Have a passion for tinkering and building? They’re looking for Interns

The EXO emergency shelter. Delivering shelter units to Syria with funds from their successful IndieGoGo campaign.

Internships: http://www.reactionhousing.com/careers/

21st Century Fancy Dance


as in HO yeah.

Highschool Students in Ames, Iowa Localize Lexicon of Sustainability

You may have seen the Lexicon of Sustainability images. Ames High School environmental science teacher saw them and curated a pop-up art show with his students for the local community in Ames, Iowa. Students realized how important it was to feature images of local farms–and with Lexicon co-creator Douglas Gayeton, began to map their local food system and hack the Lexicon of Sustainability to localize the project. The Ames High School project led to a student trip to Washington, DC to present their work to the U.S. Department of Agriculture–students were invited to participate in a Farm Bill meeting.

Gayeton observed:

When students complete Project Localize, they are no longer just passive recipients of information. They become artists, historians, activists and journalists.

Lexicon of Sustainability’s Project Localize now supports a network of 25 schools to do their own localization projects. (They’re looking for schools to participate.)

Read more background here and listen to a story by Harvest Public Media.

Thanks to Nathanael Johnson for surfacing it in his column in Grist.


Paddler Jeanne 1925-2013



Those of you who follow this blog will notice there has been a long silence here. I can’t resume without telling a story about where I have been while on hiatus from SightingsByClaudia. So let me begin…

This is a photo I took of my mother, Jeanne, heading with great determination on her 87th birthday to climb onboard the Central Coast SurviveOars dragon boat and head out onto her favorite Morro Bay, paddling hard and gliding far.


That’s Jeanne, second back on the left, hatless and crowned with her snow white hair. Most of her paddling companions are cancer survivors. Jeanne found her way to the SurviveOars team when a physical therapist helping her with severe lymphedema after breast surgery told her paddling might help. Paddling with her new-found friends rapidly became her greatest joy (and joys she had many). 

National dragon boat races gave Jeanne a new outlet for her competitive spirit. She raced with her team in San Francisco, Tempe, San Diego and Long Beach, competing fiercely in becoming her own best self, and winning more than a few gold medals with her team.

On a full-moonlight paddle the night of her death, her beloved team celebrated her life well lived, telling stories through laughter and tears, in the two boats sitting still in the middle of the bay. My daughter Zohara and I were given the seats of honor for this spontaneous gesture of love.


As I renew my dedication to supporting self-directed and aspiring self-directed learners here on this blog, I want to take a moment to acknowledge my first and best role model for self-directed learning. Mentor Extraordinaire. I was privileged to serve as a witness and caregiver through her most courageous “paddle out ahead,” forever learning.

Thank you, Jeanne.

Growing a Maker Mind

I subscribe to the Tiny House Blog where I spotted this video. 16-year-old Austin Hay of Santa Rosa, California gets my personal Tiny House builder award for his project. He’s been working on his tiny house for two years and still has a way to go. He plans on taking it off to college as his living space in two more years. 

My favorite section begins at 6:07.

I’ve been collecting the trash I produce with this. If it’s recycleable, I recycle it, but otherwise it goes in here…this is a year and a couple months of trash. So far I only have one and a half garbage cans full. This is the insulation foam (shows a canister), this is the Tyvek housewrap that I couldn’t use. If I can’t use it, it goes in here. Obviously not much.

The smaller, the less trash you make. People who do big construction work for big houses, they get dumpsters full and haul them off. This one you don’t even need a dumpster.

I love the walk-through of the house-in-process that follows the trash sequence, beginning at 6:59. He shares the space he’s creating, bringing it alive with his narrative and gestures.  

Austin closes the interview with this:

It’s very peaceful and quiet. I have my own sense of domain in here. It’s a big accomplishment for me.

(Get this young man the Master Builder Maker and the Minimal Waste Maker Badges, quick). 

Tinkering School launching year round Brightworks School in San Francisco


The Brightworks Arc – Exploration, Expression, Exposition

Everything is interesting. We can build anything.

I wrote here about Tinkering School Summer Camp in August, 2010. More than a few people who read it said to me “I’d like to go to Tinkering Camp year round.” And now they (or at least their kids) can….Tinkering School founder Gever Tulley has teamed up with A Curious Summer director Bryan Welch to launch Brightworks – with the ambitious and full-of-promise tagline “an extraordinary school” – in San Francisco. The San Francisco school joins a growing network of satellite Tinkering Schools in Austin, Chicago and soon to be, Buffalo–see the Buffalo Tinkering FB page here. Brightworks is the first year round school in the Tinkering network.


Anticipated to launch in September, 2011, they have designed the K-12 curriculum around a series of arcs, lasting from 2 weeks to 2 months.

Each arc takes as its premise a central theme, to be explored from multiple perspectives. Students interact with this theme in three different phases: exploration,expression, and exposition

The founders have written a very clear declaration that this model is rooted in a designerly approach to learning, what Bryan Welch calls curatorial learning on A Curious Summer’s website. 

Brightworks does away with tests, grades and homework, instead supporting each student as they create a rich and detailed portfolio of their work. 


I appreciate the choice of words on the Chicago site (emphasis is mine):

  • Tinkering School is a place where children are given abstract open-ended building projects and problems. 
  • Trained to use the tools required for success, they have the freedom to fail and the time to persevere.
  • A failure-positive atmosphere allows children to play in the face of adversity.
  • The use of real tools to tackle real problems creates a unique atmosphere of trust and responsibility.
  • Children work at their own pace with the adults tilting projects and timelines toward completion.


Expect to be reading more about Brightworks and the evolving Tinkering School Summer Camp network. I’ll be making it an ongoing focus.  

I want my dress to blink….Open Source DIY Hardware stars in Arduino The Documentary


An R&D Lab for your kitchen table

I know you’ve been waiting for it. ;D     

Well, it’s here at last…Arduino The Documentary, directed by Rodrigo Calvo and Raul Alaejos, produced by Gustavo Valera. Interviews with the project team trace the early inspiration and evolution of a project that extends Open Source beyond the typical software domain to create an inexpensive physical computing platform that anyone can use to tinker, design and create interactive objects. DIYers show how they’re using Arduinos to dream an amazing array of inventions into being, and educators share their experiences using Arduinos with high school students, bringing concepts like prototyping and iterating to life.


Wow, a lot of people are starting to talk about this. I should check it out. And I got one of the boards and I said, ‘Wow, this is fantastic, beginners are gonna love this. It runs on Mac, it runs on PC, it runs on Linux…this is exactly what everyone wants…This is a fantastic tool for getting people doing the things that they want to do with electronics. Not necessarily learning everything first, but getting the application done, like I want something…I want my dress to blink. Very hard to do if you just want to learn electronics; with an Arduino, you get that done in a few minutes. 

Phil Torrone, former Senior Editor, MAKE, currently Adafruit.com


In the documentary, Massimo Banzi on the Arduino team calls Arduino “Processing for the hardware.” 

For those of you new to Arduino, Make Magazine calls Arduino an R&D lab on your kitchen table for prototyping any gadget.” Make’s newest issue, Vol. 25, is devoted to Microcontrollers and Arduino. The Make project site has a section devoted to Arduino that includes how to make a Yobot, an Arduino yogurt maker, and Garduino, an Arduino microcontroller for indoor gardening.



Favorite quote

What we’re trying to do is Open Source EVERYTHING! 

Zach Smith, Makerbot

Half way through the piece, Zach Smith shows off his Open source 3D printer made with multiple Arduinos–the Makerbot Thing-o-matic— and gives us an enthusiastic preview of the Open source 3D printing revolution–starting with a whistle, bottle opener, and a coat hook. I admire his spirit.



Visions for the future and education

Teacher Juan Carlos de Mena is shown doing hands-on Arduino musical instruments with his high school students.

It is an amazing tool for getting young people this age in contact with all an awful lot of realities they live in. First to get them to learn that the consumer side–this ‘use the remote with the machine’ side–is not the only one; that it is possible to understand what’s inside and get the control back. Because now all these things have a huge amount of gadgets which they have no idea how they work at all. With Arduino you can get a small glimpse of how all this stuff works, show them some schematics that allow them to have a certain way of looking at all the technological worlds that are going to surround them. And it is also quite funny – it can be used to teach electronics, to teach them how to think, it teaches them how to have less short-term projects and work as a team, how to participate in a community, get information. 

Juan Carlos de Mena, Madrid


It took Nathan Seidle a while to wrap his head around the idea when the Arduino team first approached him to carry Arduinos in the SparkFun store. Today, SparkFun has sold over 40,000 Arduino boards. Nathan is encouraged by the possibilities of students learning microcontrollers at a much earlier age.

I did not learn micro controllers until my middle years in college, until the end of college. And I was really blown away by how easy it is to use Arduino, namely, being the forerunner development board. I think, given the right series of events, if Arduino and electronics could be taught in high school, I think there’s a big future for not only engineers, but also artists. Also digital media interactive design people. If they can learn that in high school, imagine how much more they can do in later life. 

Nathan Seidle, SparkFun.com


And citizen scientist Sonaar Luthra points to the possible long term contribution of Arduino to design education…

The potential for students when they’re just learning how to use the computer, to learn how to make things with computers…to me that…that’s powerful. And what that would actually mean long term for students with only $50, to be able to plug something into their computer and make something with it over and over again and iterate it and share it. The type of creative community that can engender in young people to me I think that is…that’s going to change everything…and I’m really excited to see what happens as it develops.

Sonaar Luthra, cofounder, CEO, Water Canary



The Arduino team has two Twitter streams – @arduinoteam and @arduinoblog. Team is where they share cool stuff for the community. Blog is where you can keep up with latest blog posts.

They are opening a shiny new Arduino Community Forum on January 24.



Flow as an interface – SidGabriel Tai Chi dances his Visual Flow Controller at ARDevCamp 2010

I like how SidGabriel thinks. He imagines using Tai Chi to control computers. Even more I like how he moves. And I appreciate deeply that this lovely piece of AR code he wrote rides on the arms and legs and backs of dancers who inspired him.

Ten minutes of Tai Chi flow…everyday would have an effect. 

In a second video on Sid’s Posterous blog, he explains the optical flow algorithm he used to an ARDevCamp attendee who tells Sid that it would be a wonderful way for kids to interact with computers.

And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sid and friends host ARDevMob – an Augmented Reality Meetup group.

Bio: SidGabriel.com

Twitter: @SidGabriel

YouTube: LightNucleus

(Thanks to Mark Petrakis for leaving bread crumbs on the FB trail that led to Sid ;D)

Urgent Evoke – Social Good Alternate Reality Game offers lessons learned. 30k missions in 3m.


Did you miss playing Season One of the World Bank’s Alternate Reality game, Urgent Evoke? Robert Hawkins, Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank and Executive Producer of the Urgent Evoke game, posted his reflections on the results recently – “The World Bank’s First Foray into Serious Gaming” – on the Educational Technology Debate website. The Urgent Evoke game was developed by the World Bank Institute (the learning and knowledge arm of the World Bank Group) under the direction of alternate reality pioneer and gamemeister Jane McGonigal. (If you haven’t seen Jane’s TED talk, take the time to watch. )

The lead team has posted the game Post Vita with each member offering the Top 10 What Went Right followed by Top 10 What Went Wrong (with solutions proposed).


We want to be as transparent as possible to help other social good games learn from our EVOKE experiences.

 What was the designers’ purpose for the game?
The goal of the social network game is to help empower young people all over the world, and especially young people in Africa, to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems.
I especially appreciated the #5 What Went Right shared by Jane McGonigal–Multiple Win Levels. Adding that to tags. 
We designed multiple win levels. We correctly anticipated our pyramid of participation and calculated thresholds for engagement. We made it possible for casual players and lightweight players to meet a goal (e.g. founding member), and for active players to meet a goal (e.g. certification), alongside the most active players, who received heroic or legendary certification.
In Season 1, from March 3 to May 12, 2010, “more than 18,500 agents from over 150 countries worked together to successfully to complete more than 30,000 world-changing missions and quests.” And in the best spirit of participatory design, many of those agent players are helping to co-design the new and improved Season Two.
To get ready for Season Two, scroll through the game’s engaging storyline creatively told in a Graphic Novel – you’ll find 10 episodes covering Social Innovation, Food Security, Water Issues, Womens’ Rights, Indigenous Knowledge, Urban Resilience, Power, Crisis Networking, the Future of Money and the future of Evoke (episode 5 didn’t load for me).


Nikes turns London into a game board to engage young people in identifying as runners

I was not blessed with happy feet. I loved to run when I was in elementary school. I loved the individual challenge of the dash and loved the team spirit of the relay. But running (and even walking) hurt my tender feet. I put up with wearing embarrassingly ugly orthopedic shoes in elementary school, orthotics in high school including a steel arch support, and by my early 20s, I’d learned to deal with chronic pain. Nikes changed my life. I bought my first pair at a shopping mall in Florida – I fell in love with the bright yellow, stand-out-in-a-crowd shoes with the electric blue swoosh stripe. I could walk, run and dance without pain for the first time in my life.  I wore them everywhere. I still wear them everywhere. My daughter, two decades later, got the first Nike running shoes with the sensor that connected with her iPod and gave her feedback on her running. So I’m not surprised to see Nike engaged Wieden+Kennedy to gamify running by turning London into a game board. The two-week competition called the GRID is in full play right now – there’s a window into the action on the GRID website. Stamen Design in San Francisco is providing awesome visualizations using data flowing in from the runners via London phone booths. They’re providing the genius behind the video above and this one on the YouTube NikeGrid channel showing day runners slaying night time vampires….

Fast Company gives some great backstory and the Wieden + Kennedy blog goes into core objectives and game design. As of this writing, the Grid site reports 2997 players and 337 teams.