The big idea

Keystone Academy Charter School last week presented its new Idea Space, a makerspace that will allow students to participate in STEM skill-building activities.

A quality education: Keystone Academy Charter School last week presented its new Idea Space, a makerspace that will allow students to participate in STEM skill-building activities. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

For one hour a week, students at Keystone Academy Charter School can control robots, build circuits and even design and play their own video games.

Last week saw the official opening of the school’s new makerspace, named the Idea Box. The space, which was originally going to be used as a library once the school moved its location to Longshore Avenue, is filled with activities to teach K-8 students STEM-related skills.

“Our task as educators is to teach students how to use technology in a productive way,” said Dr. Claudia Lyles, CEO of the Keystone Academy Charter School. “Our goal is to teach them to use their ideas and their brains in a way that could lead them possibly into a career.”

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

On Friday, parents visited the school to see students in action. Activities ranged from K’Nex sticks and remote-controlled robots for the younger students to activities like Bloxels, which allows students to physically design video game characters and levels pixel by pixel on a board and then scan their newly created world onto a computer device to explore it.

“We want big, good and smart ideas to come out of this box,” Lyles said.

Students will visit the space once a week for 50 minutes. Teacher Mrs. Autumn Camlin will serve as the school’s Idea Box coordinator. It was Camlin’s idea to bring the space to the school.

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

“It promotes hands-on learning for the kids and pushes 21st-century skills,” Camlin said.

When Camlin first pitched the idea two or three years ago, she envisioned allowing students to create projects out of recycled materials like popsicle sticks and toilet paper rolls. After a committee was formed for the space’s creation, the ideas grew into what the space is now.

Time spent in the space will be divided between students completing a specific project or rotating through different activities. Camlin also hopes to introduce long-term projects where students will create videos of what they created and learned.

The makerspace was made possible by M&T Bank, which presented the school with a $9,000 check to help complete the space. The total donation was raised from the $5,000 the bank initially pledged. ••

ALL PHOTOS BY LOGAN KRUM