After participating in the Hour of Code last December and seeing how my students reacted and hearing some of the statistics about how poorly we are preparing our students for future careers at two recent conferences, I decided that I wanted to make coding part of the curriculum in my computer lab this year. I also found out that I received $2000 from Wal-Mart for a grant I had written to purchase Bee-Bots, Pro-Bots, and accessories that come with them. This particular post I’d like to describe a bit of a creative project I took on to allow for more of the grant money to be spent on the more “fun” mats from Terrapin.
If you look at their website, you will see that they offer a Card Mat that seemed to be a piece of material with a grid and a piece of plastic that worked as an overlay. The teacher could personalize this mat by putting images, cards, or other things down for the kids to have to move the Bee-Bot to during the lesson. They also offer a Guide Mat for the Pro-Bot that looked like a heavier piece of plastic that the car could drive on and write on with a dry erase marker.
My very patient mom followed my lead as I tried to find similar materials. I went to Lowe’s first, thinking that they would have the plastic. They had plastic drop cloths that would be disposable, but I wanted something sturdier and not as throwaway. As we were leaving the store, I finally remembered where I had seen the plastic I had been thinking of and she finally understood what I meant. The next day we were traveling to Lebanon where there was a JoAnn’s Fabric Store and we would be able to see what pricing would be.
While I was checking out the vinyl plastic and colored vinyl, a woman came up and started discussing how overpriced the material was. She told me about a store near my aunt’s house in Brickerville (near Lititz/Lancaster) that was selling the same Vinyl for 1/3 of the price. Since the whole idea was to save money, I excitedly told my mom and the next day we took a trip to Weaver’s Dry Goods.
All I can say is that if you go there and can’t find the fabric you’re looking for, there’s a problem! It’s an entire barn of fabric! There were rooms dedicated to specific materials! We just walked around in awe wishing we could sew. There were other things as well, mostly sewing related, but some really cool artsy craftsy type items to purchase to decorate your home as well. The vinyl there was indeed 1/3 of the price at JoAnn’s and we quickly scooped up 6 yards of beige vinyl for the card mat base, 6 yards of a medium weight plastic to go over the mats, and 6 yards of a heavier weighted plastic to use with the Pro-Bots. They also had this fold out cardboard measuring board that I would suggest purchasing if you take on a project like this. It made cutting the material and putting the gridlines on so much easier. None of my squares are perfect, but they would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t had that board. We also bought a rotary cutter, which was a huge help as well.
The only other item that I needed to finish up my little project was some of the new smaller width duct tape. Here’s where I ran into the biggest problem. I couldn’t find enough black so I ended up buying other solid colors. Counting in my head I thought that two rolls would do it, however, the last four inches or so are attached to the cardboard and are unusable and I wanted to put a little over the edge to assist in holding it on. So, you basically need three rolls of whatever tape you’re going to use for each mat. My parents are going to an appointment in a nearby smaller city tomorrow, so they are going to try and find some more black, pink, and green so I can finish up my mats.
I think I’m going to ask around for some wrapping paper tubes to help roll things, but we’ll see how things go once the Bee-Bots and Pro-Bots come and I actually start to try and store things in my room. I’m very excited about the possibilities and am going to try and update this blog as I go through the process. Part of the blog will also be the prequels of how some of these things came about, so check back soon for another update which will hopefully have some finished pictures of my mats!