Banana pianos and space robots - Education Matters Magazine
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Banana pianos and space robots

Monash University pop-up, Maker Spaces, allows teachers to explore the connection between technology, teaching and learning.

Did you know you can make a piano from bananas? And use it to show students the connection between electronics and computing?

Ideas like this were on show at a recent pop-up Maker Space held at Monash University, as part of a free STEM education seminar series.

“It’s about connecting the electronic world with the real world, in a very tactile way,” explains Monash lecturer Roland Gesthuizen. The technology — called a Makey Makey — is both affordable and easy to use.

“Once the kids see it, and are shown how to use it, they begin to use it for making, not just a banana piano, but a musical staircase, an interactive game controller or even a drum machine.”

Roland is passionate about Maker Spaces that allow students to learn in a creative way.

“What we are doing is more than just playing games. Students can actually start to tap into what you can do and become a bit of an inventor and creator.

“Maker Spaces are hands-on, open-ended environments, where children are encouraged to ask questions, try out ideas and design solutions to projects. It’s a space where they are allowed to make mistakes and tinker,” Roland explains.

Monash hosts these pop-up Maker Spaces to allow schools to get a taste of how these spaces might work, talk to experts and see what’s possible.

“We explore the connection between technology, the way we teach and the way children learn. It’s part of what we do that goes beyond a technical how-to guide.”

Also on display were a host of tiny, programmable robots, a Rubik’s Cube solver, virtual reality and a joystick-controlled electric wheelchair.

A popular stand displayed equipment from an open-source satellite, used by students to design experiments in space. On hand to explain was inventor and programmer Jonathan Oxer.

“They could design their own experiments in the classroom using off-the-shelf Arduino boards,” he says. “They could upload the code to satellites deployed from the international space station.”
According to Arivu, a teacher from a local Melbourne high school, these pop-up spaces and seminars are a chance to connect and network with other teachers. “[We] hear people talk about their experience in STEM. We get more ideas as we listen to people, and we get inspired.”
The Maker Space and Seminar Series are part of a free suite of professional development opportunities offered to teachers throughout the year.

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