As Lianna gave me a tour of the Learning Studio my first day, I noticed many artifacts around the space. A giant cardboard tentacle frames the glass wall where curious visitors observe the Tinkering staff at work. Random automata and contraptions are showcased all over the room and a kinetic art table called Sisyphus serves as a coffee table. There was no doubt that this space represents the fun possibilities of my internship at the Exploratorium.
My first item in my post-graduation checklist was to explore STEM education before continuing engineering in graduate school. To me, the best way to learn science is through exploration, so this museum is the perfect fit!
Today in my last day, I took some time to reflect on my internship experience at the Tinkering Studio. This summer of playful experimentation and tinkering with a wonderful team made me feel part of the group instantly. I even added a mini me to the LEGO-made TS team.
I appreciate the support and encouragement!
A huge part of my experience included Research and Development in which we get to explore new ideas and share them with visitors. Amy, Sebastian and I started R&D for the After Dark "Bling" event in July. It was a popular activity, and I enjoyed showing others how to solder LEDs to their own digital wearables. This is the Digital Bling bag that I made as an example. I got so excited that I used a lot of conductive materials like paint, fabric and thread!
We had visitors from the Tinkering in the Digital Age (TIDA) group in a residency. It was a great opportunity for me to learn from those invested in STEM education. From LEGO designers to MIT Media Lab graduate students, I got a wider view on strategies and applications of learning through tinkering from various perspectives. The experiences that this group shared were eye-opening to me because I had no idea this was a career option! And here are passionate educators developing curriculum that help youth learn in unconventional fun ways.... Wish I was one of these students when I learned physics!
We spent a lot of time using Microbit and Scratch (props to MIT Media Lab!). I gotta say that I was born a little too late because I love how fun it is to learn programming and microcontrollers with this!
Through R&D and many facilitation sessions with visitors, I got to create many fun videogames, animations and programmable pets. I revisited my childhood favorite when I made my own Tamagotchi in scratch, learn more about it here.
Through my time at TS, I had a chance to learn (and fangirl over) artists and tinkerers who collaborated with the studio in projects like paper circuits. I totally loved this particular exploration using Chibitronics from one of my new idols Jie Qi. We did a couple of R&D sessions and explored circuits with visitors. I especially liked this dragon that a visitor made during our facilitated paper circuits activity.
Having the lights turn on and off reminded me of traffic lights. Below is my take on using the Chibichip!
One of my favorite parts of this internship was being part of XTech. I had a wonderful time helping Meg and Jake prepare new facilitators for the incoming beginners. This time took me back to my high school years. I recognized the importance of this space where students are free to be themselves and learn in a healthy environment. I can recall times in high school when I felt safe to be myself and times I didn't. Setting the stage for these students was personal to me.
A clear example is when we painted shirts with vinly plotter cut stencils. It was more than teaching them how to paint shirts, but it was about exploring identity through their creations. Silhouettes of students' face profiles were photographed and modified to include an animal superpower of their choice. We often related aspects of their personalities with the superpower chosen, which added a lot of value to the project. This is my first test with stencils. There was a lot of thinking about positive and negative space in stencil making.
A big portion of this internship was facilitating activities with visitors. Through our conversations in the Learning Studio and the research publications, I became aware of the learning process that one experiences during facilitation. Meticulous thought and research goes into understanding learning through tinkering, and I appreciate being part of the process. I learned the impact of facilitators on the learning experience. I am forever grateful to the kind staff that welcomed me!
The TS team threw a "surprise" goodbye party with a cake and shared encouraging words. With this (and a sweet gift) I leave ready to start school on Monday!
I would like to appreciate the TS team for the fun and learning that happened this summer. May it be soon when I see you all again... hopefully collaborating in a project.