Student Makers Become Design Thinkers in After-School Clubs and Summer Camps!

Provide opportunities for kids to ignite and capture their fire for making.

Photo of Michael Miller
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During the school year it can be difficult to find time to let students be designers. Last year we started to offer afterschool and summer technology camps for students in 1st through 5th grades.  It has been an amazing experience with great participation by students!

Last fall we started a 1st through 3rd grade Jr. Robotics after school club where students design and build their own cars that they race down a ramp.  A different type of car is built each week;  ending with a competition where students race for distance.  Last year we had 90 students involved between the three buildings.  This year the program grew to 206 students, which is about 43% of elementart students in grades 1st through 3rd and 28% of these students are girls.   

We also have a 4th and 5th grade after school Robotics Club that had 78 students participate this year (32 last year). Modeled after the First Lego League (FLL), we have our club build and then compete in an all Otsego Competition. Normally in FLL students  are in groups up to 10.  Because of the number of robots that we have acquired through grants (47 EV3 robots) we are able to have 2-3 students to each robot.  This way all students are able to create, build, program, and solve challenges on the board. Check out the video clips and pictures.

This past summer we also started a “Summer Tech Camp” where students were challenged each day to design, create, play, and solve different technology problems. First students designed their own Minecraft Bobbleheads of their favorite Minecraft character.  They designed it in Tinkercad and then 3D printed it in our classroom. There were some awesome designs that came to life!  Day two we used Minecraft to create and design our own community.  They had over 100 different challenges to complete.  Day three we used the Sphero ball to solve different challenges using the Tickle app and just played.  On day four we used the “Floors” app to design our own video games.   Students planned, designed, and then created their own video games and then were able to test and publish their game for the world to play. They played each other’s games and advised them on the design.  The last day we finished with designing and building their own lego cars and then raced them down the ramps for distance.  We finished the week by designing and building cable cars that went down a zip line! It was an awesome week.  We have started planning for this “Summer’s Tech Camp”.  The 3D printing design project for this upcoming summer is going to be a “Mini Light Saber”.

These afterschool and summer technology camps are helping inspire our students to become makers.  We are also in the process of creating “making spaces” in each of our elementary buildings.  We want an area that students can design, create and build from their imagination!

Team: I am the primary designer of all of these after school programs and camps.  However, this would not be possible without the support of teachers and administrators in all of my buildings, as well as parent and high school student volunteers.

Inspired by I’m inspired by my students.  I talk to my students regularly about their interests and what inspires and motivates them.  I then work to incorporate their ideas into our programs!

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1st - 3rd grade robotics: Car building!


4th and 5th Grade Robotics

Sasha Wilson - IMG_2446.MOV

4th & 5th Grade Robotics: Check out our custom board and challenges!


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Photo of Holly McCaw

Michael Miller is a true innovator when it comes to technology in the classroom and technology that gets kids engaged and involved! He has more than 200 1st-3rd graders in an elementary robotics program and the excitement is unreal. As one teacher who peeked into the session said, "Wowsa!" They are focused, they are learning, they are amazed with what they can do! He brings everything to their level while bringing them to a new level of learning and increasing their interest in STEM. He's great with kids and is changing the landscape of technology in our district! 

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