I headed over to Pittsburgh for #TRETC18 (Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference ) on November 6 at Baldwin High School. There were about 200 educators attending. Pittsburgh is doing some great work with makers and entrepreneurs.
I drove over the day before because I would not be a good attendee if I had to drive 2 hours at 6 am to get to a conference. I was hoping to tour Inventionland, but you have to schedule tours ahead of time and can’t just jump in with someone else’s tour. I saw them on TV last year, and they seem to have a good focus on design and creation and ingenuity, so I wanted to explore their atmosphere. Alas, that will have to be another time. So my alternative was to take a walk through the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. It was a nice day, actually a little warm for November, and sunny. It was good exercise and got to see some animals. I was not the only person there. There were many young children with their parents/babysitters.
Baldwin High School has just started a student run coffee shop and it looks nice. It is in a former classroom. I wonder how they have an extra/empty classroom? I should have asked them.
The opening Keynote was Michael Moe , founder of GSV Capital investment firm in Silicon Valley, who works with entrepreneurs and startups and educators. He had some very good points about future jobs/workforce and education. It is predicted that the college class of 2020 will have 15+ jobs/careers. The Seven C’s needed for current/future success are : Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Cultural Fluency, Civic Engagement, Collaboration, Character. It was a good talk showing that school needs to change.
The first session I went to was about using Micro:bits by Kriss Hupp and Susan Denning of the Cornell School District. One of the interesting projects they shared was programming the micro:bit to be a calculator so students would learn order of operations. Micro:bits are a nice and relatively inexpensive device to get you started with physical computing. And they have a very good website for support and tutorials. I am seeing price fluctuations online and availability issues. Microcenter doesn’t seem to have it as a standalone. Sparkfun has them on backorder. Adafruit is out of stock at the price that I purchased before ($17) . Amazon has a starter for $25. Part of the allure was the $15 price. At $25 I would look at the Circuit Playground Express from Adafruit (in addition to sensors and GPIO , you get RGB LED’s and a speaker built in). Realize that every microcontroller you purchase will eventually need wires (jumpers or alligator) , motors, servos, buttons, switches, LED strips. So maybe look for kits to begin with.
Next I went to part of the Birdbrain Robotics “Robot Make-a-thon” with Kelsey Derringer. It was a session involving teachers and students working with the new Hummingbird Bit kit (uses a micro:bit instead of an arduino for the controller). I just wanted to fiddle with it a little. It paired easily to their phone app (BirdBlox).
I was only at the beginning of the robot session because I also wanted to get to “Preparing the New Collar Workforce” with Sarah Boisvert and Liz Whitewolf from Fab Lab Hub. There was some good talk about shifting of blue collar jobs to digital/STEAM focus and how the new workforce needs the skills and training found in MakerSpaces /Fablabs. The new workforce needs :problem solving, hands on experience, digital/computer skills, 3D printing knowledge. They also talked a bit about badging / micro-credentialing projects from America Makes, Fab Lab. The DigiFab conference is April 4-6 2019 at Carnegie Science Center
After lunch was a session by Noelle Conover, a mother who formed a charity , Matt’s Makerspace, to help their school District implement #MakerSpaces in honor of her son. They wanted to thank the community for the support during their sons illness and death. She talked about Making being good for kids because it leads them to ask, imagine, improve, plan and create. It utilizes multiple modalities and the Engineering & Design process, is inquiry based and always involves problem solving. Maker centered learning develops : critical thinking, collaboration, communication, persistence in problem solving, personal agency, creativity, flexibility & adaptability, productivity & accountability. It sure would be nice to find a partner like her in Summit County.
I also got to see the new Baldwin-Whitehall Schools Mobile Fab Lab. Laser cutter, 3D printer, vinyl cutter, some nice cabinets full of materials… your basic stuff.
It was a good trip. I met some people whom I hope to keep in contact with to continue to promote Maker Education.