Light-Up Bracelets: After-School Workshop

Makerspaces are meant to support independent creative work, but many offer guided workshops as ways to develop skills or familiarity with tools, or to invite new makers into the space. At University Prep, we're planning a series of after-school workshops around some of the different tools and types of work available in our "Sandbox," designed to introduce the space and its capacities to our students. Last week, we held a pair of workshops (one each for Upper School and Middle School) guiding students through making light-up felt bracelets.

This workshop was a collaboration between librarian Leah Griffin, Computer Science teacher Emma Anderson and Director of Academic Tech Jeff Tillinghast. Together, this group has been looking for ways to increase student participation in our makerspace beyond "the usual suspects"-- the existing core of students who are familiar with the space and work in it. One of the thoughts was that by offering specific, goal-/project-oriented workshops, students would be able to clearly see what they could do in the space as a step towards them creating their own projects. These basic sewn circuits were good introductions to some of the basic ingredients of our electronics kits, as well as to the concepts of building electronics such as polarity and circuit design.

Because of a number of model bracelets at the center of the room, and a written handout (available on the Lesson Plans and Resources page) available to all the students, the kids were able to work largely independently while Leah, Emma and Jeff were able to "float" and support students when individual help was needed. There was also a lot of peer sharing and collaboration happening as students talked with their neighbors.

Students chose from a variety of felt patterns and colors, as well as a range of LED colors. Using the coin cell batteries, bracelets could support up to three LED's (we used 3mm LED's). As students worked, they ended up with a wide range of designs. The one-hour workshop was a little too short for many students, though, and there were some "mostly finished" projects at the end of the time.  We put them on our "work in process" shelf so that students can return and finish them another time.