Letting Off STEAM in San Fran: Celebrating Creativity & Innovation at the STEAM Carnival, San Francisco

The ed-tech duo Paul Reynolds and Dr. Denine Jimmerson decided to let off a little STEAM in San Francisco last weekend. Representing FableVision Learning and the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity, they helped teach and entertain some of the 15,000 curious visitors to the STEAM Carnival on Nov. 6-8, 2015. 

Described recently by Fast Company magazine as a cross between a video arcade and Cirque do Soleil, the 3-day playful tech-palooza, shows off the circus-like fun that can be enjoyed when the “A” - arts – is added to STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The result was 120,000 square feet of arts and tech-infused fun and frolics in San Francisco’s cavernous Pier 48, which focused on play, virtual reality, science exploration, as well as creation and invention.

Thanks to generous sponsorship from Cisco Systems, the FableVision/Reynolds Center teams provided hands-on demonstrations of a duo of its new creativity/maker software programs designed for elementary & middle school, which are opening new doors for student-centered invention and creativity.

The FableVision/Reynolds Center booth was swamped with boy and girls who were immediately hooked by the notion of  quickly designing and 3D printing right in front of their eyes. Fab@School Maker Studio is an online platform that delivers easy-to-use digital design and fabrication software to elementary and middle schools learners. Developed by Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns and the FableVision/Reynolds Center teams, in partnership with University of Virginia and fellow Fab@School partners, the web-based 3D design and printing toolset allows students to create 3D models, pop-ups, and working machines, including original inventions scanned from the Smithsonian’s historical collections. Because the software is designed for affordable scrapbooker-style digital cutters - using paper, cardstock and cardboard, Maker Studio hopes to address some of the access and equity issues around the Maker Ed movement that often has been the realm of only those who can afford the pricey maker-ware.

Strolling past the Flambe fire chamber, Virtual Reality rides, and legions of robots, STEAM Carnival visitors who came the Reynolds Center booth also came upon a familiar technology – the book.  Young and old alike were excited to learn that they too could “show what they know” in STEM by using their creativity and writing to design and publish their very own books – now with a little help from technology.  My Awesome Publishing Company is an online platform for grades 3-8, created in partnership with Lulu, Jr., that gives teachers all the writing/design tools needed to turn a classroom into a mini-publishing company.  The software is hosted by New York Times best-selling author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.

Peter’s identical twin brother Paul Reynolds, co-founder of FableVision/Reynolds Center and author of a series of STEAM-themed books for kids (Going PlacesFull STEAM Ahead, and Go Green!) notes, “Celebrating the critical nature of creativity in STEM learning and work is key to our mission – arts, for us, is all about the creativity required for STEM innovation and invention. Participating in STEAM Carnival was especially meaningful, because – while the big, high-tech STEAM exhibits were incredibly fun - our STEAM toolset lets kids, teachers and parents bring maker activities back home and into the classroom in easy, affordable ways.”