We are excited to have several educational projects that are in progress, and even more under development!

The MTI-Talawanda School District collaborations planned for the 2015-2016 school year are:


Stars, Solar Systems, and Sculpture:

This project involves learning about our solar system, group design of an original solar system, the sculptural building of celestial bodies, the sculptural creation of a star, the mapping of the solar system, and performance of the solar system dynamics.

STEM Learning outcomes:  

1.     Generate curiosity to study and explore our surroundings.

2.     Design representations in conventional and creative ways to answer spatial and relational questions between objects in our solar system.

3.     Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.

4.     Learn that the Earth is one of eight planets orbiting the sun varying in size, structure, appearance, and distance from the sun.

5.     Identify the differences between planets, moons, comets, and asteroids.

Art/Making enhancements 

1.     Understand additive methods of sculpture (cutting and adhering)

2.     Develop skills in subtractive methods of sculpture (shaving)

3.     Use creative choice to design a theoretical body based on known planetary bodies

4.     Work collaboratively to create a single sculpture (geodesic star)

5.     Creatively “skin” the planetary body

6.     Mount a sculpture onto a support so that it can become a performance prop


A. Students will initially learn about our own solar system:

·      Compositions, atmospheres, and temperatures of the planets

·      Distinctions: planets, stars, asteroids, meteors

·      Orbits and the math and importance of the ellipse

·      Relationships between mass and gravity

·      The effect of gravity on orbits,

·      Relationships between density and mass

B. After we learn about known solar systems together, students will design their own original solar system with planets, moons, and asteroids and each student selects which body (scalable in complexity) that they want to build. Depending on the group of students, learning can also encompass planetary types that are not present in our solar system, but exist theoretically (such as carbon planets, circumbinary planets, gas dwarfs, exoplanets, etc.)

C. Before celestial objects are built, students must first choose a type of planetary body (gas giant, terrestrial planet, etc.) and a size of that body relative to surrounding objects (such as the star of the system).

D. They then cut concentric circles from sheets of foam, glue these together to create a sphere, and shave this down to make it smooth. Next they cover this with gummed paper tape to make a solid and workable surface.  Final surface treatment can be completed with paint and other surface additions.

E. Once every student has completed their solar system body they will create a written description of its characteristics, such as distance from the sun, gravity, orbit length, rate of rotation, what it orbits or what orbits it (moons), composition, temperature ranges, presence of ice/water, surface characteristics, etc. Each student will then mount their planetary body onto a support (cpvc tube).

F. Every solar system requires a star, so the class will then build a geodesic dome to represent the sun in their solar system using cardboard. Because this is no easy feat, there will be a group discussion surveying the math and geometry (and perhaps history) required to figure out the dimensions as well as how many pentagons and hexagons are required to complete the dome.  Students will work in pairs to create a set number of the components.  When all components have been properly made they can be assembled to create the dome. 

G. All solar system bodies will be mapped to show their orbits.

H. On a specified presentation day, students can perform the model of their solar system body in a display of the physical interaction of all the bodies in their system as they orbit their (geodesic dome) sun.


Stop-motion Biology Video Art Animations:

This project involves learning about biological systems and demonstrating this understanding using cut paper to create short video animations to describe these systems.

STEM Learning outcomes:

1.     These will be based on the grade level and cycle-based biological topic

Art/Making enhancements 

1.     Understand the relationship between written information and illustration

2.     Develop the ability to communicate through images

3.     Learn to story-board an idea for video communication

4.     Learn to confidently give and receive criticism for a creative project

5.     Learn technical skills to create a stop-motion video


A. Students will initially learn about a specific (cyclical) topic in biology/geology. Topics covered can include:

·      Complete metamorphosis of butterfly

·      Plant life cycle

·      The water cycle

·      Mitosis of single-celled organisms

·      Plate tectonics

B. After we learn about what is known about the specific cycle, Students can work in small groups to describe, using both a written and illustrative form, the cycle they are assigned. 

C. Small student groups will work to story-board their cycle and present this to the larger group for criticism

D. Project leaders will demonstrate the process of cutting paper shapes, arranging them, photographing them, and using the photos to populate a video sequence using available technology (iphoto or equivalent)

E. Based on the criticism, small student groups will begin to cut paper, manipulate the shapes, and photograph scenes for their cycle

F. Small student groups will work with project leaders to assemble their images into a short video

G. At the end of the project, all videos will be presented to the class/school as a video art/science project


Flight Forces and Killer Kites

This project involves learning about aerodynamic principles, the requisite geometry of wings, and the history of flight through the building and flying of kites (tethered objects with aerodynamic surfaces that create lift in order to overcome gravity and fly)

STEM Learning outcomes:

1.     Generate curiosity to study flight

2.     Demonstrate understanding of the relationship between velocity and pressure (Bernoulli’s principle)

3.     Demonstrate an understanding of the inverse proportional relationships between gravity, tension, and aerodynamic forces (lift and drag)

4.     Demonstrate an understanding of the geometry (such as the Pythagorean theorem) that is required to build planar surfaces designed to accept aerodynamic forces (wings, sails, planes, tails, etc.)

5.     Demonstrate an understanding of the significance of the history of heavier than air flight and the influence of local contributors (Wright Brothers and others)

6.     Demonstrate an understanding of how the scientific method is applied to flight experimentation

Art/Making enhancements

1.     Demonstrate an understanding of light-weight yet integral building methods using common materials such as straws, strings, paper, and glue.

2.     Demonstrate an understanding of additive methods of sculpture that involve adhesive

3.     Demonstrate an understanding of tensile structures (planes in tension) and how they can be stretched between solid units

4.     Demonstrate an the ability to make aesthetic choices for color and to be able to create a complex, tetrahedral kite based on those choices


A.  Students will each be given a series of kites that they can make. Some are flat, single plane kites, while others are tetrahedral or box kite varieties.

B. In the maker space students will collaboratively learn the forces that influence kite flight, including gravity, tension, and aerodynamic forces (lift and drag)

C. After the kites are made, students will fly them as project leaders discuss the forces

D.  There will be an additional discussion in the flight space of Bernoulli’s principle (inverse relationship between velocity and pressure), air foils, lift and drag, as well as the Wright Brothers use of kites in order to test and perfect their wing warping designs.

E. Students can compete, while also doing calculations to tell how high their kites are flying (in relation to one another), which kites have more control, etc., with a goal to best understand the relationship of the forces.  

F. Students take their original experiment to the next level and hypothesize designs that hey think may make their kites fly higher, with more control, etc. They can discuss and experiment with other shapes they can make with the same materials, they can fly them, and then they can discuss which shapes are more and less effective and why.


Robots, Rube Goldberg….Rubot Goldberg

This project involves the exploration of basic robotics, drag and drop programming, engineering, 3-D printing, and creative problem solving.

STEM Learning outcomes:

1.     Generate curiosity to study robotics and mechanical engineering

2.     Demonstrate understanding of the mechanical relationships between force and simple machines (lever, wheel/axle, pulley, inclined plane, screw, and wedge)

3.     Demonstrate an ability to use fine motor remote control units

4.     Demonstrate an understanding of basic robotic programming methods

5.     Demonstrate an understanding of sequential cause-effect operations

Art/Making enhancements

1. Demonstrate the ability to create a unique physical challenge/obstacle course

2. Demonstrate the ability to utilize found objects and re-purposed materials to create a set for a participatory event



A.  Students will initially work in teams to build a prescribed robot using Lego Mindstorm sets. 

B. They will use the remote control to guide this robot to complete a set of challenges requiring all team members to develop an understanding of the remote control limitations and what is possible with manual remote control.

C. They will program the robot to complete a set of challenges requiring all team members to develop an understanding of the programming and what is possible with the programming and components.

D. Students will then work as a class to design a Rube Goldberg challenge using various found objects, which will incorporate as many robots as there are robot teams.  The class will build the Rube Goldberg set and build original robots to fulfill the required tasks as designed. 

E. Unique connectors can be designed and printed on a 3-D printer to allow students to connect to additional toy sets (including K’nex, Tinkertoy, Lego, erector set, etc. ) as well as connect to individualized tools created on dowels by the students to fulfill the needs and requirements of the Rube Goldberg set.



Some Ongoing Collaborations Between MTI and Talawanda School District:

Talawanda Middle School after school STEAM Club

The STEAM Club started meeting once a week during the 2014 - 2015 school year and got off to a great start.  In our first year the club consistently drew about a dozen kids each week.  We had the assistance of Miami University Math Education major, Alex Mains, and Miami Art Education major Elizabeth Hilgenberg each week as well as Talawanda Middle School engineering teacher Eric Schlade.  Over the course of the year we spent a lot of time investigating the possibilities of our Lego Mindstorm EV3 sets through building and programming, 3-D printing unique connectors, as well as a few weeks making paper airplanes and kites.  We are thrilled to have this club established going into the coming school year and can't wait to see what our mew club members are interested in exploring.


Some Past Collaborations Between MTI and Talawanda School District:

The MAKETANK Physical Science Project

We connected four senior students from the SEAS at Miami with 9th grade physical science teachers at Talawanda High School to address a curricular void dealing with force, motion, and acceleration. As their capstone project, the students are currently creating innovative teaching aids for the teachers, while being overseen by Dr. Jeong-Hoi Koo (Professor of Mechanical Engineering) and with the participation of Mechanical Engineering Chair Dr. Tim Cameron. The students first met with Talawanda teachers Drew Ruther, Scott Schmid, and Robin Kelemen, and then began designing a series of five curriculum modules (including lesson plans, projects and materials, powerpoints, and tests). These will be delivered for use in the third quarter of this school year with their 254 students. Additionally, the students will create a culminating, hands-on project that will tie together the concepts addressed in the first three of five modules. This will be brought to the Oxford Kinetics Festival where the students will compete against each other and share their work with the community. *

     The MTI-Community collaborations are:

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Butler County

Over the past few years we have developed a great relationship with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Butler County.  We have had a great time working with the big and little pairs that meet after school once a week at Kramer Elementary in Oxford, Ohio.  The bigs in these pairs are all Miami University students and we have found this group to be so wonderful to work with.  We present a project which we are all going to put together but then the pairs can work on their parts of the project together and find new ways to connect and communicate.  Kids in the program range from 2nd - 5th grade so we have a wide range.  We touch on some academic concepts and materials throughout the projects but as this is an after school activity there is a stronger emphasis on making than on academics.

MTI  - Big Brothers and Big Sisters Space Quest

Working with Miami University Physics major, Kelsey Kirkpatrick we developed the Space Quest program.  Through discussion and a number of hands-on activities the kids learned about the basic properties of a solar system.  We discussed all the various solar bodies we might find in a solar system, how mass effects gravity, and how gravity effects orbits.  Then the kids created their own solar system. Each student decided what solar body they wanted to create in this new system and what the characteristics of that body would be as well as where it would be in relation to the system's sun.  With the help of physics students and several art education students from Miami we fist made 2-dimensional versions of the bodies and located them in the greater system.  Then we began the several week process of making "planets on a stick" - papier mâché models of the solar body that sat atop a dowel rod.  At the conclusion of the project the kids were able to put on a short performance demonstrating the dynamic interaction of all the different bodies in their system during their regular meeting time and then again at the Oxford Kinetics Festival.

The MAKETANK Big Brothers/Big Sisters Shadow Puppet Theater

We connected Stephanie Niro (a Theater and History major interested in education) who is overseen by Dr. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong (Associate Professor of Theater), and Sarah Gilmore (an art education major) overseen by Rod Northcutt (Assistant Professor of Sculpture), with Big Brothers / Big Sisters of Butler County. This program will launched on January 13th, 2014 at Kramer Elementary after school and continued every Monday through March 31st. MAKETANK’s Kate Currie worked with this group to develop an original shadow puppet play based on the classic story of Peter Pan. Students collaboratively wrote the script, designed and made the puppets, and ultimately performed the play at the Oxford Kinetics Festival on April 6th, 2014 on an innovative, bike-powered, participatory stage which was designed and built by Sarah Gilmore.

Other Community Collaborations

MAKETANK Lane Library Kinetics Program

For the past two years we have worked with Rebecca Smith (Oxford branch manager of the Lane Library) to develop programs for children that could tap into the resources and environment of the Oxford Kinetic Festival. The project features a reading list and associated programs, and a participatory kinetic workshop presented by Crystal Clear Science, an experience involving hands-on learning. These workshops are held at the Oxford Branch of the Lane Library and then Crystal Clear Science also makes an encore performance at the Oxford Kinetics Festival. In 2014 these workshops focused on rockets and in 2015 the focus was flight.

MAKETANK is currently developing a number of other MTI-Community projects for the coming year.

One is the MAKETANK Mobile Unit, which is a mobile creativity center in the form of a rebuilt, multi-use, vintage airstream trailer. For more information, please go toMT Mobile.

     The MTI-Miami collaborations are:

MAKETANK works with a wide variety of departments and colleges at Miami to help students develop projects they can bring to the Kinetics Festival and to work with children from the community in their particular field of interest.

These include students in the Department of Theater under the supervision of Dr. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong, students and faculty in the departments of Marketing and Accountancy, students in the department of Geology under the supervision of Dr. Brian Currie, students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and students in the department of Art. The art students collaborating with MAKETANK and the Oxford Kinetics Festival represent the largest group. They are in the areas of Art Education, Sculpture, Letterpress/Graphic Design, and Foundations. Art students studying Foundations at the regional campuses (MUH and MUM) also participate. Project High Flight, an interdisciplinary cohort of students and faculty researching near space imaging, has participated at the Oxford Kinetics Festival as well.

MAKETANK is currently developing a number of other MTI-Miami projects for the coming year.

They include collaborations with Western Program, the Interfraternity Council, the Department of Architecture and Interior Design, the College of Creative Arts Scholars, the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies, and further projects with the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Our programming is growing in leaps and bounds...

...and we welcome new proposals, fresh initiatives, unique collaborations, and creative connections. I hope you will let us know your ideas on how to make this a better connected, more confident, and progressively skilled community. Lets collaborate!