Teen STEAM—That’s A Wrap!

Teen STEAM - Josiah and Makey Makey
Josiah attends Makey Makey Madness.

As summer fades into fall, we’re reflecting on a special partnership that made this a truly meaningful and memorable season. We’re talking about Teen STEAM!

Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Thinkery was able to expand our EdExchange professional development program into several branches of the Austin Public Library system. We teamed up with APL for Teen STEAM, a fun, free summertime program designed to engage local students and combat summer learning loss.

Teen STEAM was a unique opportunity for teens and pre-teens to explore STEAM subjects in an immersive environment with Thinkery staff. Participants tinkered with e-textiles, Makey Makey, automata and stop-motion animation software in six separate 90-minute programs. Thanks to IMLS funding, Thinkery was able to provide the tech kits and professional development needed to facilitate these experiences.

And it was a hit! While Teen STEAM programming was geared toward local youth ages 10–17, we saw a large number of students under the age of 10. In all, more than 275 students attended a Teen STEAM session at one of 14 participating APL branches, with many families traveling to multiple branches throughout the summer.

One such participant was Josiah. Josiah, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, and his mom, Ann, traveled to several branches to participate in our Teen STEAM partnership. They were able to attend all six programs.

We recently sat down with Josiah and Ann to discuss their involvement.

Teen STEAM - Josiah and Ann
Josiah and Ann traveled to several Austin Public Library branches to participate in Teen STEAM.

Josiah, you were able to attend all six Teen STEAM sessions. Lucky! Tell us about your experiences.
Josiah: In Mechanical Magic, we experimented with automata. I used household items to create a machine that could do work. Paper Circuits and E-Textiles was fun, too. We used thread and ordinary objects to conduct electricity.

Ann: It was the first time he had ever sewn!

Really? The first time?
Josiah: Yeah, it was awesome!

So cool. Were there any other Teen STEAM sessions that stood out to you?
Well, in LittleBits, we put magnetic connectors together to control cars and make donuts. It was interesting to see what everyone created, and it was helpful to use their ideas to improve my own design. It was fun collaborating and sharing with others.

Oh, and Stop-Motion Animation was really cool—it was my favorite. We made mini-movies with items we had on-hand. You could use your imagination to make a video about literally anything. My stop-motion video was about a blue snowflake.

Teen STEAM - LittleBits
Josiah’s littleBits creation!

Ann: One of the Austin Public Library assistants gave everyone a flash drive to save their films. It was really neat to have that takeaway from the workshop.

Takeaways are always great! Did you take anything else away from Teen STEAM? Have you continued exploring anything on your own?
Josiah had so much fun creating his own video games, videos and drawings in Scratch Coding. After the workshop, Josiah signed up for a personal Scratch Coding account. He’s really having fun with the trial and error aspect of coding.

Josiah: Yeah! I learned that trial and error is something very important for those interested in STEAM. You can remember the mistakes you made, learn from them and find ways to improve on your project.

Ann: Austin Public Library also had coding books on display. Josiah checked out two books and read them both. He found them so interesting! I even read one, too.

You did? That’s fantastic!
Ann: Yes, it was a great introduction to binary coding.

Did you participate in any of the workshops, Ann?
Ann: Just Makey Makey Madness! We built controllers out of cardboard and conductive tape. Then we used our controllers to play a game on the computer. It was fun playing “Frogger.” Josiah loved that you were able to play music with ordinary objects, just by tapping.

Josiah, did you have any interest in STEAM prior to participating in Teen STEAM?
Josiah: YES! I love playing computer games. And I’ve worked with LEGO Mindstorms in Robotics Club at my school.

Were you familiar with the technologies used in each session? Had you heard about them before?
I had heard about Scratch Coding, but everything else was new to me. I really had fun exploring and trying new areas of technology, especially LittleBits.

Ann: The whole experience was really great for Josiah. During the summer, kids can experience a learning gap, and Teen STEAM helped bridge that gap in a fun and exciting way.

Josiah, are you interested in pursuing a career in a STEAM field?
Josiah: Yes! I want to explore stop-motion animation further. I want to be an animator when I grow up.

That’s amazing, Josiah! Any final thoughts on your Teen STEAM experience?
Josiah: I am so thankful for this experience! Thank you for making this such a fun summer.

Ann: I feel so fortunate. This was an excellent way for him to explore and play and learn new things. And I love that the exploration doesn’t have to end at the workshop. We were introduced to so many resources that I know Josiah will keep learning and having fun at home.

And as for Thinkery, we had a blast connecting, collaborating and bringing STEAM into our community. Thank you, Institute of Museum and Library Services, for your generous support. Thank you for for making this innovative program possible, and thank you for bridging the summer learning gap for so many Austin-area students.

These activities were offered in collaboration with Thinkery. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
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