At St. Raymond we, develop new projects each week that combine chassis design, electronics and coding. We get students engaged in a project with lessons that draw from fields not traditionally considered “technical” and invite them to take control and ownership over the exact shape of the project. Projects we develop are often anthropomorphic and cross into art, biology and literature. The most engaging projects are those that the students name and we collaboratively design within cost and time constraints. What the teacher is doing is to simply introduce new tools and techniques to accomplish the building of the machines students think should exist. People of all ages wake up to call themselves Makers when they end up smiling and laughing while picking up new tools and techniques. The animatronic Glitter Shark is a great example of the kind of lesson we enjoy developing from student ideas while tying a broad range of skills into the build experience.
Today 1st graders at St. Raymond learned to turn 2D geometric nets into 3D prism shapes. We used eyelets or tape to bind the shapes together as the triangles overlapped. The order of operations was somewhat forgiving, but we did stay on task. A common mistake for some of the students was to punch the holes when the triangles were not fully overlapping. Students had to work in pairs and concur on each step before proceeding. At the end of the day we were able to take what we learned about screws last week and apply that to making a classroom string of roof shapes to give to their 1st grade teachers.
Teachers at St. Charles take play seriously. We found that our 1st Teacher Play Date was not enough so we added a second date. Yesterday the teachers got to know the very handy eyelet punch and setting tool. What was unexpected is when teachers realized that you don’t need to actually set (crush) the eyelet to make something structural. We realized that Cake-pop sticks make a firm fit Into the eyelets and that we can stack multiple layers of those sticks together between eyelets (see lower left). We will continue the Teacher Play Date next week on 12-10.
The students have been building a lot with paper straws over the last few months. The art of and engineering of Theo Jansen has been inspirational. One of our goals now is to build an open source $5 walking robot we can share with other school that do not have 3D printers and laser cutters. In order to hit that number the cost of the mechanical parts must be almost nothing. Paper straws and 4mm nylon screws meet that need.
The video is of one of the robot legs that costs $0.17 on a durability testing rig in the lab.
Teachers in the San Francisco Archdiocese take play seriously. Yesterday the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul sat down and picked up a few hand tools and craft supplies. The teachers spent a couple of hours kinesthetically tinkering (a.k.a. playing, laughing and riffing lesson ideas). We spent a few minutes sharing and reflecting on possible lesson plans that might incorporate these new tools and techniques. Sister Dulce suggested that students in her Spanish class could design and build traditional clock dials with functional hour and minute hands complete with labels for each hour in Spanish. Think about it: A lesson that meaningfully connects engineering to a foreign language class. Thank you Sister Dulce.
Today we had five of our alumni who are now in high school come back to put in some volunteer hours. We used that time to lower the student/coach ratio down to 5:1. That allowed us to try a more complicated lesson than we would not normally be able to attempt. We each made a magnetic module to add to a Rube Goldberg device. In the end all members of the class were able see their combined machine work successfully. Wait for the cheer at the end, it’s a good sound! Ms. Carcione started the marble on the successful run.
We are exploring an exciting idea in the San Francisco Archdiocese: the Teacher Play Date (PD). Teacher Play dates are rooted in the idea of kinesthetic tinkering. Nativity Elementary School in Menlo Park, CA was the first to host a Teacher Play Date for faculty. We worked with small grommet punches, needle nose pliers and paper straws to see what could be made. Kinesthetic tinkering is a powerful thing when picking up a new tool. We made bird feeders, Christmas trees, windmills and folding ladders amidst smiles and a contagious enthususim. The room just “felt right”.
This Archdiocese program can serve as a PD model for other schools. We designed the program with a very unique structure. The person running the PD visits each school in advance to get a sense for what is already working on each campus and what faculty hopes to learn before designing the PD. This year the over all context is MAKE(ing) as in “God wants us to make the world a better place”. Find the verb in that last sentence. Make. Make means tools. Tools mean learning new skills. MAKE(ing) was the context of the Teacher Play Date yesterday, but each and every play date will look different within that context because each one is designed from scratch.
Anyone who has tried to use the alligator clips that come with the Microbit know how easily they slip off. Students looked at tools and techniques in the lab that would allow a strong permanent connection to the Microbit and move the temporary connection to the other end of the wire. The Crop-A-Dile tool turned out to be the right approach to this problem. We tested at 10 pounds pull with no breakage.
One addition we are looking at is to use a different connector for the ground (-) wire so they can not get mixed up with power or signal.
One of our 6th grade students finished installing a 60Amp power supply yesterday in our lab. Playing with wall power is serious stuff, but not un-approachable to a student with three years of Makerspace experience. This was an important 1st step towards getting the lab to evolve with student visions for the future. “You can dream it, but then you will have to build it”
As we explore what it will take to open the makerspace on weekends to families at St. Raymond one priority is to find starter projects that make parents smile so they have a reason to come in and get to know what tools are available to use. A couple of parents have already stepped forward and are investing time in the Makerspace to develop projects that might be fun for adults. Two of these are 1) a latte stencil and 2) denim tattoos. Both of these projects (experiences) will be offered at the St. Raymond annual auction on Nov. 10th.
Yesterday our 2nd grade class figured out a clever way of making a battery holder with a paper straw and magnet. The design is brilliant in that it does not involve precise cuts in the straw to hold the battery, but simply wraps around it. Magnets in either end of the straw hold the legs of the LED in place.
My k-8 classes have been exploring different tools we can use with simple materials like craft paper, coincell batteries, LED's and brads. We have been talking a lot about using tools like scissors, paper straws, hole punches and our Glowforge to produce machines with a construction paper chassis that folds up from a symmetrical 2D geometric net into a 3D structure. With the fish in the photo there is a simple brass brad as an eyeball, but it is also the lynchpin of the whole structure, that when taken back out allows the fish to unfold and allow change the battery, change the LED's or modify the paper chassis design. The idea is to make projects that can easily come apart for rapid design interactions by the students.
Today the 1st graders will look at light and texture. We will build the RGB LED project below. We will take a small square of Japanese art paper and wrap it around the powersource and RGB LED. The paper vaires in density quite a bit as do the lights. Each of the three R,G,B LED’s are placed at different points within the clear dome of the main LED so light diffusion is quite variable in one cycle. We will look at how similar these modules are to the kinds of photos we see of far away dust laden galaxies in the universe and ponder how diffusion is the same on earth as in space.
In the last year it seems like there has been an explosion of 30 second cooking videos on the interwebs. These might seem gimmicky (and often click-bait), but when done well they lay out the steps to accomplish a project new to you that might seem daunting or overly complicated at first. You can always choose to slow things down or pause the video while you catch up, but it is nice to know that every step is encapsulated in just that short video clip. Below is a one minute video that takes students, parents or teachers through the basics of making a switch with an LED, a couple of craft sticks, wires and brads. The main tool is called a Crop-A-Dile and is used in our classroom a lot to fasten grommets and rivets.
Yesterday students used paper straw LED holders to make lighted karaoke wands. After students assembled the wands they wrote short stories and used the LED wands to move from word to word while they shared their story with a friend. This lesson supports primary color mixing, story composition/sharing as well as the technical STEM lessons of actually making the LED wand.
Fine motor skills can be a challenge with smaller tools and materials when working with k-3 students. Over the past few years I have had early elementary students use blue tape to attach LEDs to coin cell batteries. Getting the LED to turn on is not the challenge, but unwrapping the tape from the LED and battery can be a difficult. This caused me to really spend some time exploring what building method(s) could be used to allow students in the k-3 age range to both assemble and disassemble LEDs and batteries. Yesterday the class used paper straws to hold the LEDs on the batteries. The students used a rectangular hole from a 15mm x 3mm ID punch to hold the battery in place with the LED. No wires, no tape - easy to assemble and take apart!
Last week a student noted that brass brads with the head down slide across a surface much better than brads with the head up and the sharp legs pointing down. We applied the principle to design a compass with 4 popsicle sticks using the small hole punch in a Crop-A-Dile tool. Note in the photo that the orientation of the brads on the right are facing head down to slide across the surface smoothly, while the brads on the left are facing up. Pushing down with two fingers on the left will cause our drawing compass to hold fast in place while we trace a perfect arc on the right with a pencil. The words "top" and "bottom" in the diagram refer to which sticks are on top when we assemble the compass.
Grommets, Eyelets & Rivets, are all names to describe a bit of metal that you squish between two surfaces to hold them in compression. This year we have found that using the Crop-a-Dile tool students from 2nd through 8th grade can create rotary joints in craft sticks and thin pieces of metal. Students in our 5th grade class wondered why we could not use the laser cutter to etch the enamel on these eyelets and combine that with LED’s. The resulting effect really supports the union of steAm and stEam.
Great projects come from great techniques. I think our 5th graders just nailed it with this one!
I enjoy a well constructed, adjective rich sentence in the same way I enjoy an indulgent Hollandaise or Alfredo sauce. Today my 4th grade class learned this sentence: "I used jewelry pliers with conical jaws to make torsion springs that resist twisting".
The class is using these springs for another project with popsicle sticks. At each stage in a project I like to take a moment to think about a sentence I can share with students that summarizes what they built. In this case we also touched on Geometry, Physics, and Tradecraft while talking about bending a paperclip.
Over the last few weeks we have been exploring the use of the Crop-A-Dile tool in the classroom. So far students have used the tool to make objects out of paper straws, cardboard, thick paper, popsicle sticks and aluminum business card blanks. This post looks at using the tool to actually make another tool.
Last week out students explored how creasing metal will increase the rigidity of a thin metal panel. That led us to think about making a tool that can crease and bend metal harvested from aluminum cans. To make a tool like this we want two parts: #1) a surface with a gap that will set the width of the crease and #2) a tool to push the sheet metal into that gap uniformly. The picture above outlines the steps to make the new tool.
Step #1 Gather one large craft stick and two regular size popsicle sticks along with a ruler, Crop-A-Dile, 4 extra long 1/8" eyelets and some scrap aluminum metal from a soda can. Punch 1/8" holes in the ends of the popsicle sticks and craft sticks so the popsicle sticks cover the side edges of the craft stick by the thickness of a single popsicle stick in the next step.
Step#2 Use the Crop-A-Dile tool to fasten the popsicle sticks down to the larger craft stick with a parallel gap of exactly one popsicle stick thickness. You can use a precise ruler or physically space the sticks with another popsicle stick lying on edge in the gap.
Step #3 You should be able to place a single popsicle stick on edge between the other two sticks so that it is tight enough that it can stand at an angle without support.
Step #4 You can now use the tool! Place the aluminum sheet on the new tool and use another popsicle stick as a pusher to run down the sheet and cause it to crease along the gap between the two sticks on the base.
Step #5 Start thinking about what you can do with a student made tool like this. We can now crease and bend metal easily in class!