Maker Night: Game Design & Construction

Last night was our latest Makerspace Evening Event, and it was focused on game design and construction using LittleBits, LEGOs, and whatever combination of materials could be found around our Labrary. Here’s how it went down:

Last month, I attended a Make + Munch event hosted by the LittleBits team at the Center for Social Intervention in NYC. About 60 people from all over the area gathered together for a full day of conversation, collaborative building, and sharing. Guests spoke about shifting the focus of design away from competition and towards addressing society’s biggest challenges. And we heard about the work being done at the Un-School of Disruptive Design to implement positive social change in our communities.

The rest of the day was spent in small collaborative groups designing and building an invention that attempts to address a challenge in our community. Here is one idea for how to help people use their phone less when they with others:

Our group decided to find a way to make eating a more communal experience, so we built Gather, which is described as such: “Expanding the idea of nutrition. No need to eat alone. Gather incentivizes communal healthful eating. Motion and sound triggers suspended above a table trigger music and notifications to grow the Gather. Once Gathered, a conversation jukebox sparks relationships and happy eating!”

It was fascinating to watch the different groups go through the cycle of brainstorming, prototyping, and iteration. Some groups drastically changed their project design and intention over the course of the day due to technical constraints or greater clarity on their objective. At the end of the afternoon, each group shared their project and answered questions. It was, in short, an amazing way to spend a day. So when it came time to prepare for our MakerSpace Evening Event, I took this model and used it as the foundation for our agenda.

Our goal was simple stated: Design and build a game that can be played by two or more people. With that in mind, I assembed materials and enlisted help from colleagues.

Materials

I have been collecting LittleBits for over a year now, but I wanted to make sure our newest Labrary space was adequately equipped, so I recently purchased their Workshop Kit. So in all, I had 5 Deluxe Kits, 1 Synth Kit, 1 Space Kit, 2 Smart Home Kits, and the Workshop Kit. I created a series of boxes with 15 bits for each group. In addition, I have an enormous collection of used LEGOs that were donated last year. Finally, there is still a good amount of cardboard kicking around from our Global Cardboard Challenge a few months ago. So we had plenty of raw materials to work with.

Facilitators

I was fortunate to have 5 colleagues from the middle school and technology department help out with the event last night. They were there to ask questions and support students, but not to instruct or take control.

Agenda

6:00–6:15 Welcome, Overview, and LittleBits demonstration

6:15–6:30 Create small groups and discuss what type of game will be created

6:30–7:30 Design and build a game!

7:30–8:00 Clean up & Game demonstrations


Students arrived at 6:00 and were immediately drawn into the project. We had a quick demonstration of how to use LittleBits, talked about the goal of the evening, and then got started. Each group received their box of LittleBits and found a place to work. They brainstormed the type of game they wanted to create, then set out trying to make their vision a reality.

One group working on their House of Horrors board game.

Sitting with these students as they devised ways to make a controllable goalkeeper for their soccer game, how to launch a snake head at players’ game pieces, or keep tally of the points using a digital display, reminded me yet again of the importance of these types of activities. The geometry that was being explored with the construction of buildings; the logical sequence of building a circuit with LittleBits; the interpersonal, collaborative skills necessary to work effectively in small groups. These were all clearly on display last night in an environment buzzing with excitement, positive energy, and fun!

Building the soccer net.
Experimenting with the digital display to see if it could be used to keep score.

At the end of the night, we went to each group and they demonstrated their game. And they were awesome:

This group created an airplane simulator with lights on the wings, a radio, horn, and propeller!
Using a motor for the kicker, and a servo for the keeper. And Spiderman for the spectator..?

It was such a fun night. These MakerSpace Evening Events are quickly becoming a highlight of the month for students, parents, and faculty alike. Now to start planning for the next one..! ☺