April 23, 2017

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Steampunk, SLIME, and Game Design: Lead the Change Fast-Learning Sessions

Our Maker Workshop wrapped up with three dynamic, 15-minute fast-learning sessions on steampunk making (presented by Heather Moorefield-Lang), organizing a regional making festival (led by Kristina Holzweiss), and digital game design (under the tutelage of Idit Harel).

Moorefield Lang, assistant professor of library and information science at the University of South Carolina, kicked off with a witty, informative
LTCMaker_Spring2016_Headshot90px_HeatherMoorefieldpresentation about steampunk maker spaces. Describing herself as an expert on maker programs who travels the world looking at maker spaces and sharing what she learns, the former school librarian said that “people are starting to look at a more nuanced, themed” approach to maker spaces.


Steampunk style

Honing in on steampunk, Moorefield-Lang described two types she has observed. The first involves crafting items thematically related to steampunk literature, which she characterized as “a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology,” and pointed to the popular authors Cherie Priest and Gail Carriger as examples. She described the second approach—“S.T.E.A.M.  Punk”—as an “in-your-face” style of exploring Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math through making.


3-D printed steampunk goggles and gears

Moorefield-Lang opened with an image related to the first idea, showing some 3-D printed googles and gears that students had created for a related activity. A quick audience poll revealed that workshop participants associated steampunk with things including Victorian attire, gears, maps, trains, clocks, hot air balloons, and curiosity cabinets, among other items. Moorefield-Lang added the attributes including combustion, hydraulics, flying contraptions, romanticism, and more. A few commenters noted that this list brought to mind Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel The Adventures of Hugo Cabret.


A Rube Goldberg contraption

Moving on to S.T.E.A.M Punk, Moorefield-Lang highlighted different maker activities related to aspects of S.T.E.A.M.  They ranged from green-screen photo technology to Rube Goldberg-inspired contraptions to mask making to experimentations with bridge building, engineering, and more. In closing the rapid-fire presentation, Moorefield-Lang reiterated that her work, and librarianship, is about sharing good ideas rather than trying to prevent others from adopting them. “Share that idea—that’s what it’s all about,” she said. And “If it’s a good idea, use it!”

All about SLIME

LTCMaker_Spring2016_Headshot90px_KristinaHolzweissHolzweiss, 2015 SLJ School Librarian of the Year and  librarian at the Bay Shore (NY) Middle School, took the mic next to share information about her annual SLIME event—an acronym for Students of Long Island Maker Expo—that she organizes with Islip (NY) High School media specialist Gina Seymour. Attracting close to 600 students this year and offering free K-12 activities from a “Trash to Fashion” show to robotics, art,  and much more, “SLIME is a day of learning and fun and making for everyone on Long Island: charter schools, public schools, homeschool kids,” Holzweiss said.

Holzweiss-slides-8Holzweiss emphasized the use of recyclables, donated materials, and other things she had “hoarded” in a packed library storage area in anticipation of the event, taking place this year on May 7 at her school. One Trash to Fashion standout dress was made of duct tape, Dorito bags, and hall passes.

Referring to maker items and activities from duct tape flower pens to balloon car racers, to on-site coding, writing, and more, Holzweiss described the SLIME activity categories offered and shared organizational strategies.

”I don’t want economics to be any hindrance for people to participate,” Holzweiss said, so lining up strong sponsorship in order to make the event free was essential. When organizing a sprawling expo like this, she advised, “think about logistics, planning, volunteers—adults and students—funding, parking, custodians, electrical outlets, advertising,” and much more.  For marketing and communication support as well as a vital volunteer pool, she advised approaching the student council, honors society, and students who regularly come to the library. She recommended trying to partner with museums and noted that she marketed the event on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, and created eye-catching green SLIME logo buttons.

Holzweiss-slides-16The tireless Holzweiss shared that sponsors for the SLIME event this year include Tanger Outlets, as well as Farmers Insurance, the local Lion’s Club, and Capstone. While educators are increasingly scrutinized about “standards,” she said, it’s vital to keep sight on the fact that projects like this are “about kids, about fun, learning, and letting kids develop.”



How to design a great game

LTCMaker_Spring2016_Headshot90px_IditHarelThird up in this dynamic trio was Idit Harel, CEO of Globaloria, a company that produces an array of game-making software that leads students, from about third to 12th grade, through design strategies in order to create many different kinds of games.

“Kids globally love playing games, but they love making games even more,” said
Harel, who emphasized the creative rewards of mastering this activity, which helps build computer science skills.

Harel-slides-3“Games are systems,” she noted—and a “fabulous medium for telling stories.” She suggested that students make games about subjects that they know, and showed games that students had created with Globaloria tools including  a math game, Zombie Factors, and another that teaches grammar and sentence structure.

“When you start making games, you start playing games like a producer,” she said, in much the same way that people become critical readers the more they write. Librarians could potentially teach the game design with other teachers, she suggested—focusing on themes relating to civic engagement, environment, animal rights, social issues, among many other themes.


Central elements of an educational game, Harel said, are an engaging story, that they are easy to play,
have clear goals, and appealing sound and visual effects, for starters. She added that they should be
fast and re-playable, should simplify a hard concept, and have a reward system such as points or badges. Game creators make atmospheric choices as well, she noted: will the game be realistic? Surrealistic? Fun?

While it can take a 10-week commitment for students to create a complex game, Harel encouraged the audience to use the starter MakeQuest technology in order to get their feet wet in game design, adding that those who buy access to all Globaloria materials get training with a teacher, open access to all platforms, and professional development support.

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Sarah Bayliss About Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss (sbayliss@mediasourceinc.com, @shbayliss) is associate editor, news and features, at School Library Journal.

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  1. Very interesting.