Associate Professor of Education Virginia Bowman Wilcox ’90 is known for her enthusiastic and engaging teaching style. Several years ago she founded Kid’s College, Wesleyan’s certified Maker Space/STEM summer camp, and continues to serve as director. As such, she was invited to be part of the initial introduction of the Makey Makey: “An Invention Kit for Everyone,” designed to connect everyday objects to computer keys. Using a circuit board, alligator clips, and a USB cable, the toy uses closedloop electrical signals to send the computer either a keyboard stroke or mouse click signal.
“Of course I was able to see immediate potential for its use in our summer camp, but my interest went far beyond that. There was an obvious connection to the Design Thinking Cycle used in our STEM/ STEAM courses in the education program.” She also knew students in the master of elementary education program would benefit from advanced exposure to this device and be able to expand the use of it with students in their own classrooms.
“I’ve been in education for more than thirty years and I can’t recall being as excited about bringing an individual idea, item, or program back to implement as I was about the Makey Makey. It is simple to use to teach elementary school students concepts such as conductivity and open and closed circuits in science, yet complicated enough to pose a design adaptation challenge at the graduate level.”
Wesleyan is the only Makey Makey training provider in the Central Georgia area. Recently Wilcox provided training to the pediatric medical engineering students at Mercer University as they investigated advanced uses of the device. Their goal is to provide accommodations and improve the quality of life of child amputees and enhance the prosthetic devices created for disabled children to allow them to answer questions in a classroom environment, ride bikes, participate in competitive sports, and operate toys.
Wilcox said it is rare that a veteran educator comes across a device or program that has the capacity to reignite high levels of passion and excitement like the Makey Makey has done for her. In short, for such a super simple device, the possibilities for its use are only limited by one’s own ideas and creativity, two things of which Wilcox has plenty.