STEAM Education Centres: Learning and Making in St. Thomas and Elgin

This is a guest blog post by Jessica Moyes, Executive Director of STEAM Education Centres! STEAM Education Centres is one of the Library’s Community Partners. Like us, they offer services that encourage self-directed discovery, community maker spaces and continuous learning. See Jessica’s post below to learn more!

STEAM Educations Centres: Learning and Making in St. Thomas and Elgin

It’s hard to believe but this fall will mark one year since the STEAM Education Centres opened its doors to bring new educational approaches to learning and making to the St. Thomas and Elgin County region. And what a year it has been! We have lead some awesome programming, participated in a variety of community events, opened a temporary pop-up location and have some exciting plans for the near future – and, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Programming with the Community

The STEAM Team and guest teachers have designed and lead some amazing workshops and school field trips, both in the Centre and in the community, for learners of all ages on topics ranging from coding, computer rebuilding and animation art using 3D design and printing, to Teen and Adult coding with Raspberry Pi and Maker CNC projects. We also took our programming on the road this summer to a pop-up location at the Elgin Mall! There, we lead four weeks of summer camp for kids – Music Maker Camp and Alien Investigations Camp – as well as a range of teen and adult workshops such as Make your own digital picture frame using Raspberry Pi (shown below).

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Learn to make a Digital Picture Frame using Raspberry Pi – Summer workshop for teens and adults at STEAM Education Centres pop-up location.

 

Making Connections

It was an active summer connecting with people out in the community for the STEAM Team. We kicked off the season with a free BBQ at the STEAM Centre and topped off the night with a screening of Most Likely To Succeed; a film about the future of education and innovation. It was a fantastic evening filled with the sounds of laughter, discovery and summertime spirit.

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STEAM Centre Block Party guests screening Most Likely To Succeed; a film about the future of education and innovation, June 2017
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STEAM Education Centres’ Summer BBQ and Block Party, June 2017

We also participated in the Canada Day festivities in Pinafore Park this summer. Kids of all ages learned how to program, or code, an Ozobot using colours, navigate a Sphero maze and made their own smoke ring machines!

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Kids learning to make smoke and smoke machines with STEAM Education Centres at Canada Day celebration at Pinafore Park, July 2017

Full STEAM Ahead

Looking to the fall, there are no signs of slowing down! We are currently busy organizing our first event called STEAM Mission 150 for September 30th! STEAM Mission 150 is an exciting new event that will test students like never before while honouring the history of the local community, land and Canada’s 150th! This one-day event will see teams of students between 12 and 15 years old diving deep into fun challenges that require creativity and collaboration while tapping into science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills. And, just for fun, a handful of brave teachers will be able to enter the Mission as well!  We invite everyone to join us for an unforgettable day, whether to participate, spectate or volunteer! With Mission sites scattered throughout the community and over 165 students, teachers and volunteers participating, Mission 150 is set to turn St. Thomas and Elgin County into a STEAM learning playground with a new adventure around every corner! For more information or to get involved as participant or volunteer, visit www.steameducation.ca/steammission

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We are also busy preparing our workshops for ages 7 and up, starting September 12, 2017. While most will be new themes, there will be a few repeats due to popular demand such as Kid Roboteers and STEAMKids 101! Stay tuned or enroll now at www.steameducation.ca

Finally, this fall we will welcome STEAM School in partnership with Thames Valley District School Board. This project will see seventy grade 10 students and four TVDSB teachers joining the STEAM Team this fall while students work to complete four regular high school credit courses through the lens of ‘making life better for someone else’. Students will undertake community based projects and work closely with the STEAM Education Centres staff to gain needed support throughout the fall semester. You can find more information on STEAM School at www.steameducation.ca/steamschool.

So, as we close out our first year and look ahead to the future, we wish to express our sincere thanks to the community that we support and has supported us, as well as the St. Thomas Public Library staff. It’s been a phenomenal year and we look forward to meeting more people, making more partnerships, and providing greater essential learning opportunities to our rural region of learners and makers!

Jessica Moyes

Executive Director

STEAM Education Centres

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Raspberry Pi

(Hint: This is not a baking recipe!)

If you, a friend, or a family member has ever expressed an interest in learning more about computing, this topic may be of interest to you. A nonprofit organization in the UK has designed and built a computer that is about the size of a credit card, with the specific goal of empowering young people and enthusiasts to learn and experiment. Called the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the development of hardware and specific projects has been spurred on by an active and dedicated community of beginners, experts, and even children!

The finished product has been available for just under a year now, and the results have been inspiring. Children as young as eight have programmed games, the device has been used as a controller for homemade robots, and people have found ways to make media players and household automation devices. There are many more examples, and new ideas are always being put forward. For ordinary users, the device should be powerful enough for general web-surfing and media playback.

 Raspberry Pi

In order to make it accessible to as many people as possible, the device itself is fairly inexpensive ($25 or $35 depending on the features you want), and can be powered and setup with things that many people have in the home. A television can be used as a display, a phone charger supplies power, and USB keyboards and mice should have no problem working with it. Free software for the device is available from the Foundation’s website, which also hosts forums for users to ask questions and share ideas.

We have all seen smart phones that pack more power into a (slightly) smaller space, but the hardware and software on them is not always open to modification. Lacking a case and having pins for expansion, the Raspberry Pi was built for people of all ages who want to learn and tinker. Initiatives like these are especially exciting for young people, as technical skills and programming know-how will always be in demand. The initial learning curve may be steep for those without Linux experience, but the forums contain plenty of information for beginners. The open platform and active community provide for an excellent learning opportunity.

More information is at the Foundation’s website: http://www.raspberrypi.org/

-TM