As my confidence with using the Glowforge laser cutter grew, I desired to create a mixed media project for my 7th graders. The result was a light up shadow box project where students designed the elements on Tinkercad and coding a Neopixel Strip using a Microbit. The goal was for each students shadow box to tell a simple story based on the scene featured. I showed them the work of Hari and Deepti to get them inspired and to start the brainstorming process.
The Tinkercad component taught all of us a lot on how to successfully export a .svg file the Glowforge App would read. The lesson they all learned quickly is that each object needs to be the same height as each other and nothing can have rounded edges.
Each student’s project did a wonderful job being unique and expressive of their personalities. It was also nice to see them carefully work on each aspect of this project. Sometimes I see students rushing through a project and that did not happen with this project.
We used the Neopixel extension through Makecode to program the Microbit component of the project. The code I used specifically is in the image below.
One of the projects I’ve been wanting to make with my students are automatas. They’ve been all over my Twitter feed from other maker educators. I decided to start the project with my 6th graders and they have really been engaged in each aspect of the design process. I had them design the moving pieces in Tinkercad so they could have experience using the Glowforge laser cutter. It was difficult at first to have them change their thinking from being 3D to 2D while designing on Tinkercad. But once they started keeping each element flat on the Workplane it definitely helped. Showing how I laid out my prototype in Tinkercad also gave them further insight on design process. The Scribble feature was used heavily by my students and myself to execute some of the elements.
Thanks to the new Creation Lab I’m working with elementary students for the first time in awhile. I’ve found twitter to be an amazing resource to find ideas for STEAM based projects.
For second grader’s first project I used a twitter inspired idea where students engineer their dream playgrounds using a variety of materials. I didn’t know what to expect with this project, but they definitely blew me away with their creativity and ability to execute their ideas like zip lines, slides and swings. They really took the idea of adding a moving piece into their designs which was awesome to see. Some projects were bigger in size that I expected so this time around they can only use a specific size piece of cardboard so it’s easier to store the projects. Storing of projects has been one of my main challenges since my makerspace opened. An extra layer of shelving will have to be added soon so there’s a designated area of works in progress.
I’m teaching 5th grade Digital Art classes for the first time to take advantage of the beautiful Creation Lab which was built over the summer. Our students learn about birds in 5th grade science so it seemed like a perfect connection to that curriculum. I had my students first use makercase.com to build the base of their birdhouses. They then brought that file into Illustrator to add cut out and engraved elements. I learned engraving using our Glowforge was a bit cumbersome and will be changing this up requirement next trimester so I don’t spend 40 mins watching these projects be cut out.
My favorite part of this project was watching students use the drill for the first time to add their perches. They did a wonderful job of practicing on a piece of balsa wood beforehand.
With the Makercase finger joints I learned there is really only 1 way to put the boxes together – think of it as a puzzle. There were a few students who glued their birdhouses together the wrong way and I had to recut them on the laser cutter to make the projects functional.
I’ve taken a hiatus on using this blog but now that I’ve designed and planned a makerspace from the ground up it’s time to share what I’ve learned and made for myself and with the students so far.
The first thing I had time to put together was a faux neon sign using Electroluminescent Wire from SparkFun. I used this tutorial to guide me. It was really fun to make and get students excited because I was blending sewing together with a more technical component. It looks great on the walls of the Creation Lab – the name students chose for the the makerspace. I would definitely recommend this project. If I initiated it with students I would do it with older students at the high school level because a lot of patience is required.
The first project I complete with my 6th graders borrows inspiration from Roy Lichtenstein’s landscapes. It acclimates my first time Photoshop users with how layers work as well as how to utilize the paint bucket, brush and shapes tools.
I love this project because it allows for my student’s personalities to come through and helps me to get to know them sooner than later.
The biggest challenge for learning Photoshop is the layers tool. It can take a few mistakes for them to understand layers but it is important to let students fail so they came come out on top. It’s also interesting to see how students decide to use BenDay Dots in their designs. It’s so wonderful to see them all do different things from on another!
This summer I was incredibly lucky to spend 12 days learning woodworking at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts with the artist Barbara Cooper. The experience was above and beyond my expectations, and the beauty of the campus and the delicious food definitely helped. Haystack has a Fab Lab which is an educational component of MIT’s Center of Bits and Atoms, a network of 400 small-scaled digital fabrication centers.
I was pretty excited to spend time in the Fab Lab, especially to get my hands on a laser cutter. During the Fab Lab orientation I was introduced to creating designs on plywood with the laser cutter that can make the wood bendable. I knew immediately this was a concept I was going to use for one of my experiments.
Barbara Cooper was incredible to work with and the biggest take away I’m using with my students is to think of your projects as ‘experiments’ and not as ‘pieces’. This immediately took the pressure of the creative process and let me just experiment with the wood pieces I had on my work table.
When I started planning my experiment with the laser cutter, I chose to use found these great wood shapes that organically came out of cutting down some planks of wood which used to act as the deck at Haystack. My goal was to use the bendable laser cut wood to fill the gaps in the other wood pieces. I chose to laser cut an entire piece of plywood which did end up taking over an hour – but so worth it! It took a lot of wood glue and masking tape to get the laser cut portions to fit in place into as well as the hands of some of my colleagues.
I can’t wait to get to worth a laser cutter again. I’ve started seeing many different uses of laser cutters around me since my time at Haystack. I don’t think I can ever state in words how incredible of an experience Haystack was. As a maker, it was magical being around so many like-minded people who love to explore the visual arts in different capacities.