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June 12, 2015

Mouse Makes: Lou Lahana & The Island School Inventors for the Social Good

Lou Lahana is the self-proclaimed “techbrarian” which he defines as:
tech·brar·ian (tek brer′ē ən) noun

  • a passionate educator in search of technology to support talent development and social action in teens.
  • an organizer and facilitator of technology-based materials for optimal usage by end-user (usually middle and high school students).

In this video, Lou Lahana from PS 188 The Island School in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, shares his experience guiding technology-enabled social action projects, and how he and his students document their work in videos you can watch hereSince fall 2011, Lou has been leading project-based M Squads and tech classes, using Serious Game Design, Garage Robotics, 3D Design & Printing, and Web Making.

Through the years, they’ve participated in and won several MicroProject and DIY Competitions. He has taught Scratch, SketchUp and Arduino, just to name a few of the more impressive softwares that his middle school students excel at. In addition, he has built a small music and video production studio, where students collaborate to create original music and videos about their social action projects.

In his technology-enabled social action tech classes, students first identify a problem of importance to them. Next, they research the issue and existing solutions. Then, they design their own project using whatever technology they want to use to address the social issue. Last but not least, they document their process using video so that they can share with the world what they learned and made!


About Our Featured Maker, Lou Lahana

 
What would your dream "make"/project be? 
My dream "make" project would be to create a cricket or mealworm farm in the classroom. Farming edible insects would help raise awareness about entomophagy (eating insects) and all its health, societal and environmental benefits. I bet teens would LOVE to join in!

Do you have a favorite tool that you would recommend? How about a favorite writer, blogger, YouTube channel, etc. that you regularly go to for advice or inspiration? 
My go-to site is stellar.io/interesting 
My go-to tool is Final Cut (MUCH easier to learn than you think!)

What is the thing you're most proud of making to date? What's your best advice -- what do you wish you'd known when you first started on that project?
My proudest make was constructing a 3D printer at Makerbot HQ. The prints we made that year blew all our minds and promised infinite possibilities in the future. That said, I wish I understood at the time at the time how temperamental the machines were and how much patience Mouse Squad members would need to practice in learning to troubleshoot them.

When did you fail the hardest at making something -- what happened? What did you and/or your students learn from it?
A lot of our Arduino projects failed and continue to fail. No matter how well documented online tutorials are there are always factors that complicate our designs. From not having the same exact brand/model of components, to code we've downloaded that won't quite run or be modified to suit our needs, there's always SOMETHING. When this inevitably happens, we dissect our code and our electronic connections piece by piece. This can take a really long time and doesn't always succeed. If we can't solve it, then we swallow our pride and simplify our project for the time and return back to it weeks or months later when our brains have had time to secretly work things out behind the scenes.

Where can people find and connect with you online? 
@TheTechbrarian 
http://www.techbrarian.com
 

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