Rube Goldberg Parts Giveaway

The highest form of recycling is reuse… in a Rube Goldberg Machine

Participating in STEM Forward’s Rube Goldberg Competitions? Looking for ideas and/or parts for your project? With our partners in this event, we’ll be giving away both.  We’ll also have equipment you can take apart to find what you are looking for.  Join us on Saturday March 10th in MIAD’s Student Union between 10 am and 1 pm.

  • Gears
  • Motors
  • Rods
  • Tubing
  • PVC Pipe
  • Wheels
  • Springs
  • Hinges
  • Magnets
  • Linkages
  • Parts from old typewriters and telephones
  • Weird stuff that someone found and thought might be useful to someone someday


Participating Organizations:

This event is free, but registration is required

Collab Lab 16: Recap & Notes

First, a bit of background…

In our conversations around makerspaces over the past year and half, we’ve heard several concerns around the cost of materials for student projects, and the effort involved to secure material donations.

Schools need material for student projects but:

  • They have limited budgets
  • It’s time consuming to track down potential donors
  • They can’t always find donors for what they need

There are a parallel set of concerns on the industry side. Companies are willing to donate material for use in schools but:

  • They don’t know always know what is useful
  • They don’t know who needs it
  • They don’t have a simple means to do so

We started exploring a model for getting excess material from industry available for use in area schools last January when we partnered with Betty Brinn to sponsor a challenge through The Commons.  That work continued over the summer and fall as we experimented with pulling equipment from Gooodwill’s E-Cycling stream for tear down events to recover useful parts.

The challenge of getting excess materials to educators has been addressed in the Bay Area through a non-profit called the Resources Area For Teaching (RAFT).  While they do a great job at pulling material in and packaging it up, the relationships that develop with donor companies are with RAFT.  Given all the efforts we see to help schools develop relationships with area firms and career based learning experiences (CBLEs), we see that as the wrong model for Milwaukee.

We’d like to see schools use up-cycling as another point of engagement with the companies around them.  The idea is to develop a network exchange model, where participants have access to materials their counterparts are able to pull in. That network could include not just K12 schools, but libraries, museums, and other organizations who can provide or use up-cycled materials for student projects.

In a network model, we need a way to create a view of inventory that is spread across nodes.  It turns out that a couple of the leading thinkers on network resource planning live in western Wisconsin. They have developed an open source platform that facilitates the kind of network we envision.  We’ve paired them up with a team of MSOE students who are working to tailor the application to see how it would work for us.  We’re starting with the simple stuff– let me see who is in the network, and what is available.

The model we proposed looks like this:

  • Non-Profit consortium
  • Supported by membership fees
  • Members issued credits used to purchase material
  • Members set pricing (in credits) for material/services they offer
  • Consortium sets membership fees/credit pricing
  • Supported by open source NRP platform

And now, the recap…

Up-cycling discussion at Collab Lab 16During Collab Lab 16, we walked participants through our model and had them beat up the idea in both small group discussions and a sharing out of key points to all participants.

Participants listed the following as key questions/concerns for each player in the model:


  • Liability for downstream use
  • Transportation/Logisticcs
  • Visibility of need — how do we know who needs what?
  • Impact on student learning

Aggregators/Distributors of Donated Material

  • Liabilty
  • Compensation
  • Sustainable model
  • Space limitations within schools


  • Getting the right stuff
  • Equitable cost structure
  • Ensuring equal access
  • Growing the network/community collaboration (share recipes)

We then prompted the discussion groups to think through experiments that could help validate potential solutions to these concerns.  That generated:

  • A commitment from Digital Bridges to provide laptops for a tear down event at one of the schools participating, and to document the lessons learned from the process.
  • Involve students in understanding how to acquire donated material by having them explore potential relationships with area firms.
  • Start the network, learn and grow:
    • Start with a simple catalog
    • Let participants work out transportation of materials
    • Skip the distributor role for now
    • 4 column spreadsheet for catalog
    • Promotion to potential network nodes
    • Communicate to actual users.
    • Next Steps

Quick & Dirty Has/Wants Directory

We like the idea of prototyping with a shared spreadsheet that can serve as a directory of folks at schools and other organizations that have material or skills that may be useful to others, or have something they are looking for and could use help finding it.   Here it is: https://tinyurl.com/y7uas8h3

Feel free to add/edit/share.  We added attendees from schools as editors, but the link is set to view only for everyone else.  If you’d like access, let us know.

School/Donor Interviews

We also want a better understanding of how schools work with companies who make material donations on an ongoing basis.  If you have a such a relationship, we’d like to sit down with you and your contact at the company to walk through your current process, talk through what works, and what gets in the way, and what would help make the process better.  If you’d like to bring along a student who is, or would like to be involved in the process, we’d more than welcome that.  We have time to schedule six of these discussions between now and the first week of March.  If you’d like to be included, let us know.


    Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space, and to everyone who joined us for the insight they brought to the discussion.  We had several folks from outside of K12 join us (thank you). For those who asked how you could find them, here you go:

    Rachel Arbit — Senior Director of Programs, SHARP Literacy

    Ben Dembroski — Open Lab Manager, MIAD

    Kelly Ellis — CEO, Einstein Project

    Jeff Hanson — Executive Director, Digital Bridge

    Lisa Perkins — Re-Creation Station

    Owen Raisch — Associate Director, Student Run Business Program, Marquette University




    Collab Lab 16: Up-cycling for Makerspaces/Fab Labs

    Collab Lab 16: Up-cycling for Makerspaces/Fab Labs

    What if firms and organizations that have excess material could get it to schools that could use it?

    In our Collab Labs focused on makerspaces last year, the cost of materials for student projects was consistently raised as a barrier. Last spring, in partnership with the makers from the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, we sponsored an entrepreneurial challenge through The Commons to look for an up-cycling model that could work for Milwaukee area schools. We’ve busy since then, validating assumptions and trying things out at a small scale. Now it’s time to beat up the idea some more.

    We’ll take you through what we’ve been up to, what we think a model might look like, and look for your input and ideas that can get us to a model that works for you. One that:

    • Expands the volume of material available to schools
    • Strengthens connections between schools and local firms
    • Simplifies the donation process for firms
    • Creates new opportunities for authentic learning experiences for students

    Come share ideas with your colleagues at public, private, and charter schools from across greater Milwaukee, as well as some folks outside of K12 who have a role to play.



    5:30 – 6:00 Grab something to eat and drink, say hello
    6:00 – 8:30 Let’s figure out how to make this work!

    Food and beverage will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

    The Collab Lab will be held in the innovation space at Ward 4. Space provided courtesy of The Commons.

    Laying the groundwork for Forensic Illustration

    Sometimes things just seem to fall into place

    Over the summer we took a group of makers from area schools, Betty Brinn, and MIAD down to Goodwill’s E-Cycling facility for a tour of the facility and to do a bit of shopping.  After seeing the kind of material that comes through the E-Cycling program, we sat down with their folks to talk through the types of equipment that would have parts that could be useful to makers.  It didn’t take much time for Goodwill to set aside a pallet full of material for us to play with.

    In August we held a pallet party at MIAD for a small group of educators and students to take apart equipment (typewriters, sewing machines, DVD players, old phones, etc.) that had come through Goodwill’s E-Cycling program.  The goal was to find the parts that would be useful in school makerspaces and return the un-used material to Goodwill’s recycling stream.  At the time, Ben Dembroski, our host at MIAD, suggested that it would interesting to see if we could engage Milwaukee area students to document how to take different pieces of equipment apart and where the useful parts are.

    In September we took the equipment we had left to Maker Faire where we were mobbed for three days by kids wanting to take stuff apart. A number of educators who stopped by the booth asked if we could do something like this at their school.

    In October we connected with Sharp Literacy, a local non-profit that uses the visual arts to build literacy and math skills.  Some of the schools Sharp is working in are looking at ways to incorporate makerspace activity.  They were intrigued by the idea of having students take apart equipment and illustrate it’s function within the device. AKA Forensic Illustration, AKA the first installment of Ben’s student-produced guide for how to take things apart.

    We brought everyone together over lunch at MIAD and hatched a plan. We  bring the equipment, MIAD provides student interns to help coach tear-down and illustration work, Sharp Literacy opens time in their program for the effort and works with the students to guide the process. We hope to cap off the project with a tour of at MIAD where students can show off their work. Useful parts can stay at the school or go to another school that can use them; the rest get recycled.

    Last Tuesday we went out to Thurston Woods where students took apart DVD drives, a circular saw, printer, keyboard, camera, and a few other odds and ends in our collection.  Today we were out at Browning Elementary to do more of the same.  We were thrilled to see the students dive in and work together with little more instruction than “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey”.

    We knew from our experience at Maker Faire that students can get deeply engaged taking things apart.  Our goal for these two sessions was to get a sense of the time required to take apart different pieces of equipment, and what the students found most interesting.  We’ll use what we’ve learned so far to craft the approach we take when we kick off the forensic illustration project next semester.





    Recap: MJDS Innovation Hub tour

    Tour Q & A
    Questions from participants on the wall of the Big Idea Room.

    A big thanks to Brian King for opening up the MJDS Innovation Hub for our visit and willingness to entertain all questions that could fit on the wall.

    Thanks also to Quentin Allums from Mad Genie who came out before the tour with his 360° camera.  Quentin showed a group of MJDS students how to capture still and video images for video and VR and with some occasional advise, turned them loose to capture the Innovation Hub.  A first look at what they produced is here:


    Makerspace/FabLab Tours

    One of the ideas that came out of our Makerspace/FabLab workgoup was to set up a series of tours to area Makerspaces/FabLabs. Tours would be structured to facilitate an exchange of ideas about effective use of a Makerspace/FabLab with the added context of the space within which those activities may occur.  Below is a description of what we are thinking.

    If you are interested, let us know, we’d like to get started this spring.


      Tour participants have a chance to visit Milwaukee area Makerspaces/FabLabs at area schools and outside organizations. This provides a first hand look at how the space is organized and a chance to hear from the host about the types of projects they run, and challenges they face.


      Tours would happen once per month during the week after school– 4:00 to 6:00 PM. Tours would run during the school year (Sept. through May).


      Learn Deep will coordinate the tour schedule with schools and outside organizations interested in hosting, and handle registration for each tour. Participants will provide their own transportation to host sites.


      Visits will follow a standard format so that participants have a sense of what to expect. The agenda will include:

      • A tour of the space
      • Demonstration of one or more projects that are underway or have been completed using the space
        • Bonus points if students lead the demonstration
        • Bonus points if there is a hands on opportunity for participants
      • A chance for the space host to solicit ideas from tour participants about options to address issues or opportunities the host may have in making effective use of their facilities.

      Hosting a Tour

      The tour host will determine how many attendees they can reasonably accommodate.  Learn Deep will work with those interested in hosting a tour to schedule tour dates.

      Makerspace/FabLab Workgroup: Discussion Notes

      The first meeting of our makerspace/FabLab workgroup was held Tuesday evening at Ward 4.
      We did a quick review of concerns, captured a vision of where we would like to head in a lean canvas, and talked through some ideas for how we might help move things along.


      • Physical space
      • Culture
      • Marketing the school
      • Process/problem solving
      • Impact is longer term
      • How do we sell [the idea of a maker space] to the community
      • Lack of tech-ed teachers
      • Distributed ownership of space– e.g. how do we get teachers to think of it as “theirs”
      • Who is coordinator/does this need to be an FTE?
      • Leadership support
      • Time commitment to coordinate use of space
      • Defining a clear purpose for the space
      • How to make the transition [from the current model of teaching]
      • How to capture evidence of learning
      • Resources — materials and equipment
      • Project Ideas
      • Lack of professional development opportunities [for teachers to become comfortable with space/projects.
      • Ability to respond to needs of business community
      • Community Access


      School of the 21st Century


      • I don’t understand why school needs to change
      • I am afraid our current approach does not prepare kids for life in the future
      • My child is bored at school
      • I’m not seeing the return on my tax investment
      • I don’t know how to create a schedule to accommodate this change

      • Clear vision
      • Curriculum
      • Makerspace/FabLab
      • Staff aligned with goals of school
      Value Proposition
      Our solution enhances student engagement which results in [graduates] that are highly functional.


      We develop our students to solve problems no one has considered yet.

      Unique Advantage

      • Connection to M7
      • Willingness to collaborate
      • Strong art & tech programs
      • Leadership
      • Unique DNA (culture)

      • Students
      • Community
      • Business
      • Parents
      • Tax payer
      • School Leaders

      • # people surveyed
      • Engagement measure
      • Program engagement

      • Social media
      • Website
      • Parent night/events
      • Business/Community meeting
      • Showcase
      • Traditional Media
      Cost Structure

      • Equipment
      • Remodeling
      • Teacher re-training
      • Staffing
      • Materials
      • Collaboration

      • Quality graduates
      • Engaged students
      • Improving community
      • Teacher fulfillment


      Workgroup ideas to move towards vision

      Makerspace/FabLab tours

      • After school
      • Show what I’m working on
      • Chance to ask for help/ideas
      • Visits to makerspaces in both schools and outside organizations


      On-line Tools for Sharing

      • Ask for help
      • Share project ideas (Moodle)
      • Slack


      Dream Lab Workshop

      • Weekend or during summer
      • Design your dream makerspace/FabLab


      Build Curriculum Workshop

      • Summer bootcamp
      • Work as team to design makerspace/FabLab curriculum/projects
      • 2-4 days with coaching

      2023-24 Collab Labs

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