Bring Your Game(design) Skills!

Joylabz is looking for a contract graphic artist to develop 2D graphic assets for games to be used with Makey Makey. This position will help create interactive games that are part of a broader educational toolkit to reinvent how the world thinks about gaming.

Responsibilities

  • Design 2D animation, characters, and environments that are styled for our brand
  • Design UI elements for navigation of game menus including icons and motion graphics
  • Create clean final game art assets and animated content for the developer

Required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • Solid visual design sense with ability to draw and communicate visually (may need to sketch ideas) Have an art portfolio including 8-bit style pixel or voxel art
  • Expertise in Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, and your preferred 3D modeling software. Expertise in managing asset deliver pipeline - you will need to deliver final production assets
  • Experience with delivering 2D assets using web technologies (HTML and CSS) a big plus.
  • Experience with 2D animation, and/or creating art for animation
  • Excellent time-management skills for working remotely and ability to meet deadlines under pressure
  • You work independently, however are quick to ask for help / opinions when stuck or to ensure your ideas are on the right track. We are geographically distributed team... so this is super important!
  • A passion for education or gaming.

Education and Experience:

  • Education: Bachelor of Arts in Illustration, Animation, Visual Communication, or similar
  • 2 - 3 Years of experience in a digital graphic art

Position Pluses:

  • Experience in Scratch
  • Experience in the Maker Community
  • Experience in game or ed tech development, design, and UI/UX

Email jobs@joylabz.com with a cover letter, resume, and attachment or link to your portfolio.

Pew pew!


Makey Makey Leads to Real Life Learning

The following story comes from guest blogger and instructional coach Kristen Owen Beck. Kristen works with the Auburn Elementary School in Auburn California. We love this story because it shows the power of learning electronics with a classroom friendly tool like Makey Makey. Here is Kristen's original blog:

I recently introduced Makey Makeys to four of the classes ranging in grades first through fourth, click here to read this blog. When introducing the Makey Makey, I like to hand the student groups the Makey Makeys and allow them to explore and figure out what to do or not do. Students get to struggle and explore while their teacher and I watch and reply: "I don't know" and "You can figure it out" when they ask questions about what to do. As a result of this lesson, Auburn elementary students had a basic understanding of circuits.

Unrelated to sharing the Makey Makey with our students, one of our school sites has had sprinkler issues in their campus garden. The awesome principal, Aurora Westwood Thompson, who also has her contractors license and knows a thing or two about sprinkler solenoids, decided to come up with a great Makey Makey simulation for some of her students.

Aurora noticed that the Makey Makey alligator clips matched the colors of the wires to the school's sprinkler system solenoids (she substituted grey for blue). She also noticed that the Earth clip on the Makey Makey simulates the neutral wire leading from the irrigation timer to the solenoids controlling the valves.

So she realized that if she had the students set up the Makey Makey so that it would play the piano using the color coded alligator clips (grey for blue), the students would be able to go to the sprinkler system and wire up the solenoids for the different watering stations and get their garden watering system functional for the spring and summer months.

Aurora grouped the students with an eye towards forming inclusive teams. The first group had 4 fourth graders and the second group had 4 second and third graders. Both groups had students with a range of abilities and needs, including students who struggle academically or emotionally, as well as students labeled gifted. All of the students came to the table having used the Makey Makey with me at least one time.

Aurora and her students quickly used the Makey Makeys to simulate the system, then they took that understanding outside to apply it to real life. Each student team took turns wiring the solenoids and controlling the sections of sprinklers. It was an awesome lesson for the principal, Aurora, and her students, who now understand more about circuits and wiring, in a real life context.


Inspiring Innovative Teaching in China

Jed Stefanowicz is the new TOSA (teacher on special assignment) for the Natick Public Schools, in Natick Massachusetts. Before taking on his new role as technology coach, Jed was a third grade homeroom teacher for twenty two years. Jed also happens to be one of our wonderful Makey Makey Ambassadors. Jed first discovered the Makey Makey from our famous kickstarter (video) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfQqh7iCcOU] and immediately saw its potential. “We don’t want to make the mistake of buying tools and technology and having them sit in a closet,” Jed explained about his approach to educational technology. When giving talks on personalized or blended learning and technology integration, “Makey Makey is my go to ice breaker,” says Jed, “but it’s not about the tools. A maker space can be a paper bag, a desk or anything that inspires creativity.”

When Jed’s principal Kirk Downing developed a relationship with a school in Beijing, Jed was asked to spend his April vacation helping to promote STEM learning and practices with two schools in China. The STEM learning event consisted of three days of keynote speakers, workshops and hands on STEM rotation stations. There was also lesson planning time built in for participants. On day three of the workshop, teachers shared their lesson plans.

“Self-direction was not part of their schema,” Jed remarks. “Setting up stations where teachers had to direct their own learning was a major shift in mindset for some. The teachers were not closed minded,” notes Jed, “it was just a new kind of thinking for them.” To foster this new mindset in the Beijing teachers, Jed designed the teacher lessons thoughtfully. Jed began with a challenge to start the lessons, without knowing the answer. He then let the the teachers design their own models for testing and let them build their tower and explain their process to each other. One challenge had teachers design a boat that can travel across a table, then they had to swap instructions so someone else can make the same boat.

Of course Jed set up a Makey Makey station for teachers to explore as well. At this station Jed had the teachers to explore the materials while playing the piano. Teachers were then challenged to think about why it worked. They also played a Tetris game and designed a game controller. This challenge allowed teachers to work on communication, and their observation skills. We asked them, “What do you see, notice, discover?” Jed explains. “This kind of activity works well,” notes Jed, “because there is no language barrier.” Principal Downing concurs, “Makeys are a universal device, where we are able to create connections through experience, before language.”

Part of Jed’s focus with this workshop was to put the teachers into the roles that we ask our students to take, whether it was through STEAM challenges or station rotations. Jed also talked to the teachers about the 4 C's (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity). “Makey Makey is honestly a powerful tool to bring those elements to life for students and teachers. In fact, I've been developing a push to consider Computational Thinking as the 5th C and Makey Makey is a great bridge to that form of literacy,” Jed explains.

Jed hopes to stay in contact with the 30-40 teachers that rotated in and out each day of the STEM event. He also hopes there will be a lasting piece at these schools, thanks to Mr. Lui, director of the large school district, who seems committed to giving teachers new experiences and exposure to ideas around innovating classroom practice. The lessons employed during this workshop were about delivery and learning, not content. The ultimate goal of the workshop was to create a space for teachers to devote time to what they are teaching, how they are teaching, and why. As always, Makey Makey is proud to be part of any initiative that will bring more self-directed learning and invention literacy to students around the world!


Makey Labz Gets a Facelift!

A new and improved interface for all your project sharing and inspiration needs!

We're revamping our platform for Makey Makers to peruse and create project guides! Go beyond the banana piano by exploring guides made by inventors around the world - from powering a reading lamp to making your own computer powered board games.

Explore Makey Makey Labz!


Educators

If you're a teacher you can set up your class in Makey Makey Labz and assign step-by-step guides to your students! Choose from tons of pre-written lesson plans, write your own, or modify pre-existing projects to work for your classroom.

School Support
- Browse through tons of lesson plans created by us and by other educators from around the world
- Set up a classroom with student logins and assign activities, track progress in real-time, and review student work. - Sign in with your Clever account.
- Filter projects by CCSS and NGSS standards
- Create a private activity and administer it to your class without sharing it to the entire community.
- Document your inventions and post project guides
- Show off your inventions in the gallery
- Ask questions and share tips through comments

Here's a screenshot of the guides:


Beta Testing

Makey Makey Labz is still in beta, so there are parts of the platform that might change and improve - we'd love to hear your thoughts about it!
To report bugs or suggest changes, please email labz@joylabz.com


Girls Just Want to Have Fun(damental) IT

Encouraging young women to explore STEM careers continues to be an important goal for many educators and non-profits. But at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, all things IT are regarded with particular reverence.

Xavier College is an all-girl Diocesan school run by the Sisters of Charity. Here, programming is a graduation requirement for all students (it’s no surprise really, as Sister of Charity, Mary Kenneth Keller, was the first person to get a PhD in Computer Science back in 1965). However, efforts to engage students in all things digital continue to be a priority -- on and off campus.

It all began five years ago when the school’s respective art and computer science teachers, Frances McMahon Ward and Catherine Wyman, read the study “Why so few?” by The American Association of University Women (AAUC), which reports that, contrary to popular belief, up until ninth grade girls have just as much interest in technology as boys.

In response to this, the duo devised "Girls Have IT Day"; a initiative for local middle school girls, which sees them supported and mentored by Xavier high schoolers. The annual event takes place every March, and is attended by hundreds of girls.

The initiative has since branched out into a Girls Have IT Camp -- a week long program developed and delivered in a similar way: run for girls, by girls, who use a range of user-friendly technology to ensure everyone can get involved.

“We’re big fans of Makey Makeys, we use them a lot during the event and the camp,” says Catherine. “We’ve seen some creative and original stuff from the students. They come with some great ideas, which we encourage and nurture as best we can.”

Five years running, the tech camp week is the same cost as normal sports camps and scholarships are available. During the camp, Xavier Prep teens are the counselors. The camp director is an also alumna. “The alums are so innovative,” Wyman notes, “they come with great ideas and the near peer mentoring model really works.”

A recent report on the Girls Have IT programs shows that it’s working. A post-event survey revealed that 92% of participants were inspired to work harder in school, and that 73% wanted to participate in more extracurricular STEM activities.

Former Xavier alumna, Sarah Godbehere, now at Gonzaga University, has even put together her own outreach program called Girls Rock IT Day.

“It’s great to see students starting social enterprise endeavours of their owns,” Catherine says. “That’s how you know the peer mentoring system works, when you see women pay it forward.”

Watch Sarah’s Girls Rock IT Day promo video below.


25 STEM Teachers Win FREE Makey Makeys!

We Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who nominated their favorite STEM teacher for Teacher Appreciation Day! We loved watching your videos and have now selected our winners. If you’re one of the 24 chosen, you’ll soon see a message on Twitter or FB inviting you to claim your free Makey Makey.

But, there can only be one grand prize winner; who be taking home an exclusive Makey Makey STEM Classroom Pack (worth $599), along with a one year professional membership to the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) (worth $80), and a school/group membership for their school ($160 value)!

Drum roll, please.

Our winner is...

Well done to all. It’s great to see there’s a lot of love for STEM teachers out there. You guys rock!


Influential Women Speak Up

It’s always great to see a STEM success story. So when we discovered the the following tale on Twitter, penned by Krista Inchausti, Educational Innovation Coordinator at Convent & Stuart Hall in San Francisco, we just had to include it here!

“We purchased several Makey Makey kits to use in our school's Spark Studio. We began hosting Friday lunches, inviting classroom teachers to come play with our new tools. After we demonstrated the Makey Makeys teachers began brainstorming how they could be used in the classroom. Building upon the demo Makey Makey piano project, they started talking about replacing the piano notes with recorded voices.

“Diane Holland, second grade teacher, came up with the idea of creating a huge ‘teaching cricket’. Her students recorded facts and sound effects for each of the insect’s' body parts, wired the cricket up with the Makey Makey and then took it into Kindergarten classrooms to teach the younger students science. ‘Crystal the Teaching Cricket’ was such a hit (pictured above) that Diane was motivated to take this kind of interactive teaching tool to the next level.

“Diane came up with the idea of talking, life-sized models for her annual Influential Women projects. The girls researched, then recorded facts about each woman. The girls built four women all together, Maya Lin, Althea Gibson, Louise Nevelson, and Sonia Sotomayor. The voices were then put into Scratch and activated by pressing copper buttons connected to the Makey Makey. The great thing about the Makey Makey kit is that it provides an easy-to-use technical foundation to build on, leaving plenty of room for teacher and student creativity!”


Mexicali Invention Challenge

Back in February, Tom & Liam (our intrepid Makey Makey Education team) travelled south of the border to Mexicali, the capital of Baja California, Mexico. Their mission? To lead a hands-on workshop for elementary school teachers and makerspace volunteers, as part of a broader initiative to promote STEM education initiatives in Mexican schools.

Organized with support from the US Consulate in Tijuana, the workshop was held at El Garage Makerspace at the Universidad 16 de Septiembre. Teachers attending the workshops then took part in a Makey Makey invention challenge using what they’d learnt to create something awesome back at school with their classes.

Many of the final inventions addressed particular problems, others were interactive teaching tools. The winning teacher received a scholarship to the Institute of the Americas STEM teacher training camp this summer where she can build on the skills and ideas introduced by the Makey Makey Education team in February.

“It was wonderful to see the creativity and energy with which the kids approached the design of their projects, and we were very happy to see the results,” said event organizer, Preeti Shah. “Without Tom and Liam’s enthusiastic support and willingness to come to Mexicali, we wouldn’t have had such a great turnout.”

Since the workshop event, El Garage has continued hosting Makey Makey training for other educators in Baja.


Teaching with Talking Topography

Students at Ekcoe Central public elementary school in Glencoe, Ontario, Canada have been exploring the topographic makeup of their diverse nation with a little help from a Makey Makey or two.

Ray Van Geel is the teacher librarian behind the project. While he’d used Makey Makeys before as part of an initiative to create musical instruments, he saw a new opportunity to explore the technology when collaborating with third/fourth grade teacher, Ms. Pope, to teach the physical regions of Canada.

Students were divided into eight groups; each one was given a Makey Makey and matched with a physical region of Canada. Students were asked to investigate six aspects of their region; which they recreated in Plasticine. Using Scratch, students designed an interactive interface and recorded explanations of each aspect of their region. Each Makey Makey acted as a link between the map and a Chromebook, so that when an area was touched the corresponding explanation was activated.

The project was a resounding success. When the relief project was complete and on display in the library, Ray noticed a greater teacher enthusiasm for using creative technologies in their own classroom. Plans are now afoot to use Makey Makeys in a ‘Communities of the Past’ project for six graders and a ‘Parts of Plants’ project in grade two/three.

“When teachers can see technology in action in their classrooms and in their schools they will begin to take risks, discover new applications, and experiment with new ways to learn and teach with Makey Makey,” says Ray. “I think Makey Makey is the most creative technology tool we have in education.”


Now Available for Purchase!

The STEM classroom pack is now available for purchase at the introductory price of $599.95!

We have created the ultimate resource for teachers who want to bring the Makey Makey into their classrooms! The STEM pack allows teachers across subjects to use the Makey Makey to create physical interfaces to all kinds of work being done on computers. From hacking poetry. to sculpting the digestive system, to exploring art history, not to mention game design and circuitry, you will find the potential for invention is endless!

“The STEM Pack is the result of a year’s worth of conversations with educators about what they would most want in a classroom set. The $200 of free supplies that come with the kit will allow students to complete a wide range of projects. It’s these inventing supplies that will making such a positive difference when it comes to releasing the genius of young minds.” - Tom Heck, VP of Education Initiatives.

The Makey Makey STEM Pack contains:

  • 12 Makey Makey Classics,
  • 12 alligator clips 6ft,
  • 12 6ft connector wires,
  • 72 extra alligator clips,
  • 144 connector wires for the back,
  • 12 Makey Makey optimized conductive graphite pencils, and a super cool case to keep it all tidy.

Each of the 12 Makey Makeys has its own box that comes out of the case containing the Makey Makey, USB cable, 7 alligator clips, 6 connector wires, and how-to booklet.

Watch Makey Makey's VP of Education Tom Heck and Darcy Grimes open their STEM pack.

Need project inspiration for your new STEM pack?

We've created Makey Makey Labz, a platform for people to share project guides and lesson plans - a great place to start. If you want to go further and want training for you or your teachers on how to use Makey Makey in the classroom - we offer Makey Makey professional development.