Carson Middle School launches area’s first Maker’s Club | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson Middle School launches area’s first Maker’s Club

Molly Moser | mmoser@nevadaappeal.com

From building soda machines to programming drones, and crafting efficient furniture, a group of Carson Middle School innovators are wrapping up their first successful season as a Maker's Club — with more to look forward to next year.

Since the group generated within the school in October, the current members are the first generation of the CMS Maker's Club. The team consists of 22 students from 6th-8th grades. They meet on a weekly basis to design high-tech and industrial products with 3-D printers, laser and plasma cutters, and bandsaws.

The group hopes to showcase products at next year's Maker's Faire in the Bay Area.

"Coming from the Bay Area, this is something I wanted to bring to the school," said coach Jarrod Lopiccolo. "It allows people to create their own inventions and it's perfect for middle school ages."

From hobbyists to students and teachers who love technology, the Maker's Movement is a community-influenced activity developed by MAKE Magazine, a publication that covers DIY technology products.

In the magazine's words, the Maker's Movement is for innovators who enjoy "creating new products and producing value in the community."

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Lopiccolo also is the CEO of Reno's award-winning web design and digital marketing agency, Noble Studios. Joining him as coaches are CMS STEM teacher Josh Billings and a parent, Al Waiksnoris.

In fact, all coaches have children attending CMS whom also are part of the Maker's Club.

To become a member, students are required to record a video explaining why they want to join the Maker's Club and present a blueprint of what they would create.

To further promote their purpose, the club is presenting to the Carson City School Board on May 23.

"We wanted to create a place for kids where they push themselves," Billings said. "It's about creating meaningful engagement by letting them choose what they want to build."

When students enter the CMS warehouse, there's no time to mess around. Students are motivated to finish what they started without guidance from coaches.

Instead of competing in tech contests and challenges, the team received invitations from tech-giants to tour its industries.

Among those industries are Tesla, in which the team will tour sometime in June. Others include AutoDesk of Mill Valley, Calif., and the Innevation Center of the University of Nevada, Reno.

So far, The Reno Generator, a warehouse for local artists, hosted the team in March to build their projects.

"This is what kids need right now," Lopiccolo said. "They need hands-on experience to replicate or build a product themselves. It opens eyes to possibilities, and it makes them feel more empowered."

A popular trend that's developing in Carson City schools are LEGO and robotics leagues and competitions, regulated by the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology organization.

Billings said he and Waiksnoris participated in FIRST LEGO Leagues in the past and results were successful with teams.

However, FIRST teams are required to follow a set of guidelines for creating products, in order to compete in championships, while a Maker's Club is about showcasing DIY products with no limits.

"This gives our students a chance to create accountability with sharing," Billings said. "It's a more organic collaboration."

According to students in the club, many of them were looking for a place to bring their creations to life.

"I'm always in the garage at home making things," said Amelia Graul of eighth grade, creator of a triplex kite. "I love to create stuff."

"I like to make things, but I don't have the time or tools to create at home," said Owen Carlson, also an eighth grader, who's working on a soda machine dispenser.

And for some students, they just wanted to give a new hobby a shot.

"I see my dad build things and I wanted to try it," said Brooklyn Wall of eighth grade, who's building a bookshelf with her classmate.

With some of the students moving onto high school, the CMS Maker's Club still plans to recruit self-motivated students by word-of-mouth.

By doing so, Lopiccolo hopes the idea of a Maker's Club will branch out to high schools in the area.

"We're seeing all schools get laptops," he said. "A Maker's Club is the next evolution to bring to state capital schools with hands-on creations. Our goal is to create a model the schools can adopt."

Moving forward, coaches are planning to host a pinnacle event next school year as an opportunity for members to showcase their work, as well as educating students, teachers, and parents about the club.

But Billings said the local community can contribute by not only spreading the word, but by helping the club make connections.

"The No. 1 thing is to have strategic and collaborative partners," he said. "We would love to have partners willing to come in and help us grow with projects. We want a symbiotic relationship and benefit each other."

For information on the CMS Maker's Club, contact Billings at jbillings@carson.k12.nv.us.

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