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June | 2015 | DML Commons

Archive | June, 2015

Welcome Sam Lorentz! – Creativity Labs Introduces New Undergraduate Members

This June, the Creativity Lab Team has introduced two new undergraduate members to the lab, Alex and Sam.  They are both working with the BioSim Project and are eager to get started.

--A post by Sam Lorentz

I’m Sam and I am studying Biology, with minors in Psychology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, at Indiana University.  In the fall I will begin my Junior year. I’m an Evans Scholar as well as a member of the Indiana University Swim Team.
The Creativity Labs initially interested me because of my strong desire to get involved in research.  As I’ve progressed through my science major, my interest in the entire process of research, from formulating questions and hypotheses to publication, has grown.  After hearing about the CL and all it’s innovative work I was certain it was something I wanted to be involved in.  
I have spent several summers working as a swimming instructor.  I have worked with large groups and individuals ranging from 4 to 12 years old.  I really enjoyed getting to work with kids of various age groups on a day to day basis.  My most effective lessons were when I made the learning and swimming fun for the kids.  After learning this I’m very excited to start working in the field with the BioSim play to learn model.  Additionally, I have experience working as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in the Biology Department at IU. The Biology students I worked with gave me the opportunity to further my teaching abilities while enhancing my speaking skills. The CL gives me the opportunity to combine research and my experience with children and as a teaching assistant to a single place that’s changing the way we think about education and cognitive development.
With this excellent opportunity to work with such a qualified team, I am hoping to further my own abilities as a researcher, find out if research is something I want to pursue long term, and to make a contribution to science and education.  If I were to pursue research after graduation I could see myself working in some sort of cognitive development lab or a biology lab.  I’m particularly interested with the human brain as well as the molecular side of biology.  Working on the BioSim project is some of the best experience I can get, especially if i pursue cognitive development.  
As I’m getting started I’m most excited to start working with kids.  I really think that the research here is making a huge difference for kids, both immediately and in the future of education.  The complex systems that we work with have incredibly broad applications.  By helping young students to master them now, we are creating more thoughtful adults and future scientists that could eventually make revolutionary discoveries.  

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District’s STEAM Innovation Summer Institute

South Fayette School District in the Pittsburgh area has been a hub for educational innovation for several years now, pioneering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Studio model and hosting the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute to train educators to spread these innovations to their own classrooms. The Creativity Labs has worked with them before (links) to provide professional development in e-textiles. This summer, we were happy to do so again as part of our summer service activities.

To learn more about the awesome e-textile projects pictured here, read the rest of the post below!



As part of the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute last week, South Fayette invited teachers from across the western Pennsylvania area to participate in STEAM workshops ranging from robotics to game design to environmental literacy. Five participants--three science teachers and two Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) teachers--chose to attend an e-textile workshop hosted by the Creativity Labs and our partners at Sparkfun Education.

For the first two days of the workshop, Sophia from the Creativity Labs led the teachers in learning about circuits, creating an e-bookmark project, making a LilyTiny project of their choice, and beginning to program in Modkit Micro. Even those teachers who were not well-versed in sewing enjoyed the chance to create and personalize projects that combined crafting and circuitry.
Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This Chemistry teacher's e-bookmark consists of a battery holder on the back, sewn with conductive thread to a push-button switch and two sewable LilyPad LEDs. She customized it to fit her class's theme!
Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
One of the FCS teachers works on sewing LilyPad LEDs to the pre-programmed LilyTiny, which makes the lights flash in different patterns.
Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This Science teacher was the first to figure out how to program LEDs to blink in Modkit!

On the last two days of the workshop, Angela Sheehan from Sparkfun Education joined Sophia to facilitate working with the ProtoSnap LilyPad Development Simple Board. Angela shared a great many e-textile projects as inspiration, as well as her expertise from a great deal of work on e-textile workshops with teachers and youth. On the last day of the workshop, Angela shared some insulation techniques such as using fabric glue or iron-on interfacing to shield the conductive thread stitches from touching each other and causing dangerous short circuits.

The final projects the teachers created were ambitious and creative! They programmed the LilyPad Simple microcontroller in the block-based programming software Modkit to make LEDs flash and the LilyPad buzzer play music notes. Angela helped some of them to program a momentary switch as well. Finally they sewed all these components onto textiles of their choice, resulting in the projects below:
Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This Science teacher sewed two red and two green LEDs onto this ugly Christmas sweater. Her buzzer plays "Jingle Bells." The LilyPad and buzzer are both on the underside of the sweater.

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This Science teacher used iron-on decals to attach the "Jedi Master" letters to this jersey, and sewed on a white Yoda patch. She programmed the lights to flash in order from Yoda outward, mimicking a lightsaber coming to life.

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This FCS teacher added lights to the teeth of "Bac-Man," a bacteria monster puppet used to teach kids about hygiene. She added a tongue with a momentary switch made of conductive fabric, so that the lights light up when the puppet's mouth is closed, and the puppet makes a noise from the buzzer when the mouth is opened.

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This FCS teacher decided to attach both her LilyPad and buzzer to this jacket with snaps so they could be removed when the jacket needs to be washed. She added four white LEDs, and her buzzer plays "Morning Has Broken."

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute
This Science teacher designed a print-out iron-on decal that contained all of her favorite things, ironed it onto the shirt, and then added nine lights in varying colors and a buzzer that plays the chorus from "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

The Creativity Labs was proud to continue our relationship of innovation with South Fayette School District and Sparkfun Education! We wish our teacher participants all the best as they bring e-textiles back to their classrooms!

Special thanks, as always, to Aileen Owens, Director of Technology and Innovation at South Fayette, who invited us, as well as to everyone who helped her to put together this immensely successful STEAM Innovation Institute.

Welcome Alex Dailey! – Creativity Labs Introduces New Undergraduate Members

This June the Creativity Lab Team has introduced two new undergraduate members to the lab, Alex and Sam.  They are both working with the BioSim Project and are eager to get started.

--A post by Alex Daily


I’m Alex, and I am studying Human Biology with a Concentration in Human Health and Disease and minors in Biology and Chemistry.  I am entering my junior year at Indiana University and I am also apart of the Hudson and Holland Scholar Program.
I was initially drawn to join the Creativity Labs because of my desire to do research that involved children and the mental capabilities that they possess.  My prior research experience differs greatly.  I first started doing research my junior year in high school doing field work with an ecology biology professor. I found this experience to be really helpful especially when it came time to decide where I wanted to attend school.  I was able to build upon the knowledge that I had acquired through basic science classes help my professor advance in her study of fish in the local ecosystem. My research has also brought me to a lab though the evo-devo department at IU; The Mozcek Lab.  With these experiences I have gained a passion for research and aspire to continue growing as a researcher and with the opportunity from the Creativity Labs I plan to do just that.


My past experiences with children also played a role with me joining the Creativity Lab.  I have experience as a summer camp counselor working with children from the ages of 4-17. This allowed for experience with many different age groups.  I was able to tailor different skills to fit the personalities and capabilities of all children that I worked with.  The experience also showed me that I enjoyed working with younger children and helping them grow and develop socially and mentally.  I also have experience as a peer assistant which gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as a leader and as a creative individual in terms of implementing plans and ideas.
CL allows me to take my past experiences and my hopes of being a pediatric neurosurgeon and researcher and put them to use.  I am able to see how I can help children learn complex systems and ideas and really understand in depth what connections their brains are making.  I am also able to help shape and mold minds for tomorrow, so that not only are children understanding material, but they also gain a desire and passion to go and solve new problems in the world and become the scientists and researchers that this world needs in order to progress humanity, this is what I am most excited about in terms of BioSim; watching the children come to the realization that through creative learning and various creativity methods that they too can understand complex ideas.

What’s next for Laura?

TL;DR My last day at Mozilla already happened, but I’m still me. I bring together disparate parts to foster learning, spread openness and design for participation. I’m a creative generalist who likes to make stuff, and I’m open to exploring opportunities.

About 5.5 years ago I took a broken dream to the first Mozilla Festival (at the time it was called Drumbeat) in Barcelona. Going to this festival with my struggling project was a last ditch effort, I was hanging on, trying to make it work.

Drumbeat was the place that I was finally able to let go, start over, try again. The people I met there gave me new ideas, they introduced me to a way of working that fit with how my brain operates. Drumbeat lit a fire under me. I met Mozillians.

photo by Mozilla Europe

I’ve resisted the status quo because when I questioned it, I don’t received satisfactory answers. Over the years, Mozillians taught me how to focus my defiance towards a common good. It’s that focus that has cultivated me and my way of being in the professional space.

I believe in open, and I believe that what Mozilla is trying to do for the world is a just cause. Openness can be hard, but in my experience the right thing is always more difficult.

Last Monday was my final day as a paid contributor, and I’m in the process of detangling Mozilla from my own identity. We’ve grown up together in this community. We have rallied around a nascent vision and made it something that is resonating throughout the world. I am proud to have contributed to every aspect of the Foundation’s work – from strategy to learning design to prototyping to evangelism to community management to production – I’ve helped Mozilla innovate in the teaching and learning space.

Our work has inspired people, and I’ll always be a Mozillian. But I want to be more too. Mozilla is a part of me, but it can no longer define me.

What’s next for Laura?

photo by Doug Belshaw

I don’t know what’s next for me, and that’s ok. I will continue to think and write and make and learn and fail, and I will continue to embody the open ethos. Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. In the immediate future, I will pause, breathe and take stock. I can literally do anything with the competencies and skills I’ve developed and honed over the years. That feels like a powerful invitation to do the right things.

There is a lot of right in the world. I’m looking for something where I can design learning/engagement opportunities, develop leaders and apply open practices, digital/web literacies and all things geeky. I want to help people/orgs grow, collectively, as they allow me to grow together with them. I want to shift power structures and community dynamics, be a voice for people who need one and just be who I am – defiant, curious, unwavering in the ideals of open.

If you think you have a right thing for me, let me know. You all know how to find me. laura [at] this domain is where you started interacting with me in 2010, and it’s where you can continue to do so. You can also find me on twitter or LinkedIn (or just google me, I’m all over the web). I hope some of you reach out – there are plenty of wonderful memories and new ideas to discuss, and I will always be here for my Mozilla friends.