This year I’ve engaged with Tinkercad in a new light which has been fun for both myself and my students. 5th graders are so good at being flexible in their thinking so we delved into Design Thinking to help them develop empathy as designers.
To get them started I adapted the 5 Chair Challenge from the Stanford Design School. I’ve tried to do this activity on using physical materials in years past but found it to be much more successful using Tinkercad, especially since I’m teaching students on Zoom. I would drop the design prompt into the chat and then give them 10 minutes to make a design. Once the time was up, they would go around the Zoom room and share. They LOVE sharing their designs and it is a highlight of the experience.
For example, here’s one of the prompts:
Grandpa is an old man who is achy and sometimes a bit grouchy. He has trouble getting around, so he walks with a cane. He also has difficulty getting into and out of his chair, though he sits in his chair most of the day.
I always end the activity with highlighting how they all had the same prompt but all problem solve and use their imaginations uniquely from each other. When I come into class and tell them we’re doing a design challenge together, they get quite excited. The classrooms also get very quiet because they’re focusing so deeply!
Over President’s Day weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Construct3D Conference at the Rice University campus. I must say all the sessions I attended truly enlightened me and ignited my passion for 3D design and printing in the classroom. Hearing how 3D printing is involved in the films created by Laika Studios, medical schools, prosthetics and K12 classrooms illuminated how far this practice has come and how much is still possible in the future. I also loved how Gary Stager talked about using prompts in the classroom with project-based learning. Definitely going to be keeping that in mind as I introduce different projects!
While I was at the conference, I gave a 10 minute talk on Empowering Girls in the Digital Fabrication Process. It was fun to share my experience in the classroom with other educators, especially problem solving how to create a bridge between crafting and technology. The presentation I shared can be viewed below!
For the first time ever, I got my own Christmas tree. It was a spur of the moment decision to make my apartment more festive. After picking up the tree on the way home the gym, I had to figure out how I was going to decorate it. I’m a huge fan of not buying ornaments and have truly avoided it over the years because it’s just more fun to make them yourself. With 3D printers at my disposal I realized I could have a lot of fun designing ornaments as well as a star to top my tree!
I first went to work on the star and decided I wanted to be a star but also use my trusty soldering iron to get it to light up. I wanted to make the star as hollow as possible so I could make the LED inside pop as much as possible. I decided to use my favorite color changing LED’s with a battery pack with a simple slide switch. I hot glued the battery pack to the back of the star as well as some of the loose wires. I’m so excited to add it to my tree!
Next was planning the ornaments. In the past year I’ve realized how deeply I’m drawn to geometric shapes. Luckily Tinkercad makes that need of mine quite easy to execute. Since my tree is on the smaller side, I made the ornaments a bit smaller. I chose to use white filament because I love the matte look it provides. But I also went crazy and decided to see how glitter looked on them. They look more crisp without the glitter and it’s fun having a blend of some with and without the glitter.
Since Tinkercad Codeblocks have shown up in the past year, I’ve been awaiting for the right inspiration to use it in the classroom. Of course while I was blissed out in a yoga class, I saw a ceiling hanging that would make a fun project. My idea was for my 5th grade students to use Codeblocks to create simple shapes that could be strung together to make a fun mobile of sorts. My space has a power grid setup for my drop down power and I could see these bringing my makerspace to life. And it meant using brightly colored acrylic in the Glowforge!
I will be having each 5th grader come up with at least four shapes where they will be required to add areas for the fishing line to connect to the shapes, as well as cutouts to add dimension to the designs. Once they build the shapes, the first step is prototyping with cardboard to make sure the shapes were appropriately built.
I also love this project because the cutting time on the Glowforge doesn’t take very long. I look forward to seeing which colors the students chose!
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!
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.
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!
My favorite part of a new school year is the chance to create new projects to excite my students. In my 7th Digital Art classes we spend the first half of the trimester working on a 3D modeling project that focus on problem solving. This year I was excited to try out a new feature on Tinkercad, Circuit Assemblies. The feature creates a holder for a CR2032 battery and a single LED as well as the cut shape to put into your design. I was going to originally give each student a battery powered tea light but this option gives them power as creators. The example I showed them is in the picture above.
I titled the Project, “Giving Shade” appropriately and it tasks them to come up with a creative design to hide the battery and LED. I like to challenge my students to not use their names, copyrighted material and logos on their projects because I know they have more creative potential. They groan at first, but the final products are always worth it. I’m going to post more pictures once their projects are completed! I can’t even tell you how excited they are to work on this during our class time together.