Last school year the 6th grade History teacher and I collaborated on a project where students were tasked to choose a classic religious building and then recreate it in Tinkercad. I definitely wasn’t sure what the end products would look like but in the end they blew me away.
As students began the project, I could tell they were all overwhelmed so I had them start on one side of the building and go from there rather then looking as the buildings as a whole. The Round Roof shape as both a positive and negative space was truly an asset as they worked on this project. The Extrusion tool was also a great way to get a specific shape executed. As always, smaller detailed designs didn’t turn out as well since I work with Makerbots. But as you can see, they nailed the project and I look forward to more collaborative projects going forward!
This summer I was lucky to get the chance to take a workshop at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO. This arts retreat in the Rocky Mountains was a wonderful way to focus on making new connections with creating mechanisms. It was also thrilling to be back in a studio environment filled with great tools. My love of a band saw has yet to diminish!
Each participant in the workshop was given a Stepper Motor to use as a source of movement. This is such a wonderfully slow moving motor which I think will be a great tool for class projects. I definitely felt outside my comfort zone at the start of this class and I quickly remembered to just experiment. I initially tried to make an inverse parallelogram mechanism but my brain couldn’t handle it so I decided to just play instead. Below is the video from that experiment.
Once I gained confidence with that mechanism I decided to move onto playing with gears. A main source throughout my time in this workshop is mechanisms.co as well as http://geargenerator.com. I used Gear Generator to create my gears to then laser cut them. I luckily placed them correctly into the wood and they were able to seamlessly move!
As the end of the workshop loomed I decided I needed to try again at mastering the Inverse Parallelogram Mechanism. I pretty much nailed it but one of the legs is a little too short and doesn’t move as seamlessly as I would’ve liked. But I did it!
I’ve been teaching 3D design and modeling for the past 5 years. I’ve changed my curriculum up throughout the years but this project has always been a mainstay. It allows for the perfect amount of creativity and problem solving from students. The variety of ideas I’ve experienced over the years is incredible! Students can express themselves through abstract design, use their imagination to conjure up new animals or even design a battlefield where the cannons hold the pencils. I did this project with 5th grade for the first time this year and their creativity has blown me away.
For this project, students have to design something that can contain at least 1 pencil. It can’t be larger than 5inches by 5 inches. I also restrict students from using copy-written material and using their names. They will complain about this but in the end their projects shine as a result. I always tell students who want to put the name of their favorite sports team on something to show me that sport visually instead. Classic show versus tell mindset.
The final 1st grade project of the year was building marble runs on the walls of the makerspace. This project is perfect for teaching problem solving because they are continuously needing to iterate and make changes. Each group gravitated towards different materials and foil was the real winner for many of them. Materials like paper towel and toilet paper innards, used ice cream pints were also fun additions. Packing tape worked the best but of course the colored duct tape was the use most. But some of the paint did come off the walls as a result so next time I will be changing it to being all packing take.
My first big Makey Makey project was to build instruments with my 3rd graders. I first had them build the instrument of their choice. I did get some a keyguitar which was quite exciting. They had to keep in mind to add the conductive components either using copper tape or HVAC aluminum tape which worked better than foil.
Once they completed the instrument, it was time to connect the alligator clips and the Makey Makey. Once Scratch was opened, I showed the students how to make original sounds or use the instrumental choices. Several of the students who were more familiar with Scratch also worked on their avatar to it also responded to the controller inherently on the instrument.
Students loved worked on this project. Some struggled with leaving enough time to program on Scratch because they were swept up in the designing phase.
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. Video of the automata in action is below!
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.