This summer, Do Space awarded their first summer Innovation Fellowships to two Omaha-area educators and a non-profit innovator focused on literacy. The three fellows each received a $10,000 stipend to create groundbreaking projects in 3D printing, robotics, and software development that can eventually be implemented throughout the city of Omaha.
Recipients of the stipend have had access to Do Space’s resources and a materials budget throughout the summer to help with the creation of their physical projects.
Next month,Do Space will host a special event on August 5 from 4:00-6:00 to present the accomplishments of the very first Do Space Fellowship project to the people of Omaha. The three fellows will share their progress on each of their summer projects and tell which local schools, libraries and learning centers will be able to independently administer them.
SPN checked in with each of the fellows to learn more about their background in education and tech innovation and to find out more about their projects.
I have taught high school math, as well as coached cross country and track, for seven years at Omaha Bryan High School. I took a strong interest in tech three years ago after I read about the high need for jobs and the lack of availability of tech education in most schools. I spent the next two years researching and collecting data on the positive impacts of exposure to computer programming on high school kids, with a focus on low-income and minority students for my Master’s Degree in Curriculum Development and Leadership.
My Innovation Fellowship is focusing on introducing students to coding by using Bricklayer, a local non-profit created by two professors at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Bricklayer combines the use of code, math, art, spatial recognition, creativity, and problem-solving to teach computer science. Code created in the platform can be brought to life with Lego Digital Designer, LDraw, or uploaded into Minecraft. The artifacts coded in Bricklayer can also be 3D printed so kids can see and touch their creations while also learning about the technologies and programs that go into 3D printing.
My focus is to help get computer programming into more classrooms by giving teachers instructions on how to easily use Bricklayer in their classroom without needing to have previous knowledge themselves. This innovation is appropriate for elementary school students and can be expanded all the way into college classrooms. It can be done at an individual, small group, or whole class level, and is flexible enough to meet the needs of the instructor no matter what subject area they teach, or the time frame in which they are working.
Anyone has access to Bricklayer right now through their website (bricklayer.org), and the specifics of what I am putting together through this Fellowship will be available at the end of the Fellowship. I plan to add, update, and modify the way in which I implement this in my classroom, libraries, and after school programs as well, and I will make those modifications available for anyone who is interested.
This idea of taking what works in the classroom, and rethinking it to make it better and more efficient in order to give students a better experience is exactly what I’ve found coding to be all about, and it has been quite the metaphor for me as I’ve worked through this Fellowship.
My background is in journalism. I was drawn to the field because I wanted to be able to share important stories that could better inform the general public and even increase their empathy for situations or people or events that they normally might struggle to relate to.
I created a profile on AmeriCorps and a few months later I received an email from my current boss, David, who had started a non-profit called DIBS for Kids (Delivering Infinite Book Shelves). DIBS is tech-focused in a way – we fundraise to sort of flood Pre-K through 3rd-grade classrooms with leveled books that we place QR-code labels on. Each day kids pick a book on their level, scan the QR-code using DIBS’ web-based software, take it home and read it, then scan it back in the next morning. For students who may not have books to read at home or the ability to get out to the library, this can make a big difference.
My project is focused on making it easier for donors to get the books they are passionate about sharing into the hands of people who really need them. The way it tends to work now, donors have to go through quite a bit of legwork to find a school, teacher, librarian, non-profit, etc. that can use their books, then coordinate and figure out how to get the books where they are needed. I think we can build a better way for donors and those who need books (adopters is what I’m calling them) to find each other.
For a first version, this is a WordPress site that uses forms to input book and adopter information into a database. Schools, libraries and non-profits will be able to create adopter profiles where they can share who they are and what they need. Individual donors will create a profile, then enter a book’s information into a form, like title and author, condition and age range. That data will be sent to a page that adopters can search through, then denote which books they need.
Eventually, I want this to adapt so donors will only need to scan the barcodes of their books through a phone app or their webcam. I could also see university students taking this on as a capstone project if it fills their requirements.
Overall, this experience has taught me that it’s absolutely possible to take that idea you always talk about and actually go out and make it happen. It’s going to be extremely difficult and time-consuming, but if you keep at it and go out and find those who can help direct you it’s going to happen.
I’m a computer science and engineering teacher at Omaha North Magnet High School. I have taught for 12 years and in that time have been a building tech trainer, High Ability Learner facilitator, and have taught a variety of subjects from math to pop culture studies, primarily focusing on computer science.
I am working on a curriculum for teaching cyber security in a high school setting for my Innovation Fellowship. I have taught a cyber security course at North for the past three years that has a dual enrollment with UNO, however, most schools do not offer this as a course. I wanted to make an easier path for a teacher interested in offering cyber security at their high school. I am also making tiered lessons so that a math teacher could take part of a lesson on cryptography and teach it from a mathematical context without worrying about the programming aspect.
Cyber security is a growing field, but also a field that is in need of professionals. By offering a course at the high school level, schools can expose students to these concepts and hopefully generate interest for them to major in computer science, cyber security or information assurance. I hope that this work encourages people to pursue computer science and related fields of study in college and as a career.
I also hope that this work lowers the barriers to teaching a class like this. After the fellowship is complete, I intend to publish my work as a website for teachers to use for free and plan to present this work to the larger body of computer science teachers both locally and nationally.
Do Space Fellowship Showcase
7205 Dodge Street
August 5, 4-6 PM
Refreshments available with Q&A time to follow