Collab Lab 23 Recap

The idea for last night’s Collab Lab came from Chris Willey after a conversation we had last summer.  Chris runs UWM’s Immersive Media Lab, and had recognized that there are a bunch of organizations in Milwaukee doing interesting work in innovation and entrepreneurship at the edges of K-12.  He suggested we use one of this season’s Collab Lab as a way to help educators understand what the organizations are up to, and uncover areas for collaboration.  We started with a list of organizations– UWM’s Immersive Media Lab, MIAD’s Open Lab, Kohl’s Innovation Center, The Commons, 88.9 Labs, Islands of Brilliance, Brinn Labs, and brought a group together to talk through what this might look like.

Collab Lab regulars know that our aim is not to talk at attendees, but to foster conversation among them, so a series of presentations was out from the start.  Since real collaboration requires alignment of more than just short term interests. Real collaboration comes out not just shared goals, but shared values.

This notion gave us both the first step in our process– having participants describe what it is that drives the work they do– and the idea to have Marvin Pope come in as a guest facilitator.  Marvin’s passion is helping others understand and share their purpose, so it was a natural fit. We were delighted that agreed to do so and was willing to work with us to refine the process he’d lead participants through.

Here’s where we landed…

To start, Marvin asked each participant to capture in a sentence or two, their purpose, and the work they do that is guided by that purpose. Participants then shared what they had written, first with whomever they were seated next to, and then within their discussion group.  Here’s some of what participants shared:

  • I’m on a mission to connect math teachers and transform classrooms
  • To facilitate others to become life-long learners
  • To expose students to opportunities and experiences
  • Helping students and teachers rethink learning through new means of instruction and student centered practices

We followed that by asking participants to note what they need to keep moving forward with their work. This too was done first individually, and then shared within the discussion group.  One of the goals here was to illustrate that it is not just educators who need help getting to where they want to be.  Representatives from each of the organizations were part of each discussion group, and they talked through their purpose, work and needs as well. Here we heard things like:

  • A support system that believes in the work I do
  • Teachers willing to collaborate
  • Ideas and perspectives that augment my own

Collab Lab 23In past sessions when we’ve led discussions about how to move past barriers, these focused on the common barriers to common goals of the participants.  Last night we focused on the specific needs of each participant. Participants had been documenting their thoughts on paper form we created for the session.  At this point we everyone pass their forms to the right, to gather ideas from each of the other participants within their discussion group. Once those made it all the way around the table, we let the groups talk through what they had written. The most interesting feedback I got was after the session ended when one attendee, commenting on this process noted “I was expecting a lot of You shoulds.  What came back was a lot of I can help withs.

We wrapped up the process by having attendees jot down what their path forward now looks like. At the end, the form they completed, told the story of the purpose behind their work, the hurdles they face, the help they can get within the community, and where that help will take them. We invited participants to share their story with the group as a whole, by posting their form on the wall, or telling their story on a digital voice recorder to be shared more broadly.

Sorry, no big, overall summary of the discussion to report, just the good news that the process seemed to spark a lot of ideas around how attendees may work together to get where they want to be.

 


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to Marvin and our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Marvin Pope – BU

Tarik Moody – 88.9 Labs
Bill Pariso, Becki Johnson, Pete Prodoehl – Brinn Labs
Nick Grbavac – The Commons
Mike Klug, Tanmay Mhatre, Josh Delzer – Kohl’s Innovation Center
Mark Fairbanks & Amy Mason – Islands of Brilliance
Chris Willey – UWM’s Immersive Media Lab
Ben Dembroski – MIAD’s Open Lab

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

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.