Our little team is growing! We wanted to take a few minutes to introduce two of our newest team members and just for an extra special treat, we decided to have them interview each other.
Photo caption: Arvan and the Setting Sun
Title: “New Product Research & Development”
Tell us a little bit about what led you to JoyLabz.
Actually I met Jay Silver back in 2009 when my wife and I were traveling the country in our van, Arvan. I’d just finished my PHD in Neuroscience, when I got a request to exhibit Vital Threads, a project centered on biofeedback clothing, at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan. While I was there setting up the exhibit, my wife and I met Jay and Jodi who were showing Drawdio at the same museum.
While my wife and I were living a life of adventure by exploring the United States in our van, Jay called me and said, “Do you want to come to MIT and do a workshop?”
A couple years later, I was running an engineering lab and our paths crossed again. We started talking about the future products at JoyLabz and how we view reality.
Now I’m part of the team researching and developing new products.
“New Product Research & Development” sounds like a cool gig- but what does it mean?
For me it means thinking outside the box about low hanging technologies that can help enable people to invent with everyday objects. For instance, there are a lots of new tools out every year, but how can we use those new technologies to become more creative?
You’ve made a lot of cool stuff (see projects) what’s your favorite creation?
This might be cheating, but my favorite creation is my daughter, Ember.
Do you play video games?
Not that much, but coding is like playing video games so I just code instead. I’ve actually done that for awhile. My dad had one of the early laptops abd we got a game, where you could play, but you could also create your own levels.Then I learned about Hypercard which was like Scratch before Scratch existed but not as seamless between playing and coding. It was more like Illustrator but with pre-programmed buttons and you could crack open and change. I spent hundreds of hours in middle school and high school creating my own little games and animated sequences.
Title: "Head guru on Community Engagement and Creative Content"
So what led you to JoyLabz?
It all started with a banana piano…. I remember wanting a makerspace in my first library in the 2012-2013 school year. I started researching what stuff I should buy that would help me in my goal of getting kids to be creative. (What to buy and what to do in a makerspace was very unclear in 2013!) For the first year and half, I ran my library makerspace with no funding for maker tools. In the spring of 2014, I scored a little bit of funding and bought some Arduino kits and Sphero robots. I went to a public library class to learn how to use an Arduino microcontroller because I really had no idea what I was doing. The class was led by an engineer and I just remember being so out of my element. I was lost inside the semicolons. I didn’t understand coding, commenting, or breadboarding, but I kept playing, failing, and building projects from my Arduino starter kit anyway.
Around this same time, I saw this video of a guy playing bananas and I was like “my library needs this!” (It turns out that guy is Beau, Jay's brother!) I wrote a grant, and waited to see if it would get funded. In the meantime, I kept playing and learning about coding with code.org and Scratch (which was much more accessible to me than starting out with the Arduino IDE.)
I was asked to lead professional development for librarians in my school district, and I taught them about these coding platforms. During this workshop, my friend Leah Mann shared Makey Makey with librarians. At the end of a long day teaching those librarians about beginner coding sites, I sat down and played my first banana piano. It was so quirky and fun- I just wanted to do more with it!
So I borrowed a kit from Leah and used it at my last Maker Monday for that school year. Once I received a larger makerspace grant, immediately ordered more kits. The next school year, Diana Rendina’s students challenged my students to get crazy with Makey Makey, we Skyped with the Joy Labz team, and I ended up writing the first lesson plans for Joy Labz that summer.
My maker skills escalated quickly after that and I collaborated on three books with my maker librarian husband Aaron Graves.
Do you play video games?
I'm kinda like you, I like making and creating video games rather than playing them. When I was a kid and my dad brought home the Apple IIE, and I remember sitting down with a big book of code. I would spend hours inputting these huge programs on my dad’s computer. When I hit RUN, it would play a monster across the screen for just a few minutes. I loved it! I loved steeping myself in the process even if the outcome was so short. I wish I could remember the name of that book. I’d like to have that text based programming fun again! I think that's why I like Scratch so much. It's been like the balance bike of coding for me.
What’s your favorite creation?
Aaron and I have made a lot of cool stuff together, but my favorite project we worked on was 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius. Since it was our 3rd book, we gpt really quirky and wanted things to be really beyond the banana. It was a lot of fun prototyping replicable projects with him. Plus, we had fun being silly and labeling the skill levels by banana! Here's some two banana project examples!