CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 14 . . . . December 9, 2016
The Maker Movement is a growing community of inventors, designers and tinkerers employing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and Do-It-With-Others (DIWO) techniques and processes to create new products. These products usually fall within, but are not restricted to, the categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). The use of upcycled materials is encouraged. "Makers", whose attributes include creativity, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, imagination, innovation, inventiveness and risk-taking, work in their homes, garages and workshops, referred to as "makerspaces". Failure is considered an opportunity for learning. Maker Fairs are held all around the world. They are family-oriented festivals which celebrate the Maker Movement and allow participants to share what they have created and learned.
The six titles in the "Be a Maker!" series not only encourage readers to follow their passion but also to collaborate with other similar-minded individuals to develop new ideas. Each title focusses on a particular area of interest and includes some history of the field, information about the various techniques used, tips and suggestions, and "Makers and Shakers" text boxes which feature past and current innovators. "Be a Maker!" sidebars pose critical-thinking questions designed to extend the reader's understanding of the topic. In addition, there are three projects for readers to try. (As such, the titles of the books are a bit misleading because the books are not merely comprised of projects.) When providing examples of products or people, the authors have chosen those with whom readers will be familiar – from the movie Frozen and the video game Minecraft, to singers Taylor Swift and Drake. Bright and colourful, the books have an attractive layout with the text printed in geometric-shaped boxes. Several different font styles are used; however, the style used most frequently is thin and faint and difficult to read. This is unfortunate, especially since the title about graphic design discusses the importance of font to convey a message. (A personal bias is that, though the books reflect an entire movement, the term "maker" tends to be overdone and becomes rather off-putting, especially in the sentence, describing a young inventor, that reads, "He starting making at age 12.") Illustrations consist of diagrams and photographs, well-suited to the text. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are included, and a "Learning More" section provides a brief list of books and web sites to support further research.
Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Animation explores various animation techniques, such as traditional animation (drawing on cels), Claymation, stop-motion and computer animation. There are also instructions for making a movie, from script to screen, using a storyboard as a reference. Readers will be amazed by Lotte Reiniger who combined her interest in traditional Indonesian shadow puppets and movie-making to produce a 66-minute movie for which she cut out and photographed 24 pictures for each second of film, a total of almost 100,000 cutout silhouettes. This title, perhaps slightly more than the others, emphasizes teamwork. The movie Frozen, for instance, had a 36-second sequence which required the skills of more than 50 people working for nine months. The projects in this book include the creation of a flip-book, a model for a stop-animation film, and a group project employing light, sound, a digital camera and a computer to create an animated movie.
Though fashion is everywhere, not just in clothes, Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Fashion examines the fashion of clothing and accessories. Fashion tells a story and is influenced by the historical setting, geography (landscape and climate), music, and one's mood, situation and personality. Some fashion is related to the wearer's occupation or interests, such as an astronaut's spacesuit or a gymnast's leotard. This title covers everything from fashion trends and types of fabrics to haute couture and clothing produced by a 3-D printer. The invention of textiles such as nylon and denim revolutionized the fashion world as nylon is used in many applications, and denim jeans became mainstream everyday wear and not just for farmers and miners for whom they were originally designed. There is also a trend today towards eco-fashion. Designer Stella McCartney, for example, selects her materials with extreme care, mindful of their impact on the environment, and her retail stores are powered by renewable energy. Projects include a little fabric change purse or gift bag, a stencil for a fabric-painted tote bag or t-shirt, and a t-shirt re-design. In this project, readers can take a simple, upcycled t-shirt and create a braided neckline to transform it. Unfortunately, the instructions for this project are rather unclear and not as easy to follow as the others. None of the projects requires the use of a sewing machine.
Throughout history, people all over the world have been playing games. The Industrial Revolution and advances in colour printing led to the popularity of board games, while electronic innovations led to computer and video games. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Games highlights the various types of games from video and card games to tabletop games which fall into the categories of classic (these depend on luck), strategy, cooperative and role-playing. Basically, every game is a kind of system which has a purpose, rules, elements of strategy or chance, a game space and game pieces. In this title, readers will be introduced to the terms "hacking" which refers to changing something that already exists to create something new, an example of which might be taking the components of two or three different games and combining them to create a new one, and the "iterative design" process which refers to a repeating cycle of steps used by game designers. The author takes readers from initial game design and development to making a prototype and playtesting to receive feedback from players before the final product is launched. Activities include analyzing and changing an existing game, designing a game using five found household objects, and refining a game after testing it.
Graphic design is everywhere - on signs, ads, magazines and posters, to name a few. It uses pictures and words to impart information quickly, often employing pictographs or symbols that are easily recognized by the majority of the population. Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Graphic Design will suit budding artists. It explains the elements of design (shape, colour, texture, space and focal point) as well as the various kinds of typefaces which can be used for special effect. The terms "kerning", which describes the amount of space between letters and words, and "hierarchy", as it pertains to focal points, are introduced. From the printing press to lithography, computer and desktop publishing, and Photoshop for creating special effects, graphic design has undergone many changes in its history. Today, many companies and organizations use logos to identify their products or services. McDonald's golden arches logo is well-known throughout the world. The deeper meaning of some logos, however, might be lost on most viewers. For instance, the text states that the "I [heart] New York" logo, designed to promote tourism in New York, "uses an American Typewriter typeface to convey an image of a hard-working American city". (In fact, research found online indicates that the designer admitted to being influenced by the stacked letters which say LOVE. There is no mention of his intent to convey the image of a hard-working American city.) Projects in this title include the creation of a word cloud (an image made of related words), a logo design, and a business card design.
Music is a universal language. Whether it is created by two coconut shells struck together or by a hollowed out gourd filled with dry beans or rice, it has one thing in common: it is caused by vibrations which make sound. In Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Music, readers will learn about the science of sound and how it relates to physics and the elements of pitch, timbre and volume. For makers, the current Western instrument families of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion have been replaced by the Hornhostel-Sachs system of grouping instruments according to how their sound is produced. This system ensures that the less common instruments are included. A few examples of categories are instruments that vibrate air (e.g. bagpipes and harmonicas), those that vibrate membranes (drums), and those that vibrate all over (e.g. a musical saw whose player pulls a bow across it or taps it with a hammer). Electronic music and various types of singing (yodeling, throat singing, scat singing and beatboxing) are also covered. Readers will recognize many of the popular singers who are mentioned, from Jay-Z to Daft Punk. Following the instructions in the book, readers can make a water trombone, a drum (or an entire drum kit), and a pegboard-based instrument with multiple pitches and timbres.
Finally, Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Robotics features information about society's increased use of robots to make people's lives and jobs easier. Robots can be inspired by nature as inventors observe the movements of humans and animals to determine how a robot can best be designed to suit its purpose. For instance, the design of a robotic arm by a German robotics company was inspired by the way an elephant could move its trunk, and the hand was inspired by the movement of a fish's tail. Examples of robots include drones, the Mars rovers, robots used in the manufacture of cars, computers and televisions, and robots that deliver medication, food and linens in hospitals. Other topics covered in this title are the parts of a robot (sensors, actuators, CPUs and circuits or power sources) and writing code to control robots. There is also mention of a couple of competitions, one of which is RoboCup, an annual worldwide competition, begun in 1997, in which soccer-playing robots designed by university students compete in a soccer tournament. Activities in this book include the creation of a robotic hand using cardboard, tape, elastic bands, string and drinking straws; the creation of an intruder alarm (the user places it under a mat at the entrance to his or her bedroom and anyone who steps onto the mat will set off a buzzer); and the construction of a solar-powered robot from an old garden light.
Overall, the "Be a Maker!" series is a very good series, one that encourages readers to think outside the box, and it is sure to inspire a lot of budding inventors.
Gail Hamilton is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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