What parent hasn’t searched for the ‘perfect’ present and then fixed her gaze intently awaiting the joy in her child’s eyes as the treasure is unwrapped … only to see the very treasure tossed aside as the child crawls inside the plain old cardboard box?? It is in this moment of utter disbelief that the child becomes the teacher — and reminds us what we sometimes forget — the joy is in the imagination and the opportunity to take a simple box and turn it into the treasure!

Herein lies the true spirit of a Makerspace. It’s about taking what you have and turning it into what you can imagine. So, yesterday, we took this on in a large scale project in the Brilliant Labs Mobile Makerspace at Dr. TL Sullivan Middle School in Cape Breton.


The Grade 8 class were asked to bring in an empty box – and told only that we would be making a robot petting zoo. The goal was to learn to use the Hummingbird Robotics Kits and Scratch program to create — based on the project video I had seen from TechHive (video can be found here: ).

When the students arrived in the Makerspace, they were asked to form 5 teams. We watched the TechHive video — and then I hosted a quick tutorial with the Hummingbird Kit from Birdbrain Technologies. This tutorial included how to plug in the board, light an LED and run a motor using the Scratch program from MIT. We had previously done an hour intro to Scratch, so the program was familiar.

The Goals

This was the first Makeathon of its kind in the Makerspace — so the goal was simply to ‘make something light up and move’ — a very limited goal in hindsight. Even I had UNDERESTIMATED the imagination and creativity that was to follow! As I saw the ideas and plans unfold I was tempted to lower the bar — to ‘manage expectations’ as we so often do. But, I chose to let it unfold even at the risk of unfinished projects and perhaps some disappointment. Boy was I naive!

What Happened

After the video – the conversations started. Keep in mind – all they had was a box and a set of wires/motors. I didn’t give them a ‘kit’ of supplies – I encouraged them instead to look around the Makerspace and take whatever tools/supplies they needed. They found paper, tape, scissors, glue, felt, fabric, paper tubes and even stuffing! Items that were scrapped from other projects were also reused. It was great to see them search for items and find ways to add to their project.

The Result

The students worked tirelessly for the entire morning — they cut and pasted; glued and taped; wired and tested; coded and built — but most of all — they created! Their teacher and I supported the session. But, they really needed very little support — it was amazing to watch! Each group worked together – they shared tasks and built something they were very proud of…and at the end of the session each group introduced and talked about what they had created. We could definitely see the Minecraft influence as square boxes became live animals…perhaps that is part of the underlying Minecraft phenomenon – maybe Mojang has captured the spirit of the box, lol.

I was very impressed to see just how the students used the motors – the penguin has a motor on the bottom – which allows it to ‘glide’ across the floor; the pig’s motor makes its curly tail spin; the chicken actually uses the ‘cap’ of a pen taped to the motor – to indirectly make its wing flap! Definitely some budding engineers in this group!

It was an incredible day — and a fantastic event to be part of. Of course we took lots of photos and videos and hope to create our own Brilliant Labs tutorial — or maybe — it might just be best to keep the steps a mystery and simply encourage students to grab a few empty boxes and see what they can create — without a guide, without limits, without rules….for it is in this space that imagination breathes.

To Experience this in Your Classroom

Brilliant Labs is proud to support making in classrooms across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. We have a Project Fund to help us do just that…so please tell us your idea and apply for a project fund today! It doesn’t have to be about robots – but it does need to be about making! Here’s how:


We used the Hummingbird Robotic Kit by Birdbrain Hummingbird Kit and we programmed our robot creations with Scratch Scratch Program


I use the pronoun she/her…to simplify the storytelling as my creative license…she/her can easily be substituted with pronoun of your choice Note also, I don’t include photos/videos of the students for privacy reasons – but let me tell you the noise level and excitement in the room was unbelievable!

#3Dprinting #easy #allgrades #arts #100500

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