Saturday, July 25, 2015

You can support a child’s interest even if you are not knowledgeable in that field yourself.

When our oldest was 12, he took apart an old lap top. He then began researching what each component did. From there he saw a project on where someone had built their own computer. This intrigued him. He began watching the Newegg TV you tube channel and reading the Kitchen Table Computers site. He was given another old lap top, in which he began experimenting with Ubuntu on. As his knowledge of computers grew, he would pretend to be building a computer for different individuals - a granny, a gamer, a small business owner, a school student, a photographer, etc. and add components he thought would fit their needs best to a shopping cart seeing how much an individualized build would cost. He would show us his various builds and one day I responded with, “If you were building a PC for yourself, show me what components you would select.” For his 13th birthday we surprised him with a box containing those components that he had hand selected. All he had to do, was figure out how to build the computer that he designed. 

Now that he had his own computer, he utilized books such as Web Design for Teens and Computer Programming for Teens. He completed all of the tech skills on He did a ton of computer related reading. He worked through Teencoder Java Programming from Homeschool Programming. He also discovered Minecraft. 

He didn’t enjoy playing Minecraft as much as exploring how he could use code to customize Minecraft. He began creating mods. We bought him Youth Digital’s Minecraft Mods course, which ended up being a total flop. He did not want cut and paste programming. He wanted to learn how to hand code mods, which he succeeded at doing. 

He also began running a Minecraft server. At first he started with Beastnode, but shortly after he wanted more control and ability to customize his server so he switched to Digital Ocean. He would receive his allowance via pay pal and was in charge of his server bills. He used WordPress to create a website for his server. He ran a very popular Minecraft server for about a year, before deciding to shut it down and use the time for more advanced projects. 

He opened a GitHub edu account, explored multiple operating systems, researched optimizations to improve performance, and began contributing to open source code. He experimented with Raspberry PI and Arduino. He devoured Codeschool, Udemy, Ryan’s Technology tutorials, NodeSchool, and other online lessons. He began hand coding websites for increased ability to customize. 

He then discovered Internet Relay Channels and switched to a professional GitHub account. He learned SSHing, PuTTY, Cent OS, Debian Linux, SSL certificates, HTTP/HTTPS, Object Oriented Programming, IntelliJ, Oracle, and Arch Linux.  

We supported his interest during this time through upgrading our internet connection, paying for web hosting for a blog and portfolio, adding a second monitor to his computer, buying him a better computer chair, purchasing software that allows him to run Windows programs on a Mac, and most importantly providing the time and space for him to pursue his interest in coding. We have a tech friend who kindly gave him an old server to tinker with. 

He now has self taught himself over a dozen computer languages. He has built and repaired multiple computers. He continues to absorb tech related information. He has a networked with professionals in the field.  He’s worked on API’s and Apps. 

I share his story to encourage you to help your child loctate possible resources, mentors, and inspiration from those who are more advanced than they are in their areas of interest, then let them run with it. If neither of you know where to start, ask someone in their field of interest to help brainstorm field specific resources for networking and stretching skills. Kids will self-educate in their area of interest when provided the time and resources to do so. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Make it Snappy's Year

Make it Snappy had quite a busy year. 

He investigated potato chip bag straw rockets, turned a potato chip bag into a boat for his Lego mini figure, put together marble runs, made rubber band powered helicopters, learned how to make a kite, and designed a car wash for his matchbox cars. 

Here snappy explored paper engineering to protect and ice cream cone from weight being dropped on the paper structure. He wanted to learn to stack cards so he began with index cards he found around the house, advancing to playing card structures. 

Here he made a blinky bug, potato powered clock, potato sound device, and a homemade stylus that worked. 

He would go to the thrift stores and look for interesting objects to take a part. He then reused the parts to make a take a part bot. 

Here are some more interesting items he took apart. 

This is a Tinker Crate project, we highly recommend them. 

This was a Doodle Crate project, we love these as well. 

Snap experimented with some painting, including melting crayons on hot rocks. 

Misc. art explorations, a pinch pot, failed diy window cling clover, paper cut out letters to decorate his door, sculpey clay food, homemade clay, and stamp carving (another Doodle Crate). 

Some of Make it Snappy's and Ogel's projects were displayed at our local library promoting their Maker Club. The bottom image is of a bear paw cookie cutter he designed and was 3D printing at the library.

These were some Minecraft projects, a tree house, igloo, and a ghast decoration for his brother. 

Snap enjoyed this diy math game to practice math facts. He explored tessellations and origami. 

He read 39 Clues, discovered what a phone book was, set up a sports casting table where he and his Dad would mock sports talk, tried some book binding, and came up with an X-box skill patch and challenges. 

We toured the Gettysburg Battlefield via horse carriage this past fall. He bought a set of Gettysburg figures. 

Make it Snappy made a tee pee, duct tape weapons, and a cardboard castle. 

This was Make it Snappy's first post it note art.

Pearler beads with a sports theme. 

The Penguin was his larges Perler bead piece. He was copying a design from his iPad. The Lego bricks and Mini-figures are melted beads. 

Make it Snappy really enjoyed making Lego soaps. He then tried Lego crayons in the bottom two images. 

The Mixels have been a favorite of his. He made surf boards for his Mini-figures. Make it Snappy loves the car Lego sets. The notebook and pencil was his first not kit design. 

He then used Legos to make games. 

Branching off from his love of games, he made a skill patch sequence style game. He then made a Tic Tac Toss and Plinko game for a cardboard carnival at the library. 

Make it Snappy became more interested in photography this year. These were some of the very first images he took. I love the patterns he captured. 

This is a mix of projects. He enjoys racing his Traxxas rc car indoors and out, this was a local track he went to. The baseball Lego guys were used in a stop motion. He painted the blades to his ceiling fan, made up a tic tac toe game with a diy theme, and tried designing super bowl cups. 

Make it Snappy is a prankster. He tricked his brother with the bug shadow in the light, experimented with some finger food and hot dog mummies, tried zombifying his hand, made a creepy mask, carved Curious George in his pumpkin, and made a paper mache tombstone decoration. 

Make it Snappy made some yard decorations and enjoyed exploring Shrinky Dinks creating this custom Christmas tree. This was his first time creating a Perler bead scene. 

Snappy learned building a block igloo is a lot of work, deciding to be happy with just a wall of bricks. He made an indoor and outdoor snowman. 

This is the first Make it Snappy had tried light painting. 

Legos were a fun way to learn about animal cells. 

He explored genetics through following our black pug's genealogy. Make it Snappy explored Osmosis using gummy bears. This project convinced me to stop drinking soda as that bear was identical to the one directly beside it. 

Here he explored the solar system and phases of the moon. 

The top is a lung model, which was very cool to see. The bottom left is a heart model and in the bottom right photo he's exploring how it pumps. 

We stumbled upon these guys while out doing errands, little did I know how much they would be used. Make it Snappy loved these guys. We watched videos about them and he created a life cycle model. 

Here Make it Snappy explores vertical waves. 

Make it Snappy thinks food makes learning more fun. 

Exploring cellular respiration, suturing, cloud identification, and a diy compass. 

Make it Snappy put together his own first aid kit. The Terrarium was another Doodle Crate kit. 

This is Make it Snappy pulling his first garden from the carrot for the year. 

Make it Snappy explored different feeders via a Groovy Lab kit, then decided he wanted to make something that will last not something that won't hold up. So he used PVC and Corrugated plastic to make a platform feeder. That feeder has been such a hit with the birds, we counted 24 there last evening. 

Snappy loves nature. He found an interesting spider outside, spotted this hawk on our neighbor's roof, found the baby frog, built a bug hotel, and rescued this little bird that our dog caught. 

Make it Snappy enjoyed seeing the work of beavers, leaf printing, and trying snake bubbles. 

This was the first time he's tried tape casting. He then decided to fill the casting with plaster. He split open a plastic baseball playing out back and decided to turn it into Pac Man. This Notre Dame logo is his most detailed duct tape piece to date. Yep, he uses an xacto knife. 

This was his first multi colored duct tape piece. 

He then used the same process with felt. 

He made a pillow out of outgrown pajamas, an air freshener from felt and essential oils, tie dyed some shirts, and made a felted diy bear paw. 

This year he tried sun prints, but with fabric. He then used the fabric squares to make a pillow. 

He learned how to make knots. 

His puzzle skills advanced. 

Make it Snappy had a bit of a sweet tooth. The taffy pulling was a favorite. 

It's not easy to come up with this many chocolate treats that are dairy, egg, and nut free, but he did it. 

Make it Snappy tried dairy free pizzas, including Mexican. 

He learned to fix himself breakfast and lunch. He absolutely loves Lebanon Bologna, which unfortunately we can't buy here. 

Make it Snappy used a cookie cutter that he 3D printed to make paw shaped bread. He celebrated March madness and made some other goodies. 

Make it snappy loved those appetizers. He participated in a Tween Chopped program at our local library. 

He continues to enjoy the Home Depot kid's workshops and Lowe's build and grown clinics. He also made quite a few large popsicle stick houses this year. 

Make it Snappy found a fun way to clear the snow from the driveway. :)

He continued with karate, where they also have a climbing wall. 

One of our dogs is obviously toy and food motivated. He made her some of both. He made bandanas for our other dog out of outgrown clothes. 

Snap took one of our dogs through basic classes, then passed the Canine Good Citizen with her. 

He went on to train her to become a certified therapy dog. He's the youngest handler on our national team. 

Some of Snappy's field trips and activities this year were: a horse drawn carriage tour of the Gettysburg battlefields, having some of his projects displayed at the local library, Howe Caverns, Mexico Point Park, Southwick Beach, Verona Beach, New York State Museum, Genesee Country Village, Walt's HobbyTown RC track, Lowe's Build and Grow workshops, Home Depot's Kids workshops, Beaver Lake, Watkins Glen State Park, Green Lakes State Park, attending 7 Maker Club events at the library, karate 3-4 days per week, participating in, group dog training classes, taking the Canine Good Citizen test, and 2 full Therapy Dog training days in which he and his dog learned to ride city buses, visited the library, attended a fair, ate out, went to local parks, visited the fire station training his dog beside a firetruck that had sirens blaring, visited nursing homes, learned how to enter and exit an elevator with his dog, learned how to ride escalators with his dog, and visited folks at the mall.