Senior James Walton, juniors Aydin Turkay and Jayvir Monga, and freshman Christina Walton are living Sewickley Academy’s mission by using their hearts, minds, and hands in the service of a greater good. As members of Team #8393 the Giant Diencephalic BrainSTEM Robotics Team, the students were challenged by their coach to find a way to give back to the community. The group organized an effort to bring together a number of robotics-related companies in Pittsburgh to help provide a 3-D printer for a proposed makerspace at Children’s Hospital to support children facing extended hospital stays. James reached out to more than 30 robotics companies in the Pittsburgh area, inviting them to join together as an industry to help support this effort. Local robotics luminaries like Argo, Bossanova, I Am Robotics, Seegrid, Caterpillar, and RE2 Robotics jumped on board in a united effort to have a local impact.
Matt's Maker Space at Children's Hospital will be part of the hospital’s Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy Program. This program includes music and art therapy and will incorporate maker therapy into the programs offered. “Matt’s Maker Space will provide a place where children and families can collaborate, create, and dream big,” Noelle Conover, Matt’s Maker Space founder, explained. “It will serve to distract patients from their illnesses and allow them to experience some real-world problem-solving. It will appeal to children who are interested in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).”
The team had the pleasure of presenting the new printer to one of the special events and donation coordinators at Children’s Hospital in April. They brought their robots, too, and held a demonstration for patients. “We are so grateful to the students for presenting us with a 3-D printer,” Noelle said. “It is special because it is the students who provided the printer for the kids at Children’s. We are excited that the kids, both inpatient and outpatient, will be able to create with this printer.”
The team is looking forward to ramping up classes for patients in 3-D printing, CAD design, and LEGO robotics in the months to come. “It is our hope that we can partner with this great group of students to have them come in and demonstrate the robots and eventually teach our patients how to use the 3-D printers,” Noelle said. “We currently offer STEAM programming weekly and hope to offer 3-D printing classes as well.”
Children’s Hospital has invited the BrainSTEM team to attend the grand opening celebration of Matt’s Maker Space in July. In the meantime, Matt’s Maker Space has been sponsoring maker programming by inviting partners from around the city, such as Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Science Center, to come in and provide programming.
Matt's Maker Space is a gift from the Conover family in memory of their son, Matt. Matt was only 12 years old when he spent nearly six months in Children’s Hospital’s oncology unit before succumbing to cancer. Video games, music, and movies gave Matt a much-needed break from the stress of his illness. After he died, it became his family’s wish to not only keep Matt’s name alive, but to positively impact the quality of life for children battling cancer in the hospital. The Conover family knew from personal experience what would make a difference and decided to establish Matt’s Media for Kids with Cancer Fund at the hospital in 2002. More than 10 years later, electronic entertainment is more plentiful for patients in the hospital, so the Conovers have created the next evolution of Matt’s Media to focus on a new area of programming they know Matt would have loved – STEAM. The establishment of Matt’s Maker Space at Children's Hospital will enhance the quality of life during hospital stays for all inpatients – regardless of their diagnosis – through STEAM activities.