TurtleStitch & Embroidery

One my first efforts this school year to increase the desire of my girl students to use technology while in the makerspace was to get a embroidery machine. I’ve been spending time with TurtleStitch to plan how to use it in my classes. It’s such a fun program to experiment with and the possibilities seem to be endless.

As I’ve experimented with TurtleStitch more and more, one warning that kept coming up was “DENSITY WARNING!”. I decided to embroider one design with that warning just to see what would happen. The design version on the right has a running stitch and the design on the left be a satin stitch to better understand the warning. The running stitch was fine but the satin stitch was not a success. It didn’t upset the machine but the back of the design was pinched downwards where the density was pretty intense.

Backing of the Density Warning

Going forward I will definitely take that warning to heart. It’s so nice to visualize what a warning on a application turns into. Sadly it seems like most of my TurtleStitch designs have that warning and I’ll just have to spread out the designs more to overcome the issue.

The Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine is a dream. Seeing student’s eyes light up when I have it running is amazing. Since my school is an Apple school, bringing TurtleStitch designs into software to add elements to the designs hasn’t been as easy as I hoped. I turned to Embrilliance Stitch Artist and it’s worked nicely but it won’t be possible to get it onto student computers which is a bummer since it requires a license. I’m still searching for alternatives and will keep you posted!

Sparkle Crown!

This year for Halloween I made a goal that I would work on a electronics project to complete my look. I have this stellar skeleton dress that I was looking to reuse and I decided a crown that lights up would be a great pairing.

Initially I thought I could use a Micro:bit to program the crown but they’re just a bit too big to stay hidden in my hair. Of course Adafruit had the solution. Their project used a Gemma Arduino board which is just a bit bigger than the size of a quarter. My favorite part of this project was soldering together the Flora Neopixels. I’m still a novice when it comes to coding Arduino and it was fun experimenting with the code Adafruit provided to get the right colors and flash sequence. I wanted to use white lights but it made the crown a bit too much like a strobe light.

Completed sparkle crown!

In addition to Halloween, I see myself using this crown in the classroom as a way to show students that accessories we make ourselves can truly empower us. I’m already thinking of ways I can make this into a project for my students but focusing on makes elements like soldering around a 3D printed component. I’ also eager to use the Flora Neopixels in new and different ways to create accessories. A light up necklace could also be beautiful,

Stay tuned for more!

Vinyl Name Logos in Illustrator

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.

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.

Makey Makey Instruments

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.

Playground Dreams

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.

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 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.