Oh, hello.

photo credit: Bine Rodenberger Winter Wonderland via photopin (license)

It’s 2017.  How did that happen?  With the new year come resolutions.  Or goals.  Or things I’d like to make happen.  Some of these things include writing, taking a sewing class, getting back to the makerspace, and finding the time to reflect on what happens in the library and beyond.

What will probably be the last semester of the maker class started today.  I’m excited about the questions and ideas the kids will bring.

We started today with an overview of the course, what to expect (with the caveat that plans can change at any point depending on what they want to explore), and what they thought they knew about what it is to be a maker and what makers mean to Richmond’s identity.

We did a Think, Puzzle, Explore thinking routine to unpack their current knowledge of making and what questions they have about Makers, makerspaces, and DIY culture.

We’ll circle back to the Think, Puzzle, Explore in a few weeks to see how their thinking has evolved.

A LOT of students are curious about 3D printing (understandable).  The prospect of digging into the DIY/maker culture beyond the 3D printer is quite exciting.

I knitted some things: a blog post in (mostly) pictures

Years and years and years ago when I lived in South Carolina, I came across a newspaper article in The State (or maybe The Free Times) about the South Carolina Knitting Guild.  I went to a meetup (before Meetup was a thing).  I got knitting lessons.  After that, it was scarves for everyone!

I gave knitting up for a while.  Who had the time?  I recently came back to it though, and I’ve been pursuing other textile/fiber related crafts like embroidery and crocheting and such.


Attempting to learn to crochet. Crocheted macarons

This return to knitting has a lot to do with my son and this book of sea creature patterns.


It’s fun to knit for kids.


Angler fish #1


Angler fish #2


Sea star


Eyeless octopus

knitted Hermit crab. In progress.

Hermit crab. In progress.

I’m also thinking a lot about the history of what’s considered to be feminine crafts thanks to conversations with other fiber/textile-loving friends and Margaret Wertheim, who visited The Steward School earlier in the year to talk about the Crocheted Coral Reef project, which got me thinking a lot about STEAM, interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary/multidisciplinary/whatnot studies, the importance of downtime, and the people who encourage and amplify our crazy “What if we did this…” ideas.

Like all summers, I have big plans for exploring questions.  One area of interest is the use of craft for social comment in both the past and present.



How Xena: Princess Warrior started something beautiful and great

The Steward School hosts a Visiting Innovators Program that’s brought in some interesting people this year.  Gary Stager visited earlier in the school year followed by Dr. Margaret Wertheim, who is known for her science writing, the Institute for Figuring, and the crocheted coral reef project, a project which emerged from an evening of sisters crocheting while watching Xena: Warrior Princess and Christine Wertheim‘s simple statement, “We could crochet a coral reef.”

Both of the Visiting Innovators Programs at Steward started with hands-on MakerFaire-like events for all ages.  The maker event preceeding Dr. Wertheim’s session offered the opportunity to make squishy circuit coral reefs, crochet parts of the Steward School’s coral reef and more.

Steward's crocheted coral reef in progress

Steward’s crocheted coral reef in progress

The hands-on event was followed by a talk by Dr. Wertheim with activities for kids in another room.  (Do you know what it means to offer activities for kids and to host events that appeal to all ages?  It means a lot.)

Dr. Wertheim talked about the origins of the crocheted coral reef project, the power of community-driven art/projects, what happens when you have a “science person” and an “art person” collaborate, and gender and technology.  The short session really encompassed a lot of themes and issues that run through this whole maker movement, #makered, and STE(A)M.

Participatory Projects and Community

The crocheted coral reef started over 10 years ago and quickly took over the living room of the Wertheim sisters’ living room.  The reef eventually made its way into exhibits all over the worldSatellite reefs soon popped up all over the world too.

Part of the Steward School's crocheted coral reef.

Part of the Steward School’s crocheted coral reef.

The satellite reefs like the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections reef, the Latvian Schools coral reef, and the Irish coral reef are made by community members with diverse backgrounds.  Some are scientists, crafters, artists, students, and prisoners.  All have their names included in the exhibitions around the world and in the crocheted coral reef book.  It was this insistence on including the names of all participants that was especially interesting to me.  Ownership can be empowering.

crocheted coral reef at the steward school

crocheted coral reef at the steward school

Since attending the workshop, I’ve made several references to “Xena Princess Warrior Moments.”  Wonderful things come out of downtime and those low pressure moments spent with people who compliment and energize us.  Big ideas grow from those “I wonder…” and “We could make….” moments. Right now I’m very interested in being more sensitive to those in my life as well as helping students more attuned to those ideas that may seem trivial or small.  It so happens that I’m taking a Visible Thinking class with a few colleagues.  The class has provided many strategies for making one more aware of one’s thinking.  I’m looking forward to unpacking what I’m learning and how it pairs with inquiry, research, and #makered.

Steward School jelly

Steward School jelly




What’s going on!

We’ve been back in school a week following spring break.  It’s been a busy week.  No easing in.  It’s hit-the-ground-running all the time in schools.  A colleague said over the salad bar Friday, “I feel like I get buried deeper and deeper under work instead of catching up.”  That’s about right.

So here’s what’s happening in senior seminar in pictures!

Sure.  It may look like these guys are just sitting around and hanging out, but I’ve heard actual tracks made in the recording studio (or what is now called the “Beats Lab”).



This paper circuit is a prototype and will eventually exist on canvas.



A Rube Goldberg machine.  Originally the parts were modeled in Tinkercad with plans to 3D print them.  Then the printer broke as it is wont to do.  The students continued with Lego and other found parts.  This Rube Goldberg machine incorporates LittleBits.





Learning about Scratch



Soldering.  Many students have become skilled in the art of soldering. soldering_school


Makings things with Scratch and Wedos.



Heartbreak beats

A story:  I remember the first day of 8th grade science.  The teacher handed each student a ditto quiz with a ton of questions/tasks.  Single-spaced.  Two sheets of paper.  Maybe there were 50 questions.  Maybe 100.  There was nothing challenging about any of the questions or challenges.  However, the teacher said with great emphasis, “Make sure you read the directions before you start.”  Somewhere in the directions was a sentence about reading each question before starting the quiz.  I ignored that.  Reading through 50-100 questions eats up a lot of time.  Why not jump right in?

The last question/task on the quiz went something like this, “Don’t answer any of the questions you just read.”

It was an awful trick that I still resent to this day–many, many years later.

I rarely read directions before jumping right in.  If I did, I would’ve rethought my plans for the “Heart on Your Sleeve” Popular Science project back that I found back in February.  I ordered the necessary stuff from SparkFun and finally got around to working on it last weekend.

Bits and bobs from the "Heart on Your Sleeve" kit.  With some additional things.

Bits and bobs from the “Heart on Your Sleeve” kit. With some additional things.

For about a year I’ve been sitting (not literally) on a pair of sweatbands that I figured I would embellish with sewable LEDs and LilyTinies.  Like most projects, I didn’t finish it.  However, the heartbeat project seemed like a good opportunity to use the sweatbands to monitor my pulse while exercising.  For fun!

But look at this from the tutorial:

To contract the heart muscle and pump blood, waves of electricity spread through the organ. Two electrodes on the chest, one on either side of the heart, can pick up these electrical impulses. (A third—often placed on the right leg—increases accuracy.)

Having electrodes strapped to my chest and leg will make exercising difficult.

But no worries.  Surely sewing them into a wristband so that they pick up the pulse from one’s wrist will work.  Right?

I ripped the seam out of the sweatband and sewed on the LEDs.

LEDs lined up in a row

LED soldiers

I then sewed the heart rate monitor into the wristband.  I sewed it in upside down thought I can’t remember my reasoning for doing so.

SparkFun's Heart rate monitor

SparkFun’s Heart rate monitor

There was also the questions of sewing the battery pack in without shorting things out.  I figured sewing it on to a piece of flannel and then sewing it into the sweatband would work, though I haven’t tested that out yet (and probably won’t.  Explanation follows).

heartbeat_battBefore committing more time to sewing, I wanted to see how things actually worked.  I used alligator clips to temporarily connect the positive and negative to power and ground.

We have lights!

We have lights!

Look!  Lights!  Seeing LEDs light up never gets old.  I then connected the sensor pads to my wrist.  It monitored my pulse, but…..

… when moving, the LEDs don’t resemble anything like a beating heart.

So….  I’m thinking I’ll disassemble the project and use the heartbeat monitor for something else.

I’ve been reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which discusses William Moulton Marston’s work with the lie detector test.  Perhaps I’ll create my own lie detector test (or Lasso of Truth) for fun.


A maker’s gonna make

There’s a lot going on.  Academic Dean candidates are on campus and bringing with them a lot of interesting ideas and challenging questions.  One candidate said (more eloquently than I’m about to write) that she wants students to be dissatisfied with the world so that they are compelled to change it.  I’ve been thinking about that and what it means to ask questions and make things.  Mick Ebeling was also recently in Richmond, so there’s been a lot of buzz about Not PossibleI’ve been thinking about dissatisfaction, the pressure of bettering the world, the TED-ification of things, play versus “purpose” and “intentionality.”

I want to carve out a little time to reflect on it all and write things down, just because I think reflecting/writing will help me figure out some conflict I’m feeling.

But that will come later (I hope).

Maker kids keep making, and this is what they’re up to:

Students come up with ideas to put in a Bored Jar.  There are plans for both a physical and virtual Bored Jar.

Ideas for a "Bored Jar."

Ideas for a “Bored Jar.”

With some borrowed materials from the science department and cafeteria, students work on candied LEDs.

Candied LEDs in the works

Candied LEDs in the works

After re-working her circuit, this student gets the lights for her skyline going.

City Lights

City Lights

A reverse geocache box is in the works.

Reverse geocache box in the works

Reverse geocache box in the works

This student teaches himself to knit while waiting for a model to print on the Makerbot.  A visiting middle schooler (bottom right) looks on.  No time wasted.  Texting not allowed!

While waiting for something to print on the Makerbot...

While waiting for something to print on the Makerbot…

A student has watched a ton of Unity tutorials.  She created the landscape and added her first character.  In a blog post a student recently wrote:

I would first of all like to take the first bit of this blog post to thank the inventors of ‘how-to’ videos for simple origami structures. Aaron Rodgers may be the NFL MVP, but you know what? You’re the real MVP to me.


So true.  Tutorials are the MVP.



Some students have christened the small rehearsal/recording studio.  It is now “The Beats Lab.”  Some students are working with Ableton Live and an Akai midi pad to make some “sick beats.”  They’ve been calling on Bruce from the cafe to walk them through some of the software.  Bruce has mastered coffee and audio production.

In the Beats Lab

In the Beats Lab


Knitted nautiloids–better late than never

Last spring my son was fascinated with the Walking with Monsters: Life Before Dinosaurs series.  The fascination is understandable.  The first episode is full of giant sea scorpions, giant squids, and the biggest underwater pill bugs you’ve ever seen.

I got it in my head to knit him a giant squid.  After a little hunting online, I landed on this “George the Giant Squid” pattern even though it cost $6.  Knitting began back in late May/early June.

I really failed to document this making of this guy, but that happens.  Here are some highlights:

  • Some stitches were dropped in the making of the yet-to-be-named squid’s body.  Also, I’m not sure what I did to totally ignore the directions to make the top of his head.  Oh well.  Next time.
  • One is supposed to knit the arms in the round.  I didn’t, because I found it extremely tedious to knit a small number of stitches in the round.  I sewed the ends of the arms together
  • Because of dropped stitches, there were some noticeable holes in the body.  I patched these as best I could and then sewed an inside lining, which I stuffed.
  • I sewed the two tentacles and 8 arms together and then sewed that to the body.  There are actually seven arms.  I found a straggler on the sofa after sewing them to the body.  Again, oh well.  Next time.
  • My son insisted that I sew the mouth to the bottom of the squid where the mouth would actually be.  I talked him out of this.  I also ignored his request for a beak.  He didn’t seem too put out by it.  Next time.  Oh well.
Yet-to-be-named knitted Giant Squid

Yet-to-be-named knitted Giant Squid

Arms and tentacles

Arms and tentacles

I wish I had taken pictures of the sewn lining and other stuff, but most of my decisions with this project were spur-of-the-moment decisions or fixes based on preexisting knitting/sewing knowledge.

And there’s the interesting part (to me).

I’ve been knitting for about 15 years now and sewing for longer.  I don’t know everything there is to know about either craft, but I’m comfortable with them both.  I have the confidence and an understanding of the language to work through things I don’t know as I come to them.  I know enough to not think twice about veering from a pattern.  I know what makeshift fixes I can do when needed.

I appreciate this agility.

I don’t think the confidence and agility necessarily comes from the 15 years of “experience” though.  I think it’s from having a basic understanding of how knitting/sewing work, what the stitches do and how they look, etc.  I think the confidence comes from practicing and tinkering and making things.

So, yay.  Finished project.  Confidence.  Agility.  Comfort.



Time and space for wild imaginations

I did a double take at my calendar.  Second semester started January 6th, which means the DIY/Maker senior seminar started January 6th.  It seems like we’ve been going for both weeks and weeks and just days.

That makes no sense, does it?

We’ve managed to get so much done, but we really haven’t had that many class meetings when it comes down to it.

What have we done so far:

  • Started class with a design sprint, which involved the building of a paper airplane.  The plane had to have a flight time of six seconds.  Students can only uses scissors, paper, and staples.  To make it even more interesting, each team has a $40 budget.  Paper is $1, each fold is $1, cuts are $2, and staples are $4.  We did our design sprint in a 45-minute class period.  No plane flew for six seconds.  However, a couple of days later a group of boys did discover some gliders on Thingiverse. which did fly for 6+ second.  Perhaps printing gliders from Thingiverse isn’t all that impressive; but having a group of kids who have never touched a 3D printer figure out how to download a file, prep it for printing, and then actually print it was very cool to me.
Paper airplanes

Paper airplanes

Behold, the Tech Zoo

Behold, the Tech Zoo

Playing a Scratch game with Makey Makey

Playing a Scratch game with Makey Makey

Someone fell into a Scratch rabbit hole

Someone fell into a Scratch rabbit hole

  • Started projects!  We are 2-3 days into actual projects.  It’s completely insane.  The class flies by for me.  Hopefully it flies by for the students too.  There are 18 kids working on 18 different things for the most part.  There are some amazing ideas circulating out there too.  I’m especially impressed with Clair’s list of ideas and Emily’s thoughts.  It’s that kind of wild imagination that I hope can be nurtured by the time and space this class provides.

Some random thoughts/highlights:

  • Sam (he’s going to start blogging.  Oh, he is.) has been working on an Omniwheel Robot after learning to solder Tuesday.  He was wiring the motors today, and was frustrated by the instructions. By the end of class he exclaimed that he had things working.  I asked what he did.  His reply, “I thought about it for a little while and applied some physics.”

Maybe that’s insignificant for you, but it’s what I’m aiming for.  I want students to apply what they’ve learned in other disciplines to their projects.

This is my third semester teaching the DIY/Maker course.  Last semester I had a group of kids that were (so I thought) unmatched in their enthusiasm and curiosity.  My current class is diving right in too.  My first class stared at me a lot, but I’m pretty sure that it had a lot to do with the fact that we weren’t in a makerspace, and I didn’t know what I was doing.

What’s challenging is managing 18 different students with 18 different projects.  I think this will get easier as the students get used to searching for tutorials, using forums, using each other, etc.  However, right now it’s too easy for a student to slink off to hang out with  friends or for the quieter students to get lost in the chaos.  I need to improve the dividing of my attention.

Sometimes I’m sure someone will cluck, “And where is the academic value in all of this… this knitting… this magic wand making…  this sewing of LEDs?!”  There’s a valid defense, of course.  But that’s a post for another day.




To the exploration of rabbit holes!

Today is the official start to the spring semester.  I meet with my senior seminar class for the first time tomorrow, and I’m really excited about the potential of the unknown.  It’s a new group of students with new interests and ideas.  That’s exciting stuff.

Bits and bobs for makers

Bits and bobs for makers

We’re starting with a design challenge that I picked up from a middle school teacher at The Steward School.  The students will be designing and making a paper airplane, which must remain in the air for at least 6 seconds and travel a straight path before landing.  They can only uses scissors, paper, and staples.  To make it even more interesting, each team has a $40 budget.  Paper is $1, each fold is $1, cuts are $2, and staples are $4.

Part of the design challenge has them documenting what they already know, what they need to find out, what goes well, what doesn’t, etc.

Students will be maintaining their own domains again this year through Reclaim Hosting.

I’m hoping that this design challenge, though small, will set the tone for the spring.  My goals are for the students to discover rabbit holes, have fun in that discovery, and provide detailed documentation of the explorations.

It’s going to be a good group of students, and I can’t wait to watch their ideas unfold over the next few months.


Ideas in the open

Last night I was at a board meeting for the local hackerspace.  Lots of stuff was discussed: met goals, culture, community involvement, doing more projects, protecting the time required for projects, etc.  I got to thinking about my lists of projects, which mainly exist on my phone (typically always handy for writing down ideas), but also in a variety of notebooks.

Too many notebooks

Too many notebooks

Some of the projects are in progress.  Most are just ideas, because of one excuse or another.  The projects usually don’t get past the idea phase thanks to one obstacle or another.  I thought I’d put the projects out in the open.  It’s always good to be held accountable for things.  And I need to write more.

So here are the ideas, progress, and reasons I may feel intimidated by said ideas.  Feel free to provide suggestions, tips, information, etc.:

The Project List Made Public

1.  Zombie apocalypse novel (short story/novella) set at a zombie survival training camp

  • I started this idea for NaNoWriMo 2014, because I don’t write enough.  When it’s time to write something, I feel rusty, awful, inarticulate, and slow.  I’m also forgetting grammar rules.
  • I gave up on this idea about a week into NaNoWriMo, which is usually when I give up on NaNoWriMo efforts.  My thinking:  (a) Why am I doing this again?  (b) Are there better ways to spend my time?  (c) Yes, there are other things I could be making and/or doing.  (d) I wish I could draw, because this would make for a great comic.  (e)  I should team up with my husband.  He can draw.

See how I forked that incomplete project into another project?  Pretty neat, huh?

2.  Zombie apocalypse comic set at a zombie survival training camp

3.  Whimsical Seussian birdhouse

  • What?
  • I’ve spent some time in the Hack.RVA FabLab.  I’ve used the drill press, band saw, and scroll saw.  I haven’t used them very well.  I happened to notice that we have the aforementioned tools in the wood shop at school.  So convenient!  I told one of the keepers of the shop that I wanted to learn to use some of the tools.  “What do you want to make?” he asked.  Why not make a whimsical Seussian birdhouse?  I also figured this project would be a good excuse for getting back to the CAD Dojo.
  • I haven’t touched this project, because of time (lack of) and the mild intimidation I feel toward AutoCAD.

4.  Jamie Lee Curtis’s embroidered face (in progress)

Embroidering Jamie Lee Curtis's face

Embroidering Jamie Lee Curtis’s face

  • This one is in the works.  The early works, but the works all the same.  A couple of years ago, Diana Rupp visited Fountain Books in Richmond.  I bought the Embroider Everything Workshop book, which I touched once in two years.  Embroidering Jamie Lee Curtis is a good project for practicing stitches for another next project….

5.  “We Live in a Heroic Age” embroidered on something

  • A story I shared recently: “Up until July 1st, there was a guy named D—- worked at school.  He is an awesome human being.  Creative, funny, a holder of big, exciting ideas, a Harvard grad, but you’d never know it, because he had a way of talking to everyone about anything and making people feel comfortable regardless of their background.  D—- went to be head of a school in horse country.  I was talking to a former English teacher who is now the head of the lower school at another local independent school.  She tells me about D—- visiting a year ago or so.  There talking about serious matters as people sometimes do.  He grabs her hands in his and says, “S—-, we live in a heroic age.”
  • Have truer words been spoken?

6.  Tumblr of Polaroid selfies

  • Does this already exist?  Surely it does.  I should search for it, but not right now, because I am busy.
  • Polaroid selfies are a thing.  I’m sure of it.  The selfie wasn’t born with the cell phone.
  • How does one create a submission form using Tumblr? (I don’t have to use Tumblr.)
  • How does one weed out photos dressed in an Instagram filter/frame?

7.  Y’all gonna make me lose my mind (in progress)

Cross stitched lyrics

Cross stitched lyrics

You will find lyrics to this DMX song ALL over the Internet.

Proving my point

Proving my point

See.  Mine will be special though.  It will eventually have sewable LEDs and a LilyTiny.  It will be amazing.  Also, I have three words for you: sewable LED sequins.


8.  Knitted bandolier for things you need to carry

  • I’m not even sure where to go with this.  Crocheting may be a better choice.  Are crocheted things usually woven tighter?

This kid has a bandolier for snacks and toys.  It’s cool, but a knitted bandolier would be cooler.  Maybe.

This child featured at http://www.made-by-rae.com/2011/03/guest-tutorial-snack-bandolier/ has a bandolier.  We should all have bandolier.

This child featured at http://www.made-by-rae.com/2011/03/guest-tutorial-snack-bandolier/ has a bandolier. We should all have bandolier.

9.  Script for a horror movie called Hacker Space (inspired by the 1986 classic, Chopping Mall)

10.  A great American novel told through the flotsam and jetsam one may obtain through a network hack (inspired by the Sony hack).  Emails, names of folders and folder contents, movies, pictures, memos, calendars, etc. etc.

  • This would make for a great exquisite corpse.  Anyone want to collaborate?

That’s it.  Or at least those are the things that have been written down.