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The Moreau Catholic Maker Lab capitalizes on the maker faire movement.
Maker Lab spurs creativity at Moreau
Creating functional objects using today's technology is empowering students' creativity at the MCHS Maker Lab that has taken over the library's second-floor balcony at Moreau Catholic High School.
Learning by doing is the concept behind this latest endeavor, whether students are building a robot that can carry items, programming LED lights on a costume or discovering the capabilities of a 3D printer.
The Maker Lab is accessible to students regardless of what class they are taking, bringing more of the technology you traditionally find in makerspaces together in one location, expanding the makerspaces already in place at Moreau Catholic including robotics, art and theater classes, according to Librarian Jessica Simons.
Capitalizing on the maker movement and maker faires that have swept across the United States including a stop at the White House, MCHS has designated a place "where students problem find and then problem solve," said Anne Arriaga, head librarian. Students learn the difference between just problem solving and actual problem finding. Unlike a traditional math class where students are solving the pre-written problems with known formulas or properties, students in a maker lab have to explore and discover, experiment and develop their own working knowledge of how things work.
"We've all experienced how much better we retain lessons we learn through play and interaction than those we encounter through rote learning" said Shawna Martin, director of technology.
With the use of the Raspberry Pi, students are shown the inner workings of the computer. The computer's operating system isn't masked, but rather every coding line is shown when the computer starts up. The students learn what the computer has to do in order to work.
Another lesson to be learned is that there is value in both achievement and failure, Arriaga said, referring to the Moreau Explorers Summer Academy where students begged their teacher, Paul McKenna, to let them stay in the Maker Lab so they could take more time to figure out what they needed to do to successfully program a set of green and gold LED lights to blink on an Arduino board.
Students are also learning about innovative uses of technology that have potentially greater social justice benefits. In the Robotics class, students study such practical applications as prosthetic limbs and personal assistive robots. "In the Maker Lab, students have the opportunity to further build on these ideas in different formats," said computer teacher Gary Gongwer.
The equipment includes Arduinos, which can be programmed to do various functions and are used in robotics; gaming components, such as the Makey Makey; Snap Circuits and Raspberry Pi, as well as a 3D printer. Students interested in working in the Maker Lab, which is open 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., can be certified in each of the specific pieces of equipment.
"The challenge is getting everyone's attention," Simons said, "and educating people about what is up here in the library, and teaching students how to use it."
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