I've decided to reverse core topics this semester and begin with digital design and fabrication. Starting with 3D design and printing, we then move into 2D design and laser/vinyl cutting. This is followed by a basic understanding of circuits, which then flows naturally into coding and physical computing. By the time students are ready to start their personal projects, all of these skills will reside in their toolbelt.
I believe that 3D design is a great hook into making and TinkerCAD is a quick learning curve. This week we focused on the basic tools in TinkerCAD with a project goal to create a luggage tag no larger than 4" square and 3/4" tall. They could choose to 3D print the final model, or not. Most chose to print.
For those needing more robust modeling features, 123D design is available as well. I am using Grovo as my video learning platform this semester (to complement the face-to-face instruction), and have created custom videos and assessments on each of these topics. While these same videos are available publicly here at Creator's Studio, the Grovo system provides the engine for me to evaluate student learning in a more formalized manner. It also allows them to extend and reinforce their learning at their own pace.
I snapped a quick pic of two students (below) who plan to build a laser cut light structure for their personal project. They are working on one of the idea walls mapping out their plans. For more information on this semester's personal project ideas, see the student blogs page.
This is the first semester where we are all in the appropriate learning space (PIRL) with all of the tools at our disposal for every class. It feels good.