Last weekend, we told you about our participation in a creative collaborative event called The Deconstruction. It was a fun and thoughtful diversion from the daily grind of social distance angst, and a great way to spend time with friends and associates to test our ability to complete a project together from our separate locations.

Putting the A in STEAM

While this goofy little performance art piece may seem a departure from our usual STE(A)M education and workforce development initiatives, it actually employed many of the skills we teach and try to model and definitely put the A in our science and tech focus,

This project required extensive communications, which we did through email and online meeting platforms; strong project management to keep things running on schedule and the project completed on time, to the requirements set forth in the challenge; solid teamwork by all involved, copious amounts of creativity, and for different members of the team, programming skills, 3D printing, audio-visual production and a few things in between.

About Slow Your Roll

Our Deconstruction 2020 project is called Slow Your Roll, and it took on this year’s challenge to “Deconstruct Distance” by flipping the script on an everyday item that has been rendered an iconic symbol of our times by the COVID-19 pandemic: toilet paper.

While it has never been in short supply during the pandemic, toilet paper became suddenly cherished by panicked consumers who emptied shelves of it, as if hoarding this most basic of commodities would keep us safe. Toilet paper is now a globally shared inside joke. Whatever our language or country of original, we all get it.

Our original aim was to poke good-natured fun at our self-imposed toiled paper crisis by performing a pretty predictable “pass the toilet paper” shtick among our online meeting platform frames until the person at the end got an empty roll. As we toyed around with script ideas, though, we realized that if we turned the story around, starting with an empty roll and then adding to it team member by team member, we told a very different, still very funny but far more useful story – a story about rolling with kindness.

The Process

We agreed on a common method for virtually passing the toilet paper from team member to team member – straight into the camera lens –  and provided a general time limit so our final video would fit within challenge parameters. But what each member did with their part was completely up to them. Each group just had to add to the toilet paper roll in some creative fashion, and each completely did, in a manner delightfully reflective of who they are and why we so value each of them at AMRoC Fab Lab.

The Actors

Team members for our story in six acts met only via online meeting platforms and hailed from three counties across Tampa Bay: Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco, with home locations ranging up to 30 miles apart.

  • Stop one for our empty toilet paper tube is Larsha Johnson, playing the role of paper chemist. In real life, Larsha makes STEM fun and accessible for children through her company, Bits4Bots, which is an AMRoC Fab Lab community partner. Larsha is graduating from the University of South Florida this year, with a degree in Electrical Engineering.
  • Steve Willingham, chair of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation and co-founder of AMRoC Fab Lab, takes it from there. An electrical engineer by trade, Steve has worked on everything from aerospace projects like the International Space Station to designing makerspaces for public libraries.
  • The Lofton-Huggins family, who adds to Steve’s contributions, are part of our AMRoC Fab Lab FIRST Robotics Community. Sheena, who hands off the roll at the end of their segment, helps coach our FIRST LEGO League Jr team, and their daughter, who takes the roll at the start of their segment is on our FIRST LEGO League team. They also run Pasco Agents for Change which works to improve diversity and inclusion in Pasco County Schools.
  • Pam Oakes and Peter Sudak pay it forward from the Lofton-Huggins family. Pam is an FCDI board member, and she and Peter run US Auto Training providing auto repair certification training programs at AMRoC Fab Lab.
  • The Mario Brothers bit is brought to us by Marissa Schiereck with help from her little brother and sisters. Marissa is a FIRST Americorps VISTA who works to lift youth out of poverty through FIRST STEM education programs. Marissa has also worked as an intern at AMRoC Fab Lab, is a FIRST robotics alum and is graduating with her BA in Business Administration from the University of South Florida this summer.
  • The final stop for our wayward roll of toilet paper is the Newby household. Joshua Newby runs Tampa Drones, another AMRoC Fab Lab community partner, and his daughter and dog have a field day with our carefully built up roll. But his daughter saves the day with some creative use of 3D printing, and all is right with the world!
  • Scott Ertz, of PLUGHITZ Live, a long time program partner and cherished friend, is our secret sauce team member, running our livestream throughout the weekend, and pulling together our motley collection of videos to make a single cohesive story.

We hope you enjoy our little creative side trip of silliness, and that it inspires others to Slow Your Roll and to roll with kindness.

The Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center (AMRoC) Fab Lab, a program of the nonprofit Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI). is a public Fab Lab dedicated to building capacity in the University Area community, in Tampa FL, empowering individuals through creative self-expression and bridging the manufacturing and industry talent gap through robust project-based engineering education and training.