If you look closely at the images above, you might be able to see a green plastic bubble maker that was donated to the Makerspace this past summer, as part of a pile of old toys that could be taken apart or repurposed.
I think the bubble maker was originally broken, but I’m not sure about that. What I do know is that one student who is part of the library’s Make It activity found it and saw the potential in it for something greater–some kind of moving vehicle. Yesterday, after months of tinkering, that old bubble maker, now attached to battery packs and motors and wheels and wires and lights, had finally been turned into a working car.
The story is in the tinkering. There were several days where the student worked an entire 55-minute period and made absolutely no visible progress, because every idea failed. (I say no visible progress because of course, every failed attempt was part of figuring out what would eventually work, so it was progress!) He would come to every class with an idea of something to try, and sometimes there were baby steps forward, and sometimes it felt like nothing would ever work, but at the end, he’d smile and stick it all back in his box and resolve to try something again next time. Some days he’d work on something else, because he needed a break from this project. At one point, he learned to solder because he hoped that soldering the wires from the multiple motors and battery packs might hold it all together, but alas, that did not work, and it all fell apart right before the bell rang. (The solution to that problem ended up being the breadboard that is on top, which also allowed for the addition of lights, including one he took out of his old alarm clock at home.) There was a lot of testing, and moments where something that worked the week before suddenly didn’t work and we couldn’t figure out why.
He took it home over winter break, almost done, with ideas about his next steps and a few supplies, and yesterday brought it back, working! WORKING! And he still has ideas about how to improve it!
The joy on this kid’s face at each successful step–not just the joy of getting it working in the end, but of solving each tiny problem that came up along the way–is why we have a Makerspace in the library. I don’t know how close the current version is to whatever original vision he had, but the beauty is in the process. Bravo!
And on a side note that really isn’t a side note, because it’s the same concept of perseverance at play, check out the kid in the background of this photo. He was working in Scratch, and one of his accomplishments over break was figuring out how to make his game harder: he programmed it so that the speed of the ball in pong was the same as your score, so that as your score increased, so did the difficulty of the game. So clever!