We recently asked a few teachers who attended our course at Infosys Pathfinders’ Winter Institute to share some advice with the teachers attending our Virtual Summer Institute course.
Khamphet “Phet” Pease is an award-winning STEM teacher, who has taught at Wilson Middle School in San Diego for the past 14 years. She teaches 6th-8th grade STEM electives including Project Lead the Way modules 3D Design & Modeling, Automation & Robotics, and Computer Science for Innovators and Makers. She founded and coaches the Wilson Middle School Robotics Club that competes in Botball, FIRST Lego League, and iARoc competitions. Always an advocate for her female students, she is also a Girls Who Code facilitator. A problem solver and maker at heart, she enjoys tinkering, building, fixing, and inspiring students to become future engineers, scientists, and makers.
Reflect a bit on your experience with Chibitronics at Pathfinders.
The Pathfinders Winter Institute was nothing short of spectacular! If I had three words to describe the experience, I would say it was inspiring, supportive, and invigorating! I spent three days collaborating with like-minded, passionate educators (whom I still communicate with on a regular basis) as we explored the world of paper circuits with Chibitronics.
We learned how to teach our students using the basic circuit templates using copper tape and LED stickers. Then we moved onto using the Chibi Chip programmable microcontroller to learn how to program the different circuits. As a culminating activity, we were put into groups and tasked with creating a light-up city.
My group really meshed well and decided to go all out to create a light-up theme park. We worked really hard and exhibited our work at the Open House & Closing Ceremony and not to boast or anything, but our project really wowed the facilitators! We were a hit! 🙂
Also, the facilitators were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and patient, and even went above and beyond to purchase a cutting machine when I mentioned that it would be nice to be able to cut out different designs for our project. With the Silhouette machine at the workshop, I learned how to design and manipulate shapes and cut them out on the cutting machine.
One of the biggest motivating factors for me to sign up for the Chibitronics workshop was to increase my female students’ participation in my STEM elective classes. I thought since Chibitronics integrates circuits with crafting, that would be a way for me to integrate the Arts into my current classes. I definitely think that what I learned during the workshop and the projects that I can create with my students will help me reach my goal of increasing more female students in my classes.
Any advice for teachers taking our Summer Pathfinders course?
I know that we’re all busy, but doing the exercises in the Chibitronics sketchbook before the workshop really does help you learn about how the circuits work and gives you practice on how to fold the copper tape, which is a little tricky when it comes to corners. I ended up doing my sketchbook exercises on my flight to RI. It was cramped so I recommend finding more space and a calmer environment to get the exercises completed. 🙂
Once I got a better idea of how to create circuits with the Chibitronics sketchbook, I could dedicate the rest of the workshop to best tips and practices and well as investigate different projects that I could use them for in my class.
And just like we preach to our students, I would suggest to not be afraid to fail and to keep trying and persevering as you work through the circuits, coding, and different projects. Have a growth mindset and you’ll have a lot of fun!
Lastly, I would recommend that you dive into collaborating with the colleagues in your workshop. I really connected with my group mates who are scattered around the US, and we continue to communicate and share ideas regularly. It’s so fabulous to be able to find your tribe and have people to call up or email when you’ve got a question about something.
Tell us about the experience of integrating Chibitronics into your classroom. How have students responded? What would you do to make the experience even better?
Less than a week after my workshop I started introducing paper circuits to my students and they were enchanted and thoroughly engaged! They clamored to make the next circuit and I went through the supplies quickly. I’m in the process of sourcing more cost effective materials (another bonus of taking the workshop, the facilitators gave us different resources, alternatives and/or a cheaper way to get the supplies).
I really appreciated having the circuit templates from the workshop. I made copies on colored cardstock for the students to represent the different types of circuits. Due to my excitement to get started as soon as possible so that my students would have exposure to the paper circuits, I didn’t really think through how to organize the supplies and since I didn’t have enough supplies for each individual student to have their own roll of copper tape, they ended up sharing, which worked out fine. However, in the future, I would make individual kits for the students to help organize the supplies and increase their productivity (no downtime waiting for their partner to finish with the tape).
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and the school closures, my students didn’t get a chance to use the Chibi Chips yet, but I’m looking forward to introducing it to them next school year.
With most schools having transitioned to online learning, how would you integrate what was taught at Pathfinders into what has so abruptly become a virtual platform?
Ideally, I would love for the students to have the supplies at home so that we could do Zoom meetings and I could walk them through circuits and coding but barring that, the nice thing about the Chibi Chip programming editor is that it’s cloud-based and uses Microsoft’s MakeCode environment (drag & drop) which comes with a built-in simulator. So even if the student doesn’t have the physical Chibi Chip in front of them, they can still learn the basics of programming. They can learn the structure of programming including turning LEDs on and off, variables, and loops. What I’m envisioning is that if they didn’t have the Chibi Chip, they would still code and see it work on the simulator. They can still design their circuits from home and we could arrange it so that they can share their circuit with me and I could run and execute their code on the Chibi Chip that I have so that they have a real-life running of their project.
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