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OK Go partner with University of St. Thomas to launch online learning lab

Ok Go band member Dan Konopka reads his lines during the recording of an educational video September 24, 2017 in the Facilities and Design Center. School of Engineering professor AnnMarie Thomas and her playful learning lab collaborated with the band OK Go to make the video. (Mike Ekern/University of St. Thomas)

OK Go have partnered with the University of St. Thomas to launch OK Go Sandbox, an online portal that teaches students and educators ways to combine music and engineering.

According to an article from the university’s news service, it all started when OK Go began receiving letters from teachers who used their innovative music videos as a way to inspire their students interested in STEM-related fields. The band wished they could do more to help the students — but they didn’t know if they could it by themselves.

“We’ve been wanting to connect better with teachers and educators, but we have full-time jobs, and the world of education is a complicated one to get into,” band member Damian Kulash told reporter Jordan Osterman.

That’s when they connected with AnnMarie Thomas. As a professor of engineering and entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas, she had seen the band’s videos incorporating engineering, so she reached out to Kulash and the idea for OK Go Sandbox was born.

“So many of these teachers show these videos, but they don’t have much way to engage them beyond showing them. We said, ‘What if we could use the videos to give design challenges to students?’” Thomas told Osterman.

The online program, mostly funded by an anonymous donor, is being produced at St. Thomas by the band and members of the university’s faculty and students. OK Go Sandbox hopes to expand to include videos, guides and activities for students and teachers to use to engage with the band. It also wants to include a Q&A section with the band, and videos that explain the process they went through to make their popular music videos.

“We can only make so many videos, so many songs per year. We can’t scale up the things we’re doing, but if we can facilitate access for teachers to the building blocks of what we’re doing, that can scale,” said Kulash. “This interdisciplinary, resourceful thinking as a classroom-specific subject — that can scale.”

OK Go Sandbox is expected to launch in March.

Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.