AMES–Students at Edwards Elementary School are discovering at an early age that Imagination combined with knowledge and resources can lead to innovation. They’ve worked for the past two months learning science, technology, engineering and computer basics for research, development and design. After presenting their projects at the school’s first ever FAB Faire May 17, some of them are already envisioning what they want to be when they grow up.
Third grade students Davison Juhnke and Colin Wellman, for example, are setting their sights on careers in engineering, based on their success building an electronic drumset. Their teammate Mahad Mian sees the potential “to own businesses.”
Teacher Teresa Green said third grade students used an invention kit called a MaKey MaKey to learn basic circuitry and create a unique project.
“The assignment I proposed was to use the Makey Makey—which turns everyday objects into touchpads—and the conductive material of their choice to create an alternative input device for their computer.”Colin said, “I learned that aluminum foil is conductive, so we used that to make our drum set.” Connected to the Makey Makey set and the Scratch software program, the aluminum foil drumsticks and drum heads demonstrated the Makey Makey’s capability to work with computer code software, Green said.
“Students worked with Scratch earlier in the year as an introduction to computer programming, learning to write the code in Scratch and then wire up the MaKey MaKey to serve as the controller,” she said.
Adapting a concept from Cool Math for Kids, an online program, Lizzy Witcher and Sammy Hernandez, also in third grade, used the MaKey MaKey to combine math practice with physical activity in a foot-pad-operated math game.
“We decided feet were as good as hands for pressing buttons,” Sammy said.
Learning to troubleshoot design flaws was also an objective of the assignment, Green said.
Lizzy said she and Sammy figured out they needed to use alligator clips to achieve conductivity, for example.
Green said first and second grade students focused on research and design applying Newtonian physics and using basic materials like recycled cardboard.
Will Stevens, in second grade, created a ski ball arcade game from recycled cardboard. After he conducted research at a local arcade, he put his design prototypes through several revisions, with help from his dad, before he got the angles and proportions just right.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” he said.
Green said fourth graders worked with more advanced circuitry tools and fifth grade students worked with modular robotics.
A highlight of the evening was a presentation by the Junior First Lego League teams, she said.
Minigrants provided by the Ames Education Foundation helped fund the projects.