Friday, June 26, 2015

Welcome Sam Lorentz! - Creativity Labs Introduces New Undergraduate Members

This June, the Creativity Lab Team has introduced two new undergraduate members to the lab, Alex and Sam.  They are both working with the BioSim Project and are eager to get started.

--A post by Sam Lorentz

I’m Sam and I am studying Biology, with minors in Psychology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, at Indiana University.  In the fall I will begin my Junior year. I’m an Evans Scholar as well as a member of the Indiana University Swim Team.
The Creativity Labs initially interested me because of my strong desire to get involved in research.  As I’ve progressed through my science major, my interest in the entire process of research, from formulating questions and hypotheses to publication, has grown.  After hearing about the CL and all it’s innovative work I was certain it was something I wanted to be involved in.  
I have spent several summers working as a swimming instructor.  I have worked with large groups and individuals ranging from 4 to 12 years old.  I really enjoyed getting to work with kids of various age groups on a day to day basis.  My most effective lessons were when I made the learning and swimming fun for the kids.  After learning this I’m very excited to start working in the field with the BioSim play to learn model.  Additionally, I have experience working as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in the Biology Department at IU. The Biology students I worked with gave me the opportunity to further my teaching abilities while enhancing my speaking skills. The CL gives me the opportunity to combine research and my experience with children and as a teaching assistant to a single place that’s changing the way we think about education and cognitive development.
With this excellent opportunity to work with such a qualified team, I am hoping to further my own abilities as a researcher, find out if research is something I want to pursue long term, and to make a contribution to science and education.  If I were to pursue research after graduation I could see myself working in some sort of cognitive development lab or a biology lab.  I’m particularly interested with the human brain as well as the molecular side of biology.  Working on the BioSim project is some of the best experience I can get, especially if i pursue cognitive development.  
As I’m getting started I’m most excited to start working with kids.  I really think that the research here is making a huge difference for kids, both immediately and in the future of education.  The complex systems that we work with have incredibly broad applications.  By helping young students to master them now, we are creating more thoughtful adults and future scientists that could eventually make revolutionary discoveries.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute

South Fayette School District in the Pittsburgh area has been a hub for educational innovation for several years now, pioneering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Studio model and hosting the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute to train educators to spread these innovations to their own classrooms. The Creativity Labs has worked with them before (links) to provide professional development in e-textiles. This summer, we were happy to do so again as part of our summer service activities.

To learn more about the awesome e-textile projects pictured here, read the rest of the post below!

Welcome Alex Dailey! - Creativity Labs Introduces New Undergraduate Members

This June the Creativity Lab Team has introduced two new undergraduate members to the lab, Alex and Sam.  They are both working with the BioSim Project and are eager to get started.

--A post by Alex Daily

I’m Alex, and I am studying Human Biology with a Concentration in Human Health and Disease and minors in Biology and Chemistry.  I am entering my junior year at Indiana University and I am also apart of the Hudson and Holland Scholar Program.
I was initially drawn to join the Creativity Labs because of my desire to do research that involved children and the mental capabilities that they possess.  My prior research experience differs greatly.  I first started doing research my junior year in high school doing field work with an ecology biology professor. I found this experience to be really helpful especially when it came time to decide where I wanted to attend school.  I was able to build upon the knowledge that I had acquired through basic science classes help my professor advance in her study of fish in the local ecosystem. My research has also brought me to a lab though the evo-devo department at IU; The Mozcek Lab.  With these experiences I have gained a passion for research and aspire to continue growing as a researcher and with the opportunity from the Creativity Labs I plan to do just that.

My past experiences with children also played a role with me joining the Creativity Lab.  I have experience as a summer camp counselor working with children from the ages of 4-17. This allowed for experience with many different age groups.  I was able to tailor different skills to fit the personalities and capabilities of all children that I worked with.  The experience also showed me that I enjoyed working with younger children and helping them grow and develop socially and mentally.  I also have experience as a peer assistant which gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as a leader and as a creative individual in terms of implementing plans and ideas.
CL allows me to take my past experiences and my hopes of being a pediatric neurosurgeon and researcher and put them to use.  I am able to see how I can help children learn complex systems and ideas and really understand in depth what connections their brains are making.  I am also able to help shape and mold minds for tomorrow, so that not only are children understanding material, but they also gain a desire and passion to go and solve new problems in the world and become the scientists and researchers that this world needs in order to progress humanity, this is what I am most excited about in terms of BioSim; watching the children come to the realization that through creative learning and various creativity methods that they too can understand complex ideas.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Creativity Labs Learns to Knit

This is the second in a series of blog posts about the Creativity Labs’ fiber arts summer workshops. The workshops are experiential opportunities to learn new crafting skills, which have connections to the current Re-Crafting Education project. We are learning from and working with experienced crafters in the community to strengthen our understanding of and connection to the regional fiber arts community.

In this second workshop, the Creativity Labs team took on the next fiber arts challenge during a group knitting lesson at Yarns Unlimited in downtown Bloomington, IN. The local yarn shop has been a key site for observation and instruction during the Re-Crafting project, and offers both a rich collection of beautiful, soft and colorful materials and fiber arts classes for crafters in the community, including knitting, crocheting, and weaving among many more. In addition to the playful storefront, where fibers, yarns and felt as well as knitting needles of all sizes and books inspire to make, the shop contains a classroom dedicated to fiber arts lessons.

The crafting classroom at Yarns Unlimited. 

The teaching staff comprises of passionate, skilled and dedicated knitters, crocheters, and weavers. Our instructor, Karen Canapa, has been knitting and crocheting most of her life, attesting to its therapeutic benefits. She works with fiber artists of all levels, but is particularly patient throughout the (sometimes frustrating) first minutes of a new knitter’s quest to get in the loop. Her extensive work with beginner knitters has given her the opportunity to observe and to design effective and fun instructions for a knitter’s first lesson. 

Here is a glimpse of what we learned when we picked up our needles:
  • The Slip Knot: To start a new project, the knitter can make the first loop to slip onto the knitting needles. This loop is called a slip knot, and the yarn “slips” right onto the needle as the knitter prepares the project. Karen warned us that the slip knot can be “super tricky” to make - we agree with her! 
“The [slip knot] is a small knot that leaves a loop on one end,” Karen explained, “and if you pull the two ends, the knot completely disappears. So, it allows us to have a variable size beginning stitch.”

From left to right: Karen shows Anna another variation of the slip-knot technique. Sophia practices making slip knots in the crafting classroom. 
  • The Cast-On: The first row of a knitted project is the row that is cast onto the needle by the knitter. The knitter will put both needles into the slip knot to make an “X” shape. 

From left to right: Putting the needles through the slip knot. Folding the yarn over the needle to prepare for the first stitch. Starting the second row of stitches.
  • The Knit and Purl: Knitting consists of two basic stitches: knit stitches and purl stitches. The first stitch the beginner knitter learns is the knit. A series of knit stitches is called the garter stitch pattern. We learned to knit a few rows of knit stitches. We also worked together fix some of our mistakes. In doing so, we were able to see that knitting is actually a process of crafting that generates loops, instead of knots (as some may think). A row of stitches is essentially a connected line of loops! After learning the knit stitch, Karen taught us the purl stitch, which can be thought of as a reverse knit stitch.

Sophia learns to knit and purl across the row on her stitches.  

These 3 techniques work together to form a knitter’s first tool kit. The knit stitch itself can be used to create an extensive collection of projects. Together, we learned that the first moments of knitting can be complex and challenging, but as one of us (Kate) writes about in her first weeks as an embedded knitter, mistake-making is a valuable component of the learning process. Karen recommends 15 minutes of practice a day to develop a natural flow to your knitting practice. It may only be a matter of time before the Creativity Labs knits a matching team uniform.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fiber Arts: Sewing with Gail Hale

A post by Sophia BenderTony PhonethibsavadsNaomi Thompson, and Anna Keune

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the Creativity Labs’ fiber arts summer workshops. Tucked away on the eastern side of Bloomington, the CL team attended a workshop to learn how to use the sewing machine by artist, self-proclaimed maker and innovative recrafter, Gail Hale. Gail worked with the Creativity Labs team several times in the past, including assisting the creation of a cosplay costume as part of the Re-Crafting Mathematics project. This project was the overall frame for our sewing workshop at her private makerspace. As an artist of the Discardia group, that repurposes discarded materials into refashioned wearables, our workshop project was in true discardia style: sewing a grocery bag out of sheer synthetic fabric, which was repurposed from curtains.

The wonder-filled studio, with painting and dried out beehives dangling from the ceiling right over mannequins wearing hats and dressed in fashion projects in progress and former Trashion Refashion outfits, a fridge covered with reused magnets and shelves stacked with fabrics for projects to come, we gathered around a large and heavy wooden table, eager to learn.

To get started, Gail laid out the metal pattern used to cut the bag-shaped cloth for the project. The sheer fabric was slippery, and Gail fastened the pattern tightly onto the fabric, using old metal irons and pieced of railroad tracks that she gathered and cut apart years ago from a former workshop. To prevent the fabric from fraying, Gail recommended to use a woodburning tool to cut the fabric along the metal pattern, neatly sealing the synthetic fabric’s edges.


From left to right: Metal irons and railroad track pieces hold down the pattern. Kate practices her cutting skills. Kate adjusts the fabric before sewing.

Next, it was our turn. Rotating around the group, one by one, each of us carefully stepped towards the pattern and cut a small area. While this is a rather unconventional method for cutting fabric, it was an innovative use for old tools, underscoring Gail’s spirit of making. Moving forward, to save time, Gail provided each with pre-cut fabric pieces. 

Janis at Gail’s old Singer machine.

Ready to get our hands on the sewing machines, we all followed the same order to sew our shopping bags. First, we sewed up each of the sides, before moving on to the handles. Some of us decided to sew two “triangles” into the inside bottom of the bags to create a flat bottom and we learned a new term from our newest team members, Ed Gentry: We called this boxing it up. For the handles, Gail suggested a really neat trick to provide extra reinforcement and to flatten the seams so they would lie comfortably against your shoulder. This involved sewing along the handles once, then opening the seam and sewing each side down. However, some of us had sewed our seams too tiny to use this technique! She also said the sides of the triangles be sewn down to provide a more finished, secure look. Some of us opted to do that, and some didn’t.

The Creativity Labs team working hard

This fun workshop that kicked off the Creativity Labs summer series of fiber arts activities not only enriched our understanding of the intricate and fascinating craft of sewing, but also gave us a chance to learn more about each other, our past experiences and our interests moving forward as a research team. Thanks so much to Gail for helping us out!