Today teachers from 40 schools gathered at St. Gabriel in San Francisco to enjoy a day of picking up both low-tech and high tech STEAMy tools, using them to build prototype projects that they can duplicate in their own classroom. Design Thinking was a lens for some of the sessions. Thanks to generous support of the San Francisco Archdiocese, schools were able to take home classroom kits of materials to duplicate the projects they prototyped in the morning sessions. This Play Date had a unique structure that paired technology teachers learning along side of classroom teachers!he light and motion machines were built from scratch, not part of kits. We talked a lot about the idea of assembly vs. making.
We have started to push the limits of the new Luzbot Taz 6 printer. This is a more complicated printer that can print in rubber, ABS, PLA and a variety of other materials. This means a lot of tweaking settings around stepper motor behavior and how the g-Code is generated. What is most amazing is that this is a student managed machine. Students are responsible for fixing and maintaining all of the machines in the Makerspace. With that context in mind it is pretty amazing to think that the single vase pictured above was printed with filament that when extruded through the printhead was 28 miles long and it printed with less than 0.01mm of error!
In the video below look to the left to see the CURA software simulation used to generate the tool paths for the Taz 6 printhead to follow while extruding the vase.
Students in our 7th grade class built laptops based on the Raspberry Pi. There is a satisfaction of building something, then turning it on for the first time and watching it awaken. In the next few weeks students will evolve these Pi-Top kits further by designing and building from scratch small modules that will snap into the Pi-Top rails. These modules will be their own subsystems with seperate batteries so they can work within the Pi-Top, or out in the world on their own. The design challenge is to build within physical constraints as students prototype their modules.
Running at full STEM>STEAM into the new year at St. Raymond we will be one of the lucky schools using the Pi-Top, a unique enclosure that turns a Raspberry Pi into a laptop, but not just any laptop, but one that is designed for hardware hacks. Getting ready for the upcoming semester we have been experimenting with using the Mu editor for Micropython on a Pi-Top with the BBC Microbit.
Today the 5th grade class used the Python 3 programming language to create large structures quickly in Minecraft. This lesson reinforces the academic standard of calculating volumes in 3D space (x,y,z). Students built structures in Minecraft without playing the game directly. They were able to open the Minecraft window, then toggle over to Python to write the code and watch the results in as they executed the code. The largest block made was 216 Million units in volume. The lesson combined sections from Peter Farrell's excellent book Hacking Math Class with Python and the Raspberry Pi Foundation's book Hacking and Making in Minecraft.
Today St. Raymond's hosted Tech and STEM/STEAM teachers from around the SF Archdiocese for a fun day of connecting software programs written in Python to the physical world. As a group we explored code that changed the physical world, writing Python to turn on LED lights on a breadboard. Now the teachers at each of the represented schools have the knowledge to share these exciting new skills with their students! We are taking it to the next level together!
Reference links for the hosted PD on 11/27/17:
Getting Started with Processing
Getting Started with Python in the SenseHat
Hacking Minecraft with Python
Students participating in the after school makerspace at St. Raymond use tools designed for adults because our students will become adults. In the pictures below you will see a 4th grader picking up a full-sized 15amp power drill to cut into 4" PVC pipe and a 5th graders operating the drawbar to change out an R8 collet with holding a tungsten carbide fly cutter.
Our students use the exact same tools engineers use in the real world because they aspire to solve real world problems!
Soldering is the process of heating up tin alloy to melting temperature and allowing the molten metal to flow between two electrical components and form an electrically conductive (and mechanically permanent) joint. Soldering is dangerous. With the tip of the soldering iron at 750° bad things can happen quickly. Today our 5th grade class stepped up to the responsibility plate and were allowed to solder in a supervised setting. Kudos to the class for an injury free day and for taking safty so seriously. The students not only did well, but they were great teachers to each other!
Last year the Fund-A-Need raised money to get 75" smart boards in the K-8 classrooms. Today we finally got them installed!!! In the Mechatronics room we were using the smart boards 20 minutes after they were installed for a lesson in Autodesk Fusion 360. Today students work with symmetry and patterning tools as well as applying textures to their designs. It was very powerful for students to be able to share their work in real time with the rest of the class.
Today our 5th grade students built on the work of our 4th graders in Fusion360. After looking at (x,y) vs (x,y,z) we took the basic metal donut shapes the 4th graders created and added materials and textures. The rendering process uses a technique called ray tracing where we calculate the path of each photon, including how it would reflect and refract in glass and metal. At first glance the image below might just look like a photo of a glass sculpture in a galley. The reality is this is a virtual model one of our 5th graders constructed in Mechatronics class today. This 3D model can then be animated further in the virtual world or become part of our physical world depending on the tools applied to it by the student. A few other 5th grade class examples here, here and here.
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a professional engineering design tool students in high school and college start to pick up. Today we gave it to our 4th graders. We looked at how a profile (any enclosed two dimensional area) can be revolved around a line into something resembling a donut (torus). We then arranged copies of those donut shapes into an intersecting circular pattern. The result is below:
Thanks to Mrs. Hamilton for bringing out Eclipse Glasses during out teacher PD today!
There is a huge leap in complexity between simply making a machine that will exist on its own and making a part to work inside an existing machine. At St. Raymond our Mechatronics classes are decidedly "non-robot" and "non-car". We want students of all interests to pick up Mechatronics as a skill, so our classroom projects don't look like the stereotypical robots and cars of other programs. We design and build things like microprocessor controlled water drinking bugs and wooden speakers.
Our after-school Makerspace is very different. Students can walk in with any interest and simply build what is in their mind's eye. Projects are anywhere from a few hours long to 30 hours long (like in this case). We had a student who is totally into Radio Control race cars and wanted to design a part to improve on the design suspension of a factory product. This meant 1) Understanding the Geometry involved in the suspension system, 2) Identifying the current and modified performance characteristics they want to see and 3) Design and building a part with very, very tight tolerances to meet the stated goals for performance characteristics.
The student that embarked on this project is 9 years old. The student spent every available hour in the after school Makerspace at St. Raymond learning Tinkercad and how to set up, use and maintain the Dremel Idea Builder 3D printer. Thirty+ hours, and a many iterations later, the student installed a successful prototype part into the suspension system that is more than 20% lighter and modifies the car's suspension geometry to the desired 1.4° of camber angle. The part had to fit with the other parts from the factory perfectly. It did. We don't have a camera lens big enough to capture the sense of pride-in-craft that the student showed while driving the car around those initial laps with their newly minted parts successfully installed and an engineering problem solved!
Part of the challenge of developing the Mechatronics program at St. Raymond is looking into the future and predicting the types of technology tools that will become mainstream as students finish high school and enter college. One of the technologies we looked at last week with the 5th grade class has to do with using training Neural Nets to produce art. Neural nets are programs that learn on their own as they are exposed to different inputs. This is very similar to the developing human mind where patterns of synapses are trained (strengthened) with each new experience. The trainers of the Neural Nets do not program with code in the traditional sense, but simply provide direction like "compare these three songs and then write a new song based on the similarities of the three" or "use this image of a human and include the face in a painting with the style of Van Gough". Researchers are now looking at developments where we can ask a Neural Net to explore the similarities in certain existing medicines and to compose a new molecule to fight an as yet undefeatable disease.
This technology is very new, and it is hard to predict how it will be used in the future. The tools that will allow students to explore this type of technology are just coming online, and we are excited at St. Raymond that the new 6th grade class next year will be able to do some hands-on exploration with the technology and be among the first elementary school students in the country to look seriously at how it can be used to improve quality of life as they mature along side of it.
Wary: adjective, warier, wariest. 1. watchful; being on one's guard against danger.
Our students are growing up with cell phones. Most of the graduating class at St. Raymond has their own cell phone. As a society we are doing a better job in school teaching common sense online safety, but most schools universally skip a step: that link from the phone to getting online. There is a wireless link from the phone to the internet. Phones commonly connect to WiFi spots at school and home to get online. This is a radio frequency link. Today Tony Gambacorta, a White Hat hacker (someone who is employed by companies and governments to test digital security), from 1585Security.com walked the students through using a $20 usb device that scans radio frequencies.
We learned that there are so many devices around us from doorbells to our key fobs that use wireless technology to function. The class wired up transmitters to ring a wireless doorbell from a distance and observed the data a key fob sends to a car. You can see the software interface in the upper left corner of the image below. The more important part of the lesson is getting students to realize that just by having their cell phones powered-on data about that device, what websites it is logged into, and other wireless networks it has connected to in the past (ie. your home network name) is available to anyone with a WiFi scanner. When you combine this with a public map of WiFi networks someone with ill-intent can work out where that person lives.
The goal today is to get our students (and parents) to think more about the kind of world we live in. A world of ubiquitous data includes data about us. The image in the lower right below is a screen shot of this website. Parents are encouraged to navigate there from a cell phone and see what kind of information is available to any website you or your student visits and follow the free security suggestions. Should we be scared of new technology? No. Wary? Yes.
If you are a parent now and ever took computer programming as a student you probably coded in a bit of BASIC and made a "Turtle" draw lines on the screen with commands of forward, left, right and backward. If you never took a computer language class, the concept is to just write a bunch of instructions in sequences to draw shapes on a screen. Building from this you can start to use tools in programming like loops and conditionals. Today the 4th grade class got a dose of the "Turtle". They were the first classroom in the country to test out a learning tool for Java script called PlaySpaceCode.com
For those adults who might be thinking "this is exactly the same as the "turtle" game we learned to code in" - yes, absolutely, it is. There are tons of free tools out there like this. The unique feature here is the brilliant progression of coding exercises. The creator of the game, Keshav Saharia, visited our school today and previewed the game with us. Initially this tool was aimed at students in jr. high, but St. Raymond 4th graders crushed it!
4th grade is studying electric motors. To break down the concept to first principles we start with an electromagnet: a coil of wire wound around a metal cylinder. As electricity flows through the coil a magnetic field develops around the metal core. We can attract or repel any other metal that contains iron by controlling the amount of electric current in the coil. Most people think about motors as something that makes a shaft or an axle turn, but motors quite often need to stop and hold in a certain position. Examples of those motors are servos and stepper motors and we build machines around those in 7th grade. Think about this project as a single step stepper motor: It only holds position when it is on and lets a weight drop when power turns off.
We took our strongest 4th grader and had him apply full force to pull the metal plate with the handle on the bottom away from the silver electromagnetic coil attached to the wooden dowel on top. The student was able to break the magnet's 24volts/3amp grip by applying more than 72 watts of downward pressure to the handle
St. Raymond is preparing to host both principals and teachers from all over the San Francisco Archdiocese on Monday, May 22. We will open up our doors to share what we have done so far to build out our Makerspace program over the last three years, relating both what has worked well, and what has not worked well in our journey. Most importantly, we will host a roundtable discussion on Catholic school values and how that relates to Design Thinking and Makerspace programs. We will also examine what it means to change school culture when it comes to Maker integration in math, science and art lessons.
Autodesk came to visit our 4th and 8th grade classes last month to observe how we transition from Tinkercad (used in education around the world) in the lower elementary grades to Fusion360 (a professional engineering package) in 8th grade. Below are three short videos highlighting our Maker program that Autodesk produced from that visit and we are proud to share them with you! Also note the Dremel 3D printer and hand tools students use in Maker projects.
@AutodeskEDU, @Fusion360 and @Tinkercad @DremelEDU
The first video is from the student perspective:
The second video is from the perspective of the educator (the Maker Awaker):
The third video is about how we have used a Makercart to serve different classrooms:
When we move from 2D Shapes to 3D shapes we "extrude a profile". This means that we take a 2D image and pull it into a 3D volumetric shape. A real world example of an extrusion machine are Playdough sets we grew up with where the clay was pushed though a hole to extrude a particular shape. This most often was extruding a cylinder from a circular hole.
Another type of extrusion is the revolve. Think about the cross-section of a bicycle tire which is mostly circular, but it is extruded in a torus (donut) shape around an axis (axle). The image below shows the transition in 1st grade yesterday from hand drawn 2D profiles to 3D revolutions of those shapes.