HomeTechnologyYour Students Can Be "Makers": 16 Teacher-invented Projects

Your Students Can Be “Makers”: 16 Teacher-invented Projects

From the Otis elevator to the MakerBot 3D printer, New York City, The Big Apple, is a global magnet for innovation and creativity… At Design, Do, Discover 2015, instructors will have the opportunity to exercise their creativity and invention muscles.

In June 2014, I went to Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA for the second Design Do Discover conference. The third DDD took place at Marymount School in New York City in June. Both times, the excellent organizers were Angi Chau from Castilleja and Jaymes Dec from Marymount, and I was privileged to be asked to join as a coach to help teams of participating teachers.

Everyone – coaches and participants alike – had a fantastic first year of learning. This year, though, blasted it out of the water. You knocked it out of the park. You hit the nail on the head.

The idea is simple: start with a fast tour of the facility and a quick show-and-tell of the tools (less than 30 minutes! ), then move on to a group brainstorming session around project ideas (less than 30 minutes! ), and finally form groups to get started on projects.

Groups were drawing and tinkering with Hummingbird Robotics kits, MaKeyMaKeys, cardboard and MakeDo’s, and more even before lunch on the first day. I jumped in to help groups, learning new tools (LittleBits! ), fetched tools and supplies as needed (copper tape! wire strippers! ), recommended resources and suppliers (Sparkfun! DigiKey! ), and acted as a cheerleader for teachers who were pushing themselves to learn incredible new skills and create amazing artifacts of their learning for two days.

All of us coaches were blown away with the final creations! The finest element, in my opinion, is that every single project could be instantly implemented in the participants’ classrooms.

The majority of them may be used in any learning context! Science curriculum in high school, literature, and history in primary school, even social/emotional development… This was the best selection of practical and intellectually oriented maker projects I’ve ever seen!

1; The MopBot

This initiative was produced by a group of students from my Seattle high school… They were pursuing the concept of offering the same project suggestion to the entire school: address a water-related problem.

A traditional kindergarten water problem was observed by our team’s kindergarten teacher: water spills on the floor from the sink and water fountain! The crew decided to create a Lego Mindstorms robot to clear up the spills automatically.

The robot has a motion sensor to activate it, as well as laser cutting for the cute turtle form and 3D printing for the optional clean-up handle.

3D printing, Lego MindStorms, Laser cutting (Adobe Illustrator) (Tinkercad).

innovative project ideas for school students

2: The Salmon Story Crossword

My colleagues finished a second project since they are overachievers! They wanted to play with laser cutting again, as well as study MaKeyMaKey and Scratch, so we came up with a significant new concept during supper on Thursday night: a puzzle-like manipulator that tells the player when they had the proper solution.

We chose to build a fish lifecycle puzzle because our 5th students have been studying the salmon lifecycle intensively. The Makey Makey circuit is complete when the stages of the lifecycle are in order, and the fast Scratch application says “Congratulations!” You’ve finished the salmon’s life cycle!”

Makey Makey, Scratch programming, and (some may say “extreme”) ambition. Laser cutting (Adobe Illustrator), MaKeyMaKey, Scratch programming.

innovative project ideas for school students

innovative project ideas for school students

3: Interactive kinetic sculpture by the DDD group

This crew went above and above to attempt to employ every tool available. They also wanted to make a sculpture that would foster teamwork; to engage all of the “D”s, many individuals have to work together to activate all of the sensors!

Makey Makey, Hummingbird Robotics kit, LittleBits, mechanical gears! Vinyl cutter, 3D printer, laser cutter, MaKeyMaKey, Hummingbird Robotics kit, LittleBits, mechanical gears!

innovative project ideas for school students (3)

4: Donkey Head from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

This group had a fun brainstorming session that took them far away from their initial goals… They wanted to learn about animals and environments, and they especially wanted to combine Hummingbird Robotics kits.

They also wanted something that could be used right away at their schools, and they were interested in wearables. Even though I was present during their brainstorming session, I’m still not sure how they came up with “Nick Bottom’s Donkey Head,” but the end product was incredible and had me laughing almost to tears!

Hummingbird servos control the lips and ears, while Hummingbird LEDs control the eyes. They utilized the Snap programming system to command the motion sensor to activate the entire system. The rest of the head is made entirely of cardboard, felt, and MakeDo connectors!

Hummingbird Robotics, MakeDo, cardboard, and incredible handiwork.

innovative project ideas for school students

5: The Map of History and Geography (Cradle of Civilization, Seattle Immigration)

I spent a lot of time with this group of humanities instructors, the most of whom were not particularly tech-savvy. They annihilated it! They etched their maps with the laser cutter but then were stumped as to what to do next…

They chose to employ LEDs to illuminate several crucial points on their maps, as well as the MaKeyMaKey to provide users of their maps with extra information about each of those spots, after some thinking. When a viewer hits one of the buttons, the relevant place is lighted, and a Scratch-based educational screen appears to explain about it!

Bravery and tenacity, laser cutting, fundamental circuitry, MaKeyMaKey and Scratch programming, MaKeyMaKey and Scratch programming

innovative project ideas for school students

innovative project ideas for school students

innovative project ideas for school students

6: The Three Bears

The combination of technology and storytelling piqued the curiosity of this group. They created a Snap rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, as well as a humorous physical interactive exhibit of the bears themselves. A spectator may engage each bear to move in a different way using the Hummingbird Robotics Kit and three light sensors (one for each bear’s dish of porridge).

Hummingbird Robotics, a lot of Snap programming, Laser cutting, and a lot of hot glue!

innovative project ideas for school students

7: The Compliment Bot

This was a deceptively easy project with some quite complicated internals… When viewers approached the box, these two professors built an Arduino to accept input from two sonar-based distance sensors and deliver a random compliment (from a set of text strings the group generated) to offer them a compliment.

The people that worked on the Compliment Bot were rather amusing… They insisted that the distance sensors performed a retinal scan, the Arduino assessed the viewer’s personality, and the screen-printed a compliment tailored to that particular viewer. When the Compliment Bot complimented my Force power, I was almost convinced.

Arduino, laser cutting, and a great sense of humor

innovative project ideas for school students

8: Interactive Dancing Aliens

I didn’t get to speak with this group very much, therefore I’m not familiar with many of the project’s intricacies. But what’s not to like about two aliens dancing with you as you approach?

Laser cutting, Lego Mindstorms

innovative project ideas for school students

9: Structures for Literary Structures (number 9)

I didn’t get to talk to this group too much, and I didn’t get many images of their creations. The idea was brilliant: language arts instructors were asked to design physical structures that reflected literary structures.

The creation in the photo is low-tech but brilliant: it shows the balance between two sides of a phrase using a lever and fulcrum (Hello, I’m a physics teacher…) Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. writes at the end of his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”:

I ask you to pardon me if I have overstated the facts or demonstrated an undue impatience in this letter. I beg God to pardon me if I have said anything that distorts the truth or shows that I have a level of tolerance that permits me to accept anything less than brotherhood.

The observer can see the higher weight of the second phase of the statement when put on the two sides of the scale, emphasizing the heavier weight of its meaning. A wonderfully lovely metaphor.

Sticks and paperclips, ingenuity, and handiwork.

innovative project ideas for school students

10: Stamps of Monsters

This primary art teacher routinely engages her children in a class monster-drawing exercise, in which each kid receives a sheet of paper folded into thirds. On the first third, the student sketches a monster’s head and then gives it to a second student.

On the second third, the second student sketches the body of a monster without seeing the first student’s head! (Do you see where I’m going with this?) The legs are drawn by the third student, and then everyone opens the folded paper to reveal the hilariously mixed-up creatures at the end.

She scanned some of her pupils’ designs and turned them into laser-cuttable files to make the stamp segments even more reconfigurable! You can see the acrylic, thick cardstock, and MDF trial cuts she did in the photo. Finally, she discovered that etching was superior to cutting in terms of capability.

Cutting with a laser.

innovative project ideas for school students

11: Be fortunate

Using laser cutting and an LED string from a LittleBits kit, this instructor created a lovely and simple work of art.

LittleBits, laser cutting.

innovative project ideas for school students

12: Transformation of Bacterial Plasmids

If you’ve ever wondered how to include “creating” into high school biology, look no further than this teacher’s great suggestion. She made a hinged bacterium chromosome using the laser cutter and arranged it to represent primer sequences for opening the chromosome and inserting a new gene.

Because her classes utilize green fluorescent protein (GFP) for transformation, she used copper tape, an LED, and a coin cell battery to light up the gene after it was properly placed into the plasmid!

Basic circuits, laser cutter

innovative project ideas for school

innovative project ideas for school students

13: Repurposing Furniture

This crew was always laser-focused on design… Their goal was to create hacks that could be used on almost any regular classroom furniture to increase flexibility, storage, and usefulness in a “maker” environment.

The “open” and “closed” configurations of the various items are shown in the photos below: a locking table-extension that reveals tool storage when opened, benches with storage compartments, and (my favorite) a bench that opens to reveal project trays, allowing students to move and store their projects flat without having to sweep everything into a bin.

Design thinking, laser cutting, vinyl cutter!

innovative project ideas for school students

14: Hacking Architecture: Tiny Classroom Spaces


The notion of constructing spaces-within-spaces, or modest architectural hacks to enable smaller experiences within the classroom, piqued the curiosity of this group. They came up with several fantastic ideas, including a miniature domed cave for creating cave paintings.

The “emotional regulation cubby” (where kids can go when overstimulated or in need of calming) and the “private art-viewing booth” were two of the areas shown (where viewers can view art individually even within a crowded space).

Cardboard, MaKeyMaKey, and glue guns

innovative project ideas for school students

15: Personal Sound Booth No.

This teacher noticed an issue at her school: while the iPad program was working well, the learning spaces were all too noisy for students to produce quality voice recordings for their various video and audio projects! She designed a terrific personal sound booth that folds up neatly for storage, easily holds the user’s iPad, has a curtain to block out additional noise from behind the user, and a silent fan to keep the inside cool. The photograph and video do not do the work credit.

LittleBits, basic circuits, foam, and inventiveness

innovative project ideas for school students

16: Emergency Preparedness


This group from the Philippines was very interested in reviewing their school’s emergency preparation strategy and learning as many things as possible. They planned and laser-cut the front façade of their school, as well as a side-building, and then came to me for help with an electrical project: they wanted to construct a feature that would light up the walkway to first aid and disaster stations when a user walked by.

With so little time remaining, I doubted we’d be able to do it with a Hummingbird Robotics kit, let alone an Arduino! I’d only recently discovered about LittleBits, but I was convinced that the system could help them reach their objective! They were successful, as you can see in the photo.

LittleBits, laser cutting, 3D printing

innovative project ideas for school students

innovative project ideas for school students

17: H2OMG!

The goal of this group was to create a project template that would cover a variety of topics while focusing on utilizing sustainable materials with as few “consumables” as feasible. With this in mind, they started by building a blank template that could be used for any lesson/unit design (which they’re releasing here!).

They used a unit on water conservation as an example project, exhibiting their recommended framework for a fully integrated unit. Lessons would be presented using water as a theme in each core area (they picked Math, Social Studies, Science, and English).

innovative project ideas for school students

Math would study volume, English would study poetry, Social Studies would study water control economics, and Science would study actual conservation. Students would be required to make a “button” out of a metal bottle cap (water bottle) and other sustainable or recyclable materials when they demonstrated competence in each topic.

The button must represent the topic they studied (e.g., a 3D printed “V” for volume in math). After making their four buttons, the students’ mission in the maker space would be to design a video game in Scratch based on the concept of water conservation and utilize a MaKey MaKey to create a controller for that video game utilizing the buttons!

innovative project ideas for school students

The objective of this team was to produce something that would continue to bring meaning to making while also assisting instructors in developing lessons that would involve responsible making in their classrooms, teams, and schools – a goal that was easily accomplished!

Scratch programming, 3D design, and printing, with a bit Lego and laser cutting thrown in for good measure.


I am the Senior Team Leader and SEO Specialist at News Degree. I am responsible for editing and publishing content on the website. Specifically, I am an expert in covering stories on celebrities and other public figures in the entertainment industry.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments