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WV Maker News 
A Newsletter of The Education Alliance 

Maker Spotlight 
by South Middle School

South Middle School in Morgantown began developing and implementing its Makerspace in 2015. Located near the art and technology education classrooms, teachers are able to take their students to present them with a hands-on challenge that often connects STEAM skills with the core curriculum. The projects give students a tactile expression to demonstrate understanding of a skill or concept.

Our Makerspace provides kits such as Makey Makey and Makeblock robots to help students understand computer circuits and programming. The Makey Makey can be used to create a piano or drum set out of play dough or vegetables. Students can also make learning components interactive and create learning stations that light up or play music. It helps teach the skills of programming and circuit interface. The Makeblock robot can be programmed using Scratch for skills such as line following and obstacle avoidance tasks. These devices give students an introduction to the skills it takes for the occupation of a programmer or robotics.

For example, Mrs. Rodeheaver's English class designed and constructed paper quilts from the novel The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi. Each of the quilt blocks had a designated purpose to show understanding and application of the novel. Quilt blocks included a summary, timeline, vocabulary, recommendation of the reading, and song lyrics that reflected themes of the book. The Makerspace gave the students materials to construct their quilts, room to spread out, and tools to create their masterworks. Other classes have incorporated the Makerspace into their studies as well.

Mrs. Gacek, HOTS teacher, has implemented the Makerspace to help challenge students. "The students in HOTS compete in a competition called Academic Games with other middle schools in the county. One way we've utilized the Makerspace is to have the students create their own board games to help them prepare for the trivia section called Mr. Presidents. Some have created their own unique games, and others have put a spin on popular board games they enjoy. All of the questions they answer are related to U.S. presidents. They have come up with their own designs and themes that relate to presidents too. Most of my students prefer math and reading over history, so the Makerspace helps to integrate multiple content areas into one task. When they are able to design and build, students have multiple ways to actively participate in class."

Library Skills teacher Mrs. Blosser has used the Makerspace for students to build stop-motion animation settings for book trailers. The trailers are "attached" to books using the Aurasma App. Students had to plan which scene from the book to use, construct a set and create a short 2 minute video with the purpose of attracting readers. Other projects in the library include designing, building, and installing paper circuits to light up a book promotion posters or greeting cards, and researching and designing paper coasters and marble runs.

The Makerspace at South Middle School has provided the students unique opportunities to show understanding with tactile skills. It also helps students to see how school subjects blend together for tasks. It has challenged the faculty to implement projects that are low cost and help repurpose disposable items. Students move from concluding that tasks are "impossible" to an attitude of "what's possible?"

Professional Vector Editing: 2D Design Software 
by Leif Sayvetz, AmeriCorps VISTA

Inkscape can be used for a variety of projects and is often used by novice learners. It is open source and free which means a motivated student can install it at home if he/she wishes to continue working outside the educational institution setting. This software has exceptional codecs for importing/exporting almost every 2D file type you're likely to need. It strikes the proper balance between offering all of the power we need without huge learning curves. It may even be used to create complex curves for import into 3D design software. However, one may want to avoid dimensioned engineering drawings using this platform. 

The industry standard for vector artwork is Adobe Illustrator and fundamentally, there is very little negative to speak on. Some of its tools are very unique and the tracing (converting pixelated images to vector images) is unmatched. However, it is not free for educators or students, and the educational licenses, while cheap, restrict commercial use which limits students' ability to market his/her skill or artwork. The Adobe Illustrator learning curve is very steep but if you have the access and knowledge, by all means, use it.

For those who have are unable to install software on their machines (e.g. Chromebooks) there are a number of browser based vector editors. A google search for 'online vector editor' should pull up half a dozen. Their strength, other than being free to use and browser based, is having the simplest of learning curves and as such may serve as an introduction to vector editing. The price for that ease of use is a lack of power and very limited file-type support. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Leif Sayvetz at
Innovative Ideas

Create a micro ecosystem, in a jar, to demonstrate the ecological cycles that keep us alive. This easy, fun project requires a majority of materials found outdoors, making it extremely cost effective. Click here to learn more! 
Maker Updates      

Grant Opportunities: 

The Captain Planet Foundation is offering two grant opportunities for students to engage in inquiry-based projects, in STEM fields, that use innovation to address environmental issues in their communities. Be sure to apply by the May 30th deadline.  

STEM Classroom Grant 
First Energy is offering STEM education grants of up to $1,000 for educators of schools and youth groups in communities served by any of their electric operating companies.This grant will support creative classroom projects within STEM fields that will take place during the 2017-2018 school year. Be sure to apply by the September 22nd deadline. 

Student Opportunities & Competitions:

RCBI Coding Club
The Robert C. Byrd Institute will be launching a 10-week after-school program, open to all middle school students, beginning March 7th. Students will have the opportunity to learn Python, a popular and versatile computer language. They will also investigate the Maker Vault and Design Works Lab while participating in many other exciting Maker activities. Enrollment is limited. Registration due by  March 5th . For more information, please contact Becky Calwell at

Junior Duck Stamp Program
WVU Extension Service hosts artwork competition teaching students about wetland and waterfowl conservation with the winning design to serve as next Junior Duck Stamp. Entries due by March 15th.

An academic camp for middle and high school students designed to provide a firsthand look into a professional forensics career through hands-on exercises and concept-based instruction. Registration due by May 28th

Explore rivers and watersheds while learning about science in a week of adventure. SSCC 2017 will take place from July 17th - 21st. Registration due by  July 1st

Educator & Professional Opportunities:

Join this community conference call as the Nation of Makers welcomes the new Executive Director, Dorothy Jones-Davis. Hear her plans on how she will work with all of us to build the Nation of Makers organization - scheduled March 1st

Join the Share My Lesson Webinar series, a free professional learning event focusing on new ideas for instructional practice - scheduled March 14-16

STEM Speaker Series: Robot Futures
On April 13th, robotics professor and director of Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Illah Nourbakhsh, will be providing a free presentation on how robotics evolution could change society. Click here to register.