Mini-Exhibit Kick Off and Marble Machine Remix

This weekend a group of teachers from Lodestar Charter School, WICO staff and some critical friends gathered at the Maker Ed Community Studio to kick-off the second round of the Cognizant “making the future” grant project to build a set of mini-exhibits to use in a school settings.

The goal of this project is to prototype and share ideas for affordable and assecible versions of playful open ended exhibit like experiences that can be built by teachers. These exhibits can be used either in a free makerspace time or can be integrated into curriculum spanning from STEM to art to language skills. Last year we constructed and tested a raspberry pi stop motion animation rig and a motion boards set.

As well we’re hoping to develop and share a model for how schools, outside organizations and guest makers/artists can collaborate to create innovative learning experiences.

For our kickoff meeting this weekend we hoped to hear ideas about the expeditionary learning projects that the teachers had designs, imagine ways the mini exhibits could engage the kids, try an tinkering activity together and discuss the design elements and work on a first draft of a framework for constructing the elements.


To start off the day we played a bit with the motion machines, introduced ourselves and got an quick over view of the project. Then we spent some time with big paper and colorful markers thinking about possible connections to this year’s projects that included creating community murals, building aquaponic systems, toys, ugly dolls and solar energy.

For the hand-on portion of the workshop, we started working on a version of marble machines on chairs inspired by a workshop that Samar and May led at ecsite conference a couple years ago. This was the first time that I had tried this with other people and I wanted to explicitly share a new idea and get feedback from the group.

I made an example run with paper towel tubes, honeycomb cardboard, sno-cone holder, paper espresso cups, boba straws and lots of masking/gaffers tape.

I was really impressed by the imagination and innovation that the group demonstrated with their creations. There was great collaboration and experimentation that led to unexpected ideas like a mirror to see the slow spiral funnel action and stories like placing an order in a french fry restaurant.


There were even different experiments in the orientation of the furniture with one group adding an extra chair on the table to build a double wide marble run.

After the activity we talked about what was surprising and challenging about the activity and gave teachers the chance to share ideas for things to keep or change about the workshop. After lunch we came back to this topic and spent the rest of the time together developing a design criteria for the mini-exhibits that included both practical constraints about materials, size and durability as well as pedagogical issues like making sure the exhibit is playful, open-ended and collaborative.

It will be exciting to continue this collaboration with Lodestar School throughout the rest of the year! We’re looking forward to sharing more about the prototyping process, testing, educator guides and design frameworks as they are developed.

Prototyping time and R&D with Lodestar Charter School students was made possible through the generous support of Cognizant “Making the Future” grant.