On June 7th of this year, Palm Beach LED received a notice that we were pre-qualified to be one of 100 global Maker Camp super affiliates. This notice invited us to apply to host a free Maker Camp for local teenagers, which we promptly did. On July 3rd, we received official notification that Palm Beach LED would be a 2013 Maker Camp super affiliate. As part of this initiative, Make sent us $500 worth of Maker Camp supplies, which we were able to supplement with donations to Palm Beach LED and Palm Beach LED resources. In addition to the supplies provided by Make and the donations we received, we were also assisted by the following groups which we would like to thank:
- Startup Delray played a crucial role in the organization and execution of the camp by providing physical space at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square and also providing lunch each week for campers and volunteers
- The Scripps Florida Education and Outreach Program supplied laptops and a Makerbot Replicator2 3d printer
- Jump Art Media came out on multiple occasions to document the camp as part of a documentary on the maker movement in South Florida
- We had a fantastic group of volunteers turn out each week (including the Delray Beach FIRST Robotics team!), all of whom we are extremely grateful to!
Our four week Maker Camp has since concluded, and in our estimation, it was a fantastic success. Over the course of the camp, we introduced camp attendees to the following topics:
Week 1 – Introduction to soldering & electronics
For the first week of Maker Camp, we introduced the basics of electronics using conductive and non-conductive dough along with the Squishy Circuits kit provided by Make. We purchased Elenco AmeriKit ‘Learn to Solder’ kits, which included a soldering iron, circuitboard, components and a workbook to create a circuit with a siren and blinking LEDs. We also received Learn To Solder Skill Badge Kits (the red robot seen below) from Make as part of the Maker Camp kit.
After completing the soldering badge kits, the campers completed their ‘learn to solder’ kits. Our first measure of success in running the camp came when pizza arrived at noon. We told everyone to take a break for lunch, but no one wanted to stop soldering!
Week 2 – Introduction to microcontrollers
For the second week of Maker Camp, we introduced everyone to microcontrollers by way of the Makey Makey provided by Make and the infamous banana piano:
We also acquired a number of Parallax BASIC Stamp Activity Kits which contained a BASIC stamp microcontroller, a project workbook and a variety of sensors and actuators. In addition to learning more about circuitry and electronics, this also provided an opportunity to introduce basic programming concepts. During week 2, campers used the microcontroller to program an LED to turn on and off, experimented with motor controls, created a push-button timing game and wired a speaker to play programmed music.
Week 3 – Introduction to robotics with LEGO Mindstorms
The third week of Maker Camp consisted of an introduction to robotics using LEGO Mindstorm kits rented from Sheldon Robotics. We developed curriculum to demonstrate how to use the Mindstorm visual programming interface and used it to program a small four-wheeled driving robot and trebuchet. Completed robots and trebuchets were then tested for driving and throwing ability, respectively. It was very encouraging to see the kids wanting to optimize their robots to drive the courses perfectly and to see basic testing and debugging skills in use as they iterated upon their designs! It was also very entertaining to see robots compete. (See video below of robot self-destructing upon course completion).
Week 4 – Introduction to 3d printers
Judged by attendance, the final week of Maker Camp was the most popular. We used Tinkercad.com to introduce the campers to 3d modeling, discussed the fundamentals of 3d printing, 3d object repositories (Thingiverse.com) and most importantly, we 3d printed a bunch of stuff that the kids designed! We were fortunate to have volunteers bring their own 3d printers to help print things designed by campers. The Scripps Florida Education and Outreach Program provided a Makerbot Replicator 2, Scooter provided an Airwolf 3D, Matt provided a Printrbot Jr., and Pierre brought a Printrbot Simple and a RepRapPro Mendel. All printers were busy extruding plastic shortly after the campers had an opportunity to learn TinkerCAD!
Curriculum for any of the four weeks can be found on our Google Docs folder, located here: http://goo.gl/YI66iZ.