Makerspace at Big Picture
Makerspace at Big Picture

“Things are different here at Big Picture,” said sixth grader Zoe Marsch.  She is a student in the school’s Makerspace STEM workshop, designed to creatively and scientifically challenge students.  The Makerspace focuses on engineering design activities, hands-on learning and real-life applications.

Creativity and education are melded together in Big Picture’s Makerspace, a location where students are given endless materials including duct tape, piping, wiring, motors, zip ties and more to work on engineering projects.

“The Makerspace is a great place for students to get engaged with learning,” said sixth grade teacher and underwater robotics Makerspace facilitator Jenny Ferries.

The goal of the class is to “teach students teamwork skills and basic engineering skills, such as soldering, building with a variety of materials and basic circuitry,” said Ferries.  “It is student-driven, so they are very motivated to learn and try new skills.”

Students in the STEM workshop are creating a variety of projects.  The class is divided into teams, some building remotely operated vehicles (ROV), others constructing marine habitats and one group is working on an Arduino technology project.  Each student is meticulous with their decisions for the item they are constructing. For each project, students use an engineering design process by asking questions, imagining possible solutions and researching current structures.  Once built, the students test their projects, and then improve upon the design based on their test findings.

Several groups are constructing underwater habitats.  These teams consist of two to four students.  The designs are very different ranging from a futuristic look, to one that is designed like the inside of a home.  Brooklyn Dwight is on the team who created the home-like habitat and said they used the “home feel so explorers feel stable.”  The goal is create a habitat that is neutrally buoyant, so it hovers in the middle of the water.  Also, it must be raised and lowered with either motors or air, similar to a diving bell.  Parts of the habitat can float, but the main structure must be submerged and neutrally buoyant.

Underwater ROV
Underwater ROV

The Arduino team is still deciding what they are going to make and code, but their possibilities are endless.  Arduino is an open source program that has kits and directions for building digital devices and interactive objects such as robots, thermostats and motion detectors.   One team member, Alex Tanimoto said “do you want to have superpowers?  That’s what Arduino will do!”

Two groups are striving to build the best ROV.  Sixth grader Thomas Dolan said that on the first day of class, each group member drew their idea of a robot and then they blended their ideas together to create what they needed to be successful.  “We also thought about hydrodynamics,” said Jamie DaSilva.  The ROVs are scored on a point system based on capability and design.

Competition runs high between the two groups building a ROV because the best constructed ROV of the two groups will compete in the Pacific Northwest Regional ROV Challenge, hosted by the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center (MATE).  The competition challenges students from all over the world to design and build ROVs to tackle missions modeled after scenarios from the ocean workplace.  The challenge will be held on May 9 at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

Ferries said she just wants her students to be challenged and happy.  With their sheer excitement while in the Makerspace and their drive to improve their creations, it is clear that students take pride in their work.

Makerspace is made possible by the generosity of Bellevue Schools Foundation donors.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.