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The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s Maker Group has received a one year, $13,195 grant from the Raspberry Pi Foundation to engage local educators in the St. Louis region to develop an educational package that introduces students to electronics, plant science and computing.
A portion of the funds will support the Danforth Center Maker Group’s first community event, St. Louis Raspberry Pi Jam, to be held on Saturday, January 31, 2015 from 1 P.M. - 5 P.M. The event is free and open to all ages, families and educators and will include demonstrations and activities to explore the use of Raspberry Pi microcomputers to construct low-cost hardware and software engineering tools and other maker projects for plant science and beyond. Register for the event here.
The Maker Movement is a growing trend with a global community of hobbyist and professional inventors, designers, engineers, artists, programmers, and tinkerers. Maker spaces are popping up across the country in libraries, museums, community centers, and schools—giving people of all ages access to mentorship, programs and tools like 3-D printers and scanners, laser cutters, microcontrollers and design software.
The Danforth Center’s Maker Group was founded in 2013 by Center postdoctoral researchers, Noah Fahlgren, Ph.D. and Malia Gehan, Ph.D., who saw a need for low-cost plant phenotyping tools and software that would complement the Center’s Bellwether Foundation Phenotyping Facility.
“We were very inspired by the Center’s new Phenotyping Facility. We wanted to see in action how we could leverage robotics, imaging and computing to measure plant traits at a scale and precision not feasible before. We immediately started thinking about ways we could use similar techniques to enhance experiments outside of the Phenotyping Facility, but at a much lower cost,” said Noah.
The Group is a forum for all members of the Center, who have no previous engineering experience, to explore constructing low-cost hardware and software engineering tools and focuses on supporting projects that will directly benefit a wide range of research at the Center but will also help connect the local maker community.
By promoting custom engineering projects at the Center, the Maker Group serves as a significant source of cross discipline training to the postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, technicians and staff.
“Many educators in our area are finding new ways to incorporate educational hardware into their curriculum. This grant will assist our goal of demonstrating how low-cost computers can be used for hands-on education,” explained Malia, the Center’s Maker Group cofounder. “We will leverage input from educators with our combined expertise in computing and plant science to develop lessons for Raspberry Pi-based kits that promote the integration of computing in STEM fields through inquiry-based and active learning.”
For more information on the Danforth Center’s Maker Group, visit their website and follow them on Twitter.
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