Brown Elementary School holds its own Maker Faire

Third graders Mac Schultz and Marcus Lowry work on making their straws move with closed circuiting Friday during the Makers Faire held at Brown Elementary School. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Third graders Mac Schultz and Marcus Lowry work on making their straws move with closed circuiting Friday during the Makers Faire held at Brown Elementary School. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Students packed the halls at Brown Elementary School to make race cars out of cardboard Friday.

The school and Berrien RESA collaborated to give students a Maker Faire, which gave them the chance at improving their engineering and critical thinking skills. As part of the “Nerdy Derby” station, students were given a few household items – like cardboard, washers and paper clips – and told to create a car that would stay on a wooden derby track. If the cars fell off or failed to reach the end of the track, students went to work at finding a way to correct the car’s design.

Joe Rommel, a Berrien RESA educational technology consultant, was there helping teachers guide students through five different stations on a rotational basis. Each stop provided different STEM activities for all ages.

In addition to the derby station, others included work through designing items for a 3-D printer, closed circuitry and programing code to make objects move.

Rommel said they tried to find something that would be fun, engaging and hands-on for students, who were dressed in costumes for Halloween.

“Part of our job is to go around and figure out ways to use technology,” he said. “Technology is sometimes about trying and perseverance, so we try to design some things where the kids have to try and get to a product that is workable.”

A Maker Faire is a celebration of the creativity process and coming together to show how something works, Rommel said.

Third graders Emily Mais and Nicole Jarrett create a car with cardboard and paper clips Friday during the Makers Faire held at Brown Elementary School. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Third graders Emily Mais and Nicole Jarrett create a car with cardboard and paper clips Friday during the Makers Faire held at Brown Elementary School. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

While they’ve been planning the Maker Faire for a month, Rommel said it was first discussed when third grade teacher Stephanie Lear floated the idea back in May.

Lear had a booth teaching computer code at the original Southwest Michigan Mini Maker Faire at Whirlpool Centennial Park. It was there she told Rommel they could do one specifically for students.

“They still have it in their heads that they sit down and do nothing but solve math problems all day,” she said in reference to engineering and technological jobs. “It’s about branching out their brains and being creative. This is just exposure. It spurs a lot of math and science conversation that is very authentic. I mean, there might be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs in one of these classrooms.”

Fifth grader Lauren Koch was one of the lucky few to succeed in making a proper derby car Friday.

Her luck was so great, that her car made it down the track on the first try. Despite accomplishing the goal set before her, Koch proceeded to make more modifications to see if she could beat her time.

“I added these rubber bands, so when it went down, just the wheel would be touching the tracks and not the paper clips,” Koch said. “It was fun making this. It was different from what we normally do.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 31, 2015)

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