For the first time, the 6th graders entering my classes already have a foundation with using 3D design which is allowing my to start them off with projects involving higher levels of thinking. One of their projects this year is to design interactive robots using Hummingbird Kits. Unlike the project I did last year with 4th grade, the 6th graders will be required to use several types of sensors in their designs to allow for an interactive experience. I’m also giving them option of 3D designing aspects for their creations.
When designing my example for my students, I really wanted to make it able to move using a sound sensor. The tricky part was adjusting the code for the sound sensor so it wasn’t overly sensitive. I really wanted it to only respond to my voice or to the sound of clapping hands. The distance sensor was placed in lieu of eyes so that the mouth would open or shut if someone was close by.
This school year I’ve opened up my 7th and 8th grade classes with learning the basics of Illustrator to increase the skill level of my students. Last year we primarily used Tinkercad with the laser cutter because I didn’t have the time to focus on how to teach to students. Over the summer I made sure I strengthened by connection to Illustrator so it could be tool students could rely on.
I’m continually inspired by Erin E. Riley’s new book, The Art of Digital Fabrication, and decided students first Illustrator experiment will be designing their initials using as few shapes as possible to be cut out of vinyl on the Silhouette Cameo. I showed my students first how to manipulate shapes using shapes and the Direct Selection Tool. I also modeled how to add anchor points so they could truly sculpt shapes easily. The Pen Tool was also introduced to see how they can create different shapes depending on they movie their cursor. In the lesson, I used my own initials, as seen below to provide them a foundation.
Last year my students used the Silhouette Cameo a good amount, but they mainly used the trace tool to recreate royalty-free images they found on the internet. This year they are only allowed to use it on original designs since they all know Illustrator. It will be interesting to see if this new distinction will increase their creativity. Also now that the project is complete, the 7th and 8th graders all have their new initial stickers decorating the front of their MacBooks Airs, making for great PR! I decided to my design on my coffee mug because if it gets lost, I will be quite upset.
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.
One of my favorite projects for the year was with the 4th graders 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 to find ways to give more constraints without limiting their creativity.
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.
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.
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.