Pencil Holder Design Challenge

Pencil Holder Design Challenge

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.

Robot Designs with the Hummingbird Robotics Kit

One of my favorite projects for the year was building robots with the Hummingbird Kits using Micro:bits. It gave students a lot of freedom to infuse their projects with their personalities while exploring how to code in new and fun ways.

I first had them build the robots before we added the servo motors and LED’s. For my first group, I didn’t limit them enough which led to some additional problem solving on how to get the feet on. Some of the materials like a kleenex box were too heavy to let the servo motors acting as feet to move. Paper towel and toilet paper innards were the best. I did have two students hack open a stuffed animal which was a great experiment. We didn’t have time to get to the sensors in the kits and will be using those in the fall.

I love how easily the Hummingbird kit is to use, especially in how it easily allows circuit connections to be made. Like most of the projects I created in the Elementary Program, students spent too much time on the construction time, limiting the time left to code. A goal going forward is find ways to give more constraints without limiting their creativity.

Wall Marble Runs!

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.

Doll-1.0 with Makey Makey’s & Scratch

For my second project with the second graders, I knew I wanted to incorporate circuity because they had studied the concept in Science earlier in the school year. Makey Makey’s were a fun way to integrating this. I first made a giant floor piano using HVAC tape to help them understand the process after I read them Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey. I found this project through the Makey Makey portal and was created by Colleen Graves.

They first constructed their robot dolls using the materials in our Makerspace. It was fun to see how deeply they thought about their creations and some of them could have spent all 4 sessions just on designing phase. They were instructed to add 3 areas with conductive materials (screws, washers, pipe cleaners, copper tape). Once they were finished with the building phase, I showed them how alligator clips worked with the Makey Makey’s. Next, we moved to Scratch. This worked nicely as an intro to Scratch project because the code was quite simplistic. This project is definitely a keeper and I’m grateful the Makey Makey website has so many strong resources.

Lasercut Birdhouses

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 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.

Back At It!

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.

Pop Art Landscape Project


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!

The project details can be found here.