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Children's STEAM Festival: Exploring Kid's Opportunities in Technology

It is Day 2 of the Children's STEAM Festival, and today we're focusing on TECHNOLOGY! Read on to find excellent resources for coding, making and robotics in addition to some technology activities kids can try at home. Then pop on over to Growing with Science where Roberta will take you to a high-tech fashion show and give some ideas on how to make your own high-tech clothes.

What do think of when you hear the world technology? Gadgets and gizmos? Words like digital and internet may come to mind. Although we are surrounded by technology in the digital gadget sense, if you look at the definition of technology, you may find other meanings.

Technology: the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems. A machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is created by technology.

Technology doesn't have to mean digital- simple machines like the wheel and axle and inclined plane are technology. Anything that helps us to solve problems can be a type of technology. There are many opportunities available for kids to put their problem-solving skills to the test while using technology. The movements to teach kids to code, make and engineer are propelling the need for skills that require an understanding of digital technology to create.

Let's explore some resources for coding, making and robotics and wrap it all up with some fun technology activities.

Coding for Kids
There are many great resources for getting students involved in computer coding. Coding can teach skills that not only help and inspire students to create digital products, but also to model science projects, interface with hardware and create art. Although I am a huge advocate for getting children outside and reducing screen time, coding is a great way to promote sequencing and patterning skills and inspire creativity for those moments when children are plugged in. is a great resource for introducing kids to coding. Free courses are for all ages, including early elementary. At Code Studio you can find all sorts of coding lessons. In addition to the digital learning aspects there are also "unplugged" activities that get kids moving and completing tasks away from the computer. is behind The Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is an international event meant to introduce all ages to computer science and to help spread the word that learning to code is possible for anyone. To learn how you or your school can participate, visit their website. is fee-based online coding course. Students learn to create and can share their creations. You can check the STEM projects out here. They have a free starter lesson plans for teachers.

This article at Edutopia reviews some wonderful, FREE, coding apps for a variety of ages. Code for Kids is a Canadian program with many resources available as well.

Maker Movement for Kids
Technology like the availability of 3D printers has brought the maker movement to new, exciting levels. Making and inventing are really where technology and engineering (tomorrow's STEAM festival topic) come together. Techopedia defines the maker movement as "a trend in which individuals or groups of individuals create and market products that are recreated and assembled using unused, discarded or broken electronic, plastic, silicon, or virtually any raw material and/or computer related device." Makerspaces are popping up in libraries and community centers. These are spaces where kids and adults have access to technology and tools that they can use to make an innovate.

You can use the Maker Ed directory to find makerspaces and making events and opportunities in your area. This directory is powered by The Connectory which is a directory for finding STEM opportunities. Both are worth investigating further! Maker Ed's website also has a bank of resources and project ideas.

Maker Kids is a Canadian based organization that teaches kids and educators 3D printing, electronics, woodworking, robotics, etc. You will find lots of great ideas and resources here as well. Make magazine and their blog and website are chock full of projects and inspiration from other makers. If you are looking for a project idea for this summer, this should be one of your first stops!

Although setting up a dream makerspace can run into a lot of money, there are more and more affordable options and initiatives to get tools and technology into the hands of schools and groups who are inspiring innovators. Makerbot Education is a great place to start. Right now Inventables is running a contest to get a 3D carver into every state, with hopes to have them in every school by the end of the decade. You can apply to win one for your school here.

A great at-home bit of technology available for making and creating are littleBits. (affiliate link) littleBits are electronic components that can be used to essentially invent anything. These would be a great gift for the inventor in your life. Take a peek at their project gallery to see some of the possibilities!
(affiliate link)

*8/25/2015 Edit: littleBits is having a great back to school sale! 15% off everything- check it out here!

The use of robotic technology increases student's understanding of science and allows them to engineer machines that can accomplish specific tasks. Robotic competitions have been building kids skills in teamwork and critical thinking for years.
If you are interested in becoming involved in robotics or competition, you'll want to check out the U.S. FIRST Robotics competition for 9th-12th graders. Inventor Dean Kamen began FIRST in 1989. His mission was to help young people discover the rewards and excitement of science and technology. This program has grown to add Lego Leagues for younger age groups. Lego Mindstorms robotic kits are used in these competitions and can be purchased for building and programming robots at home as well.
(affiliate link)

Technology Activities
Try the activity "Passion for Pixels" from the PBS's SciGirls. Click "Download" under the picture on the left. After learning about digital images and pixels, kids can "transmit" images to each other on graph paper. No computer needed! This activity models how remote-sensing satellites take images from space, turn the images into digital information, which is then transmitted back to Earth where computer programs reconstruct the numbers and codes back into a visual image.

"Electric Messages: Then and Now" is an activity from Try Engineering where kids can investigate how new technology has changed the way we communicate. Kids build a simple telegraph machine (using a battery, wire and a light bulb) where they can learn about communicating with Morse code.  How is this different than how we communicate today? What were some of the challenges or benefits?

Coding Resources
Making Resources
Robotics Resources
Application of Technology in the Sciences
Activity Links
Thanks for exploring technology with me today! I'm looking forward to sharing STEAM ideas with you all week! To review our schedule and find links to all of the festival posts, click the Children's STEAM Festival button below.

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