucks:

Streetdog Chicago-Style Hotdogs
Tonli Dumpling
Izzy’s Frozen Custard

Read More

Piedmont Post – April 2016

Posted on Apr 6, 2016

Why the “A” in STEAM?

by Larraine Seiden

Tonight is the first ever Piedmont Unified Elementary Tri-school STEAM Expo! The Expo adapts the traditional science fair format to be more interdisciplinary and process oriented which reflects 21stcentury learning.  Come to the PMS Multipurpose room from 6 to 8 pm to see what it is all about.

Why the “A”?

Parents, you’ve probably heard the acronyms S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M. a lot.  STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, with the “A” in STEAM meaning Arts & Design. When the Science Fair changed to a STEAM Expo, the science teachers heard the question “Why the ‘A’?” more than once. As an artist and art educator, it’s something I think about a lot. It’s also a question Piedmont Makers asked early on, as we debated supporting STEAM vs. STEM education.

So, yes, why the “A?”  I’ll focus mostly on the “A” as visual arts and design, because this is what I know best, but music, writing, and performing arts are also rightly in the STEAM mix.

First, let’s be clear what “STEAM” is not. Supporting STEAM does not mean that other subjects like language arts, social studies, history, and foreign languages are not valuable and relevant to a complete education. It also doesn’t mean that the individual subjects of the acronym are taught only in service of the others.  Discipline-based learning is necessary and art is no exception.

There are several points to consider when we think about STEAM in education. One is what kids learn and how they learn.  The other is the professional world they will enter after their formal education.

Art and the Brain

Education is moving toward more student led inquiry, and the thinking habits of every discipline are critical resources in the student’s toolbox.  To take a couple of examples, drawing is a powerful skill for communication and protoyping. Theatre teaches presentation skills and the nimble thinking of improvisation.  Just as we want our children to be able to express themselves through writing, we should enable them to use the arts to design, communicate, and persuade!

Scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and others use art tools and processes for planning, investigation, visualization, and communication. DaVinci comes to mind as a great example. Many scientists describe their discovery process in creative and visual terms.  In addition to traditional art skills, today’s art and design education also teaches design thinking and the development of one’s creative process. When the “A” is left out of the equation, students miss crucial tools for inquiry and ingenuity.

Recent brain research shows that learning happens best when kids have an emotional connection to the content. The arts provide exactly that, while making abstract technical concepts concrete.Cognitive studies have outlined at least eight types of learners. For many students, art may be their best path to STEM subjects.  Making learning visible through animation, video, illustration, or graphics, may also be many students’ best method for synthesizing and sharing their knowledge in those subjects.

Creativity in the Professional World

Beyond school, STEAM reflects the interdependency of academic subjects in the professional world. This is especially true in the technology cradle that is the Bay Area.  It’s hard to imagine Apple, Google, Pixar, Tesla, Facebook, Adobe and other tech companies without art and design being woven into their fabric.

Many tech companies now have artist-in-residence programs. At Autodesk (who make software like Autocad and Maya), their intentions for residents go well beyond philanthropy. Working at Pier 9, perhaps the ultimate makerspace, the artists pioneer new uses for the company’s products. Their discoveries in turn lead Autodesk’s engineers toward new developments.  In this way, the resident artists are a crucial link in the company’s design process. And as I’ve noted in this column before, creativity is an ability that CEO’s in all industries seek, not just in tech.

Nurturing the Creative Process

The arts provide tools for creativity and STEAM gives it expression through many forms. Robotics, film, built environment, and graphic design are just a few examples of STEAM in action.

When a kid’s creative confidence isn’t nurtured from the earliest grades, they may grow up thinking they’re not creative. That’s a missed opportunity for both personal and professional accomplishment.

Upcoming Events

The Tri-School STEAM Expo is tonight, Wednesday, April 6, from 6pm to 8pm, at the Piedmont Middle School Multipurpose room.

The Piedmont Makers Third Annual School Maker Faire is Saturday, April 23, 11am-3pm, at Piedmont High. The Faire will feature over 75 student and community exhibits. Get your FREE tickets at piedmontmakers.org. We are excited that Tony DeRose, Head of Research at Pixar Animation Studios, will give a keynote talk on “Math in Movies.” We also look forward to live music from student musicians & bands, student films, and food trucks!

Join us for Inventing, the April Tech Social on this Friday, April 8th at 6:30 pm in the PMS Multipurpose Room.  After a pizza dinner, there will be a short fireside chat with Boris Sofman, co-Founder and CEO of Anki (robotic supercars) and Michael Plitkins, an early employee at Nest (smart home devices) with multiple patents to his name. Register in advance at piedmontmakers.org so that we can make sure to have enough pizza and cookies! For $5 a person, you won’t find a better value!

Read More

April 2016 Newsletter

Posted on Apr 6, 2016

Don’t miss these upcoming Piedmont Makers / S.T.E.A.M. related events this month.

Arduino Day! Makerspace SOLD OUT – Saturday, April 2 1-4pm - Piedmont Middle School Shop Rm. 125 – Our Arduino Makerspace is sold out but Havens Science Teacher Mr. Taylor will be on hand to answer any remaining S.T.E.A.M. expo project questions from elementary school students.

Tri-School S.T.E.A.M. Expo - Wednesday, April 6 6-8pm - Piedmont Middle School Multi-Purpose Room - Whether your students are contributing a project or not, we’d love to see you this week at the event.  As students wrap up projects see the STEAM Expo Public Documents folder https://goo.gl/lTTEWL for details.  If you can, please volunteer! Here is the link to the tri-school Sign Up Genius page http://goo.gl/4KnfzS.  Be on the lookout for Piedmont Makers reps handing out invitations to join us at the School Maker Faire to showcase your project to the community at large!

Inventing! Tech Social - Friday, April 8 6:30-8:30pm - Piedmont Middle School Multi-Purpose Room - We will have social time, a pizza dinner, and a short fireside chat with Boris Sofman, co-Founder and CEO of Anki (robotic supercars) and Michael Plitkins, an early employee at Nest (smart home devices) with multiple patents to his name. Dion Lim will facilitate an intimate conversation covering topics such as 1) technology’s role in their childhoods, 2) stories of inventing cool stuff, 3) thoughts on future trends (drones, driverless cars, robots), and 4) thoughts on how they plan to approach technology with their kids.  $5 tickets available here (which covers pizza dinner, drinks, & facilities).

Have a great month!

Read More