One of the pain points that has come painfully obvious in the last few years is the lack of budgets. There are so many great robots, boards, and other electronics out there, but they all cost money. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of those tools, but not everyone has the funding to truly make them work. What most don't think about is that you can still be a great making out of just the everyday things that are laying around. Below you will find my five favorite tech projects that just need some creativity and some everyday items to make things awesome.
1. The Caine's Arcade Challenge
If you have not seen the Caine's Arcade video, you really should. It can be found HERE. This a video we had been using for several years as maker inspiration when I was at KSU iTeach, and it all the sudden hit me that this should be something we actually do. It helped that I was prepping for a 75 kid maker camp, and I needed activities.
The basic premise of the challenge is to create an arcade game out of cardboard. I have seen some incredibly creative ones over the years including golf (that used an old coat rack as a club), air hockey, and all kinds of rollerball games. It teaches all sorts of problem-solving, design, and math skills. It also takes a ton of creativity to do. If you really wanted to drill down to content all you would have to do is make the games about content concepts.
2. The Homeless Shoe Challenge
One of the things making is great for is making for service. I genuinely believe that one of the unintended consequences of our testing culture is that we have lost a focus on empathy, character, and service. If education held those principles the highest, this world would have a lot fewer problems.
One of the ways you could teach your kids this is by having them design a shoe for the homeless. It does not have to be something that is instantly ready for production, and it can be done out of just straight craft materials. The goal is to study an inherent problem in our society and come up with a solution. It's a tremendous problem-solving challenge, and there are all kinds of skills that go into the actual design.
3. The Tin Foil Boat Challenge
Sometimes old ones are still good ones. I love the tin foil challenge because of how easy and accessible it is, but it does create a bit of a mess because it also involves water. The value is there though.
The concept is super simple. You get a big bucket of water, and you have the kids design boats that hold coins out of aluminum foil. The vessel that contains the most coins wins. It teaches some tremendous problem-solving, engineering, and math skills
4. Anything with Pipe Cleaners
Sometimes the most basic craft tool gives you infinite possibilities, and really pipe cleaners can be the basis or part of multiple other projects. There is almost nothing better to craft characters simply. With that storytelling, possibilities open up.
One of my favorite projects to do with them is just to have kids create animals. They can twist and combine them to come up with something creative, and you can extend that project by adding eyes and lights. You could then take those animals (or other characters) and make them into a pretty compelling story. That storytelling can be included in almost any content.
5. Marble Run Challenge
This is another one that is super simple, but it just brings creativity out in droves. Do you remember those old tiny metal ball games where you had to move the plastic to different angles to get the ball in the hole? This is just that. You are just doing them with arts and craft supplies and paper plates.
The whole idea is to use things like construction paper, pipe cleaners, and toilet paper rolls to make a maze and obstacles that a marble has to get through to reach a goal. These can be as simple as a kid would want, but they can also be pretty complicated. One of my favorites was two levels. The student cut a hole in the paper plate and added stuff underneath it to make it work.