On Saturday, January 27, 2018, Newberg High School, held its first ever make-a-thon in Newberg, Oregon. Sudent-led and community-supported, the participants included over 20 students, 20 educators, and 20 community/business volunteers – teams of 3 were created with a mix of each. In addition, facilitators from the Construct Foundation and George Fox College of Engineering, supported the Sparkfun team. The goal for the day: provide the participants the skills they needed to create, design, and make a prototype product from one of three categories: automated chicken coop, automated greenhouse, and the “toy of the future.”

The make-a-thon kicks off School Retool training for 15 teachers and 5 administrative/support staff, funded by a grant from The Austin Family Foundation.  Stanford d.school’s School Retool, a program brought to Oregon with the help of the Construct Foundation, introduces the hacking mindset to educators – a mindset critical to implementing “Agile Learning” into the classroom.

The make-a-thon was organized and supported by the Chehalem Valley Innovation Accelerator, Innovate Oregon, the Construct Foundation, the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Bon Appetit. Sparkfun instructor Derek Runberg and Kelsey Guisti, started the day with a crash course in writing code and electronic circuit design. Besides the Sparkfun kit, which includes a computer and maker-board that lets designers connect and actuate mechanisms like LED lights, directional servos, and motors – using Microsoft’s Makecode software – the teams received other “maker materials” such as cardboard, tape, and glue.

Midway through the day, the 20 teams were asked to design, hack and make a prototype product from one of three categories: automated chicken coop, automated greenhouse, or the “toy of the future. At 2:00pm, each of the teams explained their product idea, demonstrated the prototype, and described what features they would add next. Most of the prototypes worked, to some degree. Lights flashed, servos opened chick coop doors, temperature sensors caused greenhouse roofs to lift… And just like the real world, each team wanted to keep working until the product worked exactly to their design.

At the close of the day, everyone participated in a round of reflection: “What I liked” and What I wonder.”  The consensus was: “why can’t we (all) learn like this all the time” and “we wonder how much better off our communities would be if we did.”  One student said: “This made me feel that the group trusted me, even though I’m a teenager – because a lot of times adults don’t trust us.”  And other participants commented about how much they learned and how making mistakes and fixing them helped them learn faster. Here’s more in a great Newberg Graphic article by Seth Gordon.