Collab Lab 36: Experiments for Distance Learning

How might students become part of the solution for distance learning?

We’re working with schools on two experiments for the Covid 19 era. The first is to understand what it takes to enable student-led tech support for distance learning technology. The second is to explore how a student led effort might tap upcycled material from industry to create kits and manipulatives for hands-on engineering and math at home.

For this session we’ll give a quick overview of each effort and move to breakout rooms to explore each idea further. Have ideas you want to share, interested in getting involved or starting something at your school?  Here’s your chance.

Join us on Zoom!


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: 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.





Up-Cycling for Maker Spaces

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

MIAD Pallet Party

During our first year of  Collab Labs, we heard that one barrier to more widespread use of makerspaces within schools is the cost of materials for student projects. In the spring of 2017, 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.

Our student team came up with the idea of a “maker box”, think CSA farm box for parts– on a regular basis, educators would receive a curated box of up-cycled material that could be used for student projects.  The content would vary month to month, so every box would offer a new challenge.

Over the summer and into the fall of 2017 we tested ideas for what could go in the box and how to source materials. At the beginning of September, MIAD hosted an event for us where we assembled a small group of teachers and students to sift through a palette full of material from Goodwill’s E-Cycling program. We took apart typewriters, printers, phones, DVD players and sewing machines in the hunt for useful parts. We’ve done subsequent tear down activities with middle and elementary school students with SHARP Literacy and COA Youth and Family Centers.

We continue our work to pull together a network of schools and community partners to expand the volume of material available to schools. We look to build on the relationships schools already have with area firms and at the same time create opportunities to introduce students to inventory and supply chain management concepts.

If you are interested in participating in our Up-Cycling network as a school or donor of materials, are interested in doing a tear-down activity at your school, or are just looking for materials for a project, let us know.

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