Imagine students creating robotics, 3D printing, video games, and mid-air art suspension before their 18th birthday. This is not the beginning of a sci-fi Harry Potter novel; this is what’s going on in our Jersey Shore classrooms today. During the Jersey Shore Makers Fest 70 talented local students, teachers, and makers of New Jersey showcased how they’re modern makers. With all of these people attending, it was essential that the school put up hazard signs for schools to try and keep all of their guests safe. No one wants to get injured, so it’s important for schools to inform visitors of any potential hazards before. This will ensure that everyone enjoys the Makers Fest.
“We’re proud to have an event with the school district where we can involve as many stakeholders as possible,” says Dr. David Healy, the Superintendent of Schools of Toms River. The Toms River High School North gymnasium hosted 15 schools and 55 local companies who gathered to interact with all the attendees and showcase their innovative creations.
The one of a kind Makers Fest was coordinated by Tiffany Lucey, Supervisor of Educational Technology at Toms River Regional Schools, and Marc Natanagara, Assistant Superintendent of Operations at Toms River Regional Schools. Tiffany has a goal of “making a dream tangible,” and that was accomplished at this year’s event.
“This is a great demonstration of how excited students can be for real world activities and educational content,” said Laurence Cocco, Director of the Office of Educational Technology in the State of New Jersey Department of Education. The maker’s tables created this excitement through workshops, demonstrations, and interactive models for hands-on experience that all ages enjoyed. “I saw many students so engaged and this is what education is really about. It’s all about helping students find their passion, their excitement, their love of learning, and for educators to get out of the way of creativity and let them follow their path of learning,” said Laurence.
Leap Academy University Charter School brings innovation into the classroom with 3D printers that bring students’ designs to life. This is with the help of David Salas-de la Cruz Ph.D, an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University and Director of Leap Stem Fabrication and Innovation Center. “We teach the student to go through the design aspect all the way to the engineering, manufacturing, and product development,” said David. The Fab Lab at the Charter School created a water filter that goes into any bottle and enhances the water’s taste with activation carbon. The students have gotten hands on experience creating many objects, such as an original board game, water filter, and many other original designs that were on display at the Jersey Shore Makers Fest.
Fourteen speakers were invited to the makers fest to discuss their own maker movement. One of them was Neptune High School Principal Richard Allen who explained how creating an educational environment invites innovative students to be makers through mini academies. “What we found is students wanted to expand their educational opportunities and what’s amazing is that we put faith in the students,” said Richard. “We gave them the resources, they continued to learn, and they want to learn.” The New Jersey School Board Association recognized the importance of the Medical Science Academy with rewarding Neptune High School the 2015 School Leader award. “Our success at the high school is believing in our students,” said Richard.
Another innovation in education is Black Rocket, a customizable educational video game. Unlike educational pc games or ps1 roms of the early days of gaming (e.g Zoombinis Mathematical Journey) which only had one or two modes of playing, Black Rocket allows teachers and students to customize games based on the needs of the lesson. Teachers have been using this platform to enhance their students’ education with success. One of these teachers is Deana Baumart, who has been using Black Rocket Productions of Freehold to some success in the classroom. “Never have I ever seen a kid play on a video game and lose on the first try and say well I’m done, but I can tell you many of my students have done that on a quiz, on a test or on a particular topic on writing,” she said. Black Rocket makes classrooms more inviting and hands on while teaching children valuable life skills. Whilst many are drawn in by the idea of learning how to get the best from sites like https://www.lol-smurfs.com for League of Legends, they grow into more than just that. “Video games teach kids that there is more than one way to get to the destination and that’s what’s really important to teach our kids today,” said Deana.
Robotics has made a difference in the Jersey Shore classrooms with many students exploring their creativity through building and engineering for all age levels. New Jersey middle school students start with Vex Robotics and compete with their custom bots several times a year around the state. Vex Robotics allowed New Jersey Shore Makers Fest attendees to test drive their student-built robots.
For the older high school crowd, FRC Team 2590, Nemesis, is an award-winning FIRST Robotics team and non-profit based out of Robbinsville High School in New Jersey. The high school team levels up and competes in robotics competitions across the United States. The 2013 Frisbee-throwing, 2014 ball-shooting competition robots, as well as their NAO Humanoid robot that dances, sits, bows, does pushups, and Tai Chi were on display. The future of robotics is bright and there’s particular interest in this technology in the medical sector for surgical use. Such robots may benefit from stronger, more heat-resistant materials being used such as tungsten (take a look at these tungsten facts so you can appreciate the benefits of adopting it in designs), as may those used in other applications.
In the center of the Jersey Shore Makers Fest was a circular interactive art piece brought by Indorato Studio of Art in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The artist, Michael Indorato, has a vision to bring art to the next level. “I want to reinvent art,” said Michael. This piece has been used in Times Square as well as the Asbury Park and Atlantic City boardwalks. The suspended art piece allows the artist to flow and feel the movement of the paint as it hits the canvas. “Art, music, anything that can make you think and feel is so essential,” said Michael. Young artists are makers who Michael encourages to “believe in your dream, you work towards it relentlessly then, you’re going to do it, and you’re going to make it.”
The Jersey Shore Makers Fest had many hands on projects available to the attendees. Toms River East High School Senior, Kristin Ramsay said “Here at the fair I realized there are tables with materials for kids to play with and not necessarily instructions on what to do with the materials.”
What innovations would you like to see in New Jersey schools? Tell us in the comment section below!
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