Tag Archives: STEM

2011 was a Great Year for Harris Educational

2011 was a fairly trying year for the world as a whole with man-made problems of economic turmoil and political strife, as well as natural disasters and bad weather. But in spite of the environment Harris Educational had a wonderful year in 2011. I’m attributing this to hard work and dumb luck on our part but I know the biggest reason for our success was due to our readers, our fans, our customers, the good folks at ShopBot, Make Magazine, and all the wonderful resellers of our Reinventing Science kits.

Our year started out with an upgrade to our science kit production capabilities in the form of a new CNC Router. Our goal was to automate the production of some of the parts of our Reinventing Science kits and also to allow for new product development of parts that would not be easy to achieve using other more traditional methods. To learn how to use the new router my first project was to build a custom computer case and a new computer that we could use to edit and produce more video. The Ingenematic Visitron was born and I’m proud to say that the story was picked up by Hack-a-day sending quite a few visitors to our blog and making us a few new fans.

2011 saw my first trip to Maker Faire in California. In May my nephew Brian and I traveled to California to exhibit the Reinventing Science kits to throngs of people at the Maker Shed inside Maker Faire. We met a lot of interesting people, made some new friends, and caught the attention of Popular Mechanics who mentioned Harris Educational and the Reinventing Edison kit by name as one of the reasons that the Maker Shed was one of the top ten coolest things to do at Maker Faire! (TONS of photos from Maker Faire are on our fan page here, here, here, and don’t forget the video we posted “The Motion of Maker Faire” below)

One of the big events at Maker Faire in California was the Hackerspace Challenge, and I met a lot of interesting people from different maker spaces from around the country. On my flight back to North Carolina I kept thinking how great it would be to have such a place here in my home town of Burlington. I started brainstorming for ways to make this happen by expanding Harris Educational (a project I’m still working on)

In June my nephew Brian helped me again and we exhibited Harris Educational and the Reinventing Science kits at Maker Faire NC in Raleigh. (Tons of Photographs Here, Here, and Here) Maker Faire NC was in its second year and it was great to meet and become involved with all of the folks responsible for making this faire a reality. Two other great things came out of this mini maker faire. Thanks to a sign in our booth asking Alamance County people to say hey to us I met a couple of folks who have become founding members of our new Alamance Makers Guild. The second thing to come out of MFNC is our new relationship with ShopBot tools of Durham NC. Harris Educational is now working with ShopBot to create STEM based curriculum materials around Digital Fabrication technologies such as their CNC Routers. The second half of our year has seen quite a bit of development on this project, not to mention the addition of a ShopBot desktop CNC Router to our list of tools.

In July and August more people learned about Harris Educational thanks to some local news stories. The first was a full page article written about us in the Burlington Newspaper, “The Times News.” This story then got the attention of WGHP Fox 8 news out of Greensboro NC who interviewed me for the evening news segment “Made in NC” You can see the video above.

In August I set up a “Meeting of the NC Makers” including the folks from ShopBot Tools, Roy Underhill from PBS’s Longest Running DIY Show “The Woodwright’s Shop”, the folks from Maker Faire NC, and some others for a fun day of woodworking in high tech and in historical contexts. In the morning Roy Underhill visited ShopBot tools to see CNC Routers in action, and after a great lunch at Ted Hall’s house in Durham, everyone visited Roy Underhill’s Woodworking School in Pittsboro NC. While there I shot put together the following videos.

With support from the folks I met at Maker Faire NC I’ve officially launched “The Alamance Makers Guild” through a meetup.com group, a fan page on facebook, and a twitter feed. We’re now holding regular monthly meetings and members have shared their talents and their creations including some really cool wood turnings, steam punk art pieces, and even a home made tesla coil! Much more with the Alamance Makers guild in 2012.

This year also saw our first international sale of Reinventing Science kits with the addition of a new reseller in the Republic of Korea.  The year also saw the addition of Pasco Scientific as a dealer, and Educational Innovations adding our Reinventing Morse kit.  We’ve also laid some groundwork for the setup of some more new resellers for 2012. Sales for the kits continue to increase, a great accomplishment for such a flat economy.

The year finished out with some very positive recognition of our Reinventing Science kits! The Surprising Science blog at the Smithsonian picked our Reinventing Edison: Build your own Light Bulb science kit as one of the top 10 best gifts for Science lovers. We were also highly honored to have been picked by Make Magazine as one of 12 Science Kits reviewed in their “Ultimate Kit Guide” special edition. We received a 5 out of 5 for the quality of our instructions and our materials! I was also very happy to read all of the comments about the kit when they gave one away at their blog.

2011 was a great year for Harris Educational and I’m sure 2012 will bring all new challenges and opportunities.  Thanks to everyone who supports us!



Announcing a New Partnership between Harris Educational and ShopBot Tools

It is with great pleasure that I announce a new partnership between Harris Educational and ShopBot tools of Durham NC. I will be applying my skills and experience in instructional design, educational development, and K-12 science and technology education to help ShopBot create a unified, modular STEM curriculum about Digital Fabrication related to their popular and successful CNC routers and other tools.

ShopBot Desktop CNC Router Digital Fabrication Tool

The New ShopBot Desktop CNC Router Digital Fabrication Tool

ShopBot Tools of Durham NC designs, manufactures, and supplies digital fabrication tools such as 2D/3D CNC Routers, 5-axis CNC routers, and related equipment. They are committed to making these tools at a very high quality but also at a very affordable price. I’ve met the folks from ShopBot, toured their facilities, sat in on some of their training, and observed them at two Maker Faires and I can tell you they are a different kind of company! I’ve found them to be very open and very forward thinking. Every employee is enthusiastic and committed to what they are doing. As one of their motto’s says, they build the tools for building the future!

Digital Fabrication covers a wide range of technologies that have evolved from expensive specialized industrial machines and processes to affordable and flexible solutions that are now well within the reach of individuals, students, schools, and small businesses. These tools and techniques allow a person to go from a digital design created on a computer and translate that it into a real working physical object.

ShopBot Buddy Mills out 3D Replicas of attendees of the San Mateo Maker Faire

ShopBot Buddy Mills out 3D copies of attendees of the San Mateo Maker Faire

Digital Fabrication tools can be subtractive (like CNC routers, milling machines, or laser cutters) or additive (like plastic extruders and deposition printers) or even a combination of the two. Just as the PC and then the Internet have revolutionized how we create and share information digital fabrication technologies are revolutionizing how we create and distribute physical objects and products. To translate an idea into reality in the past would have require a workshop full of tools as well as a great deal of experience, skill, and patience. These new tools such as ShopBot’s CNC machines free anyone to focus on design while the machine does the work.

President Obama views a ShopBot in Action at Loraine County Community College

President Obama views a ShopBot in Action making wind turbine parts at Loraine County Community College in Ohio

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future—if we want innovation to produce jobs in America… then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”              … President Obama (State of the Union Address, January 2011)

STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” and is a new way of looking at education. Instead of teaching concepts like science and math separately in a vacuum or without real world application or reference STEM seeks to integrate other disciplines including Engineering and Technology with Science and Math. STEM tends to be more hands-on and draws from other areas to create learning experiences that are closer to what a person might expect to find in the real world.

The U.S. now ranks 60th in the world in producing scientist and engineers; it has fallen 22% in just the last decade. Our high school students rank 23rd in science and 30th in math. To continue to thrive in a modern world and to prepare our children for lives, jobs, and a culture which increasingly depend on an understanding of science and math, we need to be making a stronger investment in education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)” … Quoted from the ShopBot Website (ShopBot in Education)

Harris Educational shares ShopBot’s views on Education and the need to improve skills and knowledge, and make more young people aware of and enthusiastic about STEM related career paths. Every person does not necessarily have talents in any given area, but every human being is creative! We are all innate problem solvers and we all invent and create the world around us every day. Digital Fabrication is a great platform to unleash the creative side of every person. Through their ideas and designs young people can build a desire to go a bit further and investigate “how does that work?” and “how can I improve that?” and “how can I share that?” To go further they can learn the geometry and science and other “hard stuff” that helps them get to their goals.

ShopBot Tools are already in use in schools around the world serving a wide range of rolls from educational platforms to job training to tools for art and architecture projects. Many teachers, students, and others have already shared lesson plans, information, instructions, projects, and designs with each other and with ShopBot. ShopBot’s and Harris Educational’s goal is to leverage this material and add to it in order to create a complete modular curriculum that meets the needs of STEM educators for students in Middle School, High School, and College.

Harris Educational will be producing educational materials and publishing them through ShopBot for free distribution and use by anyone that desires to teach Digital Fabrication as part of their STEM educational program. At first we’ll be producing PDF materials that educators can download and use. As time goes on we’ll be producing videos, animations, e-learning modules, and other materials. I’ll be creating teach-the-teacher materials, teacher classroom materials, and student materials. We’ll also leverage the extensive training materials and actual projects that are available through ShopBot for users of their tools.

Work on this project is beginning now and we’ll be publishing materials as they are available so that teachers can begin working with them as soon as possible. This is an ongoing, evolving, and living project! We’ll be working with educators for suggestions, peer review, and feedback. We’ll then improve and add to the content as time goes on. If you use a ShopBot in your school (or are considering it) you can contact us to help with our project! You can contact Harris Educational at info@harris-educational.com or through our website at http://www.harris-educational.com You can contact ShopBot tools at http://www.shopbottools.com (for questions about ShopBots or Purchasing a ShopBot please contact them, to be a part of the curriculum project please contact Harris Educational)

Stay tuned to our blog for further information and updates. We’ll make announcements as we publish and make new materials available.

If you are a STEM educator reading this blog, then please also consider “liking” us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/HarrisEducational)… we are building a community of people who are interested in STEM including students, teachers, and every day people including some leading figures in the worlds of Science and Technology. We also have a LOT of free resources for educators available at our website at: http://www.harris-educational.com/resources/index.html

Identify It! Challenge for 12-08-2009

Here is our latest Identify It! Challenge image:

Identify It! 12-08-2009

Identify It! 12-08-2009

The dime is for scale only.  Make your guesses at the Harris Educational Fan Page (http://www.facebook.com/HarrisEducational)

Check back in a few days for the answer.