For the 2nd and 3rd trimester of 2019-2020, the Creator's Studio elective is working in tandem with Musical Tech, the team that helps to produce the Spring Musical at WNS. Musical Tech covers everything from lighting and backdrops, to musical scores. The team is also responsible for stage props and set designs.
Students are at different stages of development, but the Creator's Studio projects are starting to trickle in. We have Iron Man's power thruster, Captain America's Wakanda shield, Bunny ears, the Schwartz ring, Shrek's head and a mechanical hand. You can see these projects in the photos below.
I have enjoyed this trimester, with a mixture of new students in 6th grade, and 7th & 8th graders who are veterans of Creator's Studio. The latter have a solid grasp of the tools, materials, and skills necessary for project development and have thus far been tremendously helpful to their younger classmates. Today, I took the 6th graders through tool safety training as the older students worked independently on their projects.
One of the wonderful aspects of this class is the individualization that takes place depending on the area of focus. Some students are designing in Tinkercad, while others are using a jigsaw or bandsaw. Yet others are painting outside, working on 2D graphics, prototyping in cardboard or even experimenting with weaving. I assist where I can, but much of the time is spent in consultation, questioning, or helping a student get unstuck.
A few students have now begun project #2, a personal choice. I see a skateboard ramp taking shape, and a wooden box that has a secret opening. More to come in the next post.
As we begin a new trimester of Creator's Studio, we will continue with two projects over the course of the term, the first one teacher-directed, the second one student-directed. For the teacher-directed project, students are tasked with creating a costume accessory based on a character, persona, hero, real-life person, animal etc. of their choice. This fit well with Halloween around the corner and students that are motivated to build something for themselves, for a friend, or for a younger sibling.
We started our first class with an introduction to cardboard construction tools, materials, and strategies. Students watched a few tutorial videos, then experimented with the tools and materials and the building strategies covered. You can see the video tutorials here.
This year, I am using a new documentation tool called Headrush, which allows students to not only document all the work and their thinking, but to develop a structure around their projects from start to finish. We can set up specific tasks related to different stages of creation, and upload evidence via Google Docs, photos, videos, and more. Headrush also allows me to evaluate student work based on criteria that I either select or develop. In my case, I am using Costa's and Kallick's 16 Habits of Mind. For further reading on the Habits of Mind, here is an article from Edutopia.
Once the topic of project #1 was announced, students brainstormed ideas into Headrush, and looked for reference materials on the web related to their potential characters.
We ended the day with a viewing and discussion of an episode of Adam Savage's One Day Build, about the creation of Starlord's Walkman from Guardians of the Galaxy. There are so many valuable gems for makers inside these episodes, and this one in particular fit the bill as it related to costume design specifically. In addition to seeing how he uses all of his tools and hearing the strategies and tips he gives while building, there are also words of wisdom to glean from statements like "Every bit of precision you give your construction at the beginning of your build is time you save at the other side of your build."
When we come back next week, we will begin to sketch out some initial ideas, and create our list of materials and tools.
This article was originally published on johnumekubo.com on April 30, 2019.
Our sixth graders are finishing up their work on the Legends of the Trash Creatures project. This interdisciplinary, environmentally focused project tasks students with (among many other requirements) the creation of a 5' tall creature made of trash and embedded with Hummingbird Robotics to allow it to sense the environment and react with sound, lights, and motion.
Now in our second year of this project, we have learned some of the pain points our students encounter in the building of their creatures. In particular, they run into issues when attaching the electronic components securely and as damage-free as possible. Given that we work in a maker lab, it seems logical that we should be inventing and fabricating the solutions to these design challenges.
I previously wrote about the small 3D printed LED covers students use in a variety of projects to diffuse the often overly bright light emitted from an LED. While these LED caps work well with the Trash Creatures, students also need to mount items such as distance sensors, servo motors, and the Hummingbird board.
Using a 2D vector design program like Adobe Illustrator, or the web-based Gravit Designer, it's a fairly straight-forward task to mock up a quick idea using measurements from our Hummingbird parts. After a few test runs on the laser cutter, and slight modifications here and there, we developed a wooden plate upon which students now mount their boards. Below you can see the mount getting attached to a creature frame, and the Hummingbird board then attached to the mount.
The wonderful benefit of a fabrication lab is the ability to rapid prototype, make changes based on usage, and print out a new version as many times as needed. Using low cost materials like craft wood, we can design and test solutions quickly and frequently.
A similar method and materials were used to create the supports seen at the right for our servo motors. I suspect there will be a number of design changes in the years ahead as we encounter new situations and design obstacles.
Today, I noticed one creature that required its distance sensor to be placed in an awkward position. In this particular scenario, 3D design seemed a more appropriate tool. With a few minutes on Tinkercad and three test prints, a distance sensor mount was designed and ready to go. Below is a photo of the distance sensor mount, which I have posted on Thingiverse.
Finally, I continue to work on the best ways to store electronic components on our slat walls such that they are visible, easy to access, and decently organized. I will post these on Thingiverse in the near future once they are "ready for prime time."
Have you designed your own parts and accessories to work with existing materials in your classroom? I would love to learn about your work. Please feel free to leave comments below.
As first runs go, this first trimester of Creator's Studio at Westside Neighborhood School was a success. In many ways, it felt like the first semester at St. Matthew's. Students were new to this type of learning and the space and tools had yet to see a great deal of usage. It was also a new and different kind of schedule. Rather than meeting students three times per 6-day rotation for 45 minutes, I would see them once per rotation for two-hours. And total seat time was about 60 percent of what I had been used to.
As a result of these differences, I reduced our first project to a simple wood build and the introduction of power tools and safety protocols. The remainder of the time was dedicated to personal projects, and only half the students completed them. I have dedicated some free time during lunch for the remainder of the year to any students that would like to complete their projects. I hope they take me up on it.
For the coming trimester, I will shorten the initial project even further, thereby providing more time for personal projects. The greatest challenge has been providing support to each individual student and project. However, the flip side to this challenge is that students are in charge of their learning and must take ownership of its direction and ultimate success.
After a year off, during which time I transitioned to a new school and helped to build out a new space, Creator's Studio is back in action. Thank you to St. Matthew's (SMPS) for the many years I taught and developed the course there. Thank you to Westside Neighborhood School (WNS) for welcoming this course elective at the middle school.
Images and articles within this site are still primarily from SMPS, but will gradually grow to include experiences here at WNS. In my desire to document all that I possibly can, and to maintain an archive of a diverse selection of student projects, I have chosen to keep everything available. I find there is great value for current students to see previous student work, and for now that means work from another school.
The elective schedule is a bit different at WNS. Rather than meet three times per 6-day cycle for 45 minute periods, I see the students once per cycle for 2 hours. While the total number of minutes is reduced, the quality of work during that time has improved. We can dive deeper into our projects for extended periods, and clean up happens just once. Students don't feel rushed to start on a project, only to have to clean up a few minutes later.
As my students are new to the space and the tools, I am spending time getting them trained. Our first project is the creation of wooden toolboxes from scrap wood in our Maker Court. These boxes are for our 6th grade to use during the Legends of the Trash Creatures project, and frankly for any future project where groups need to store a small amount of supplies. By building these toolboxes, students learn to use the miter saw, belt sander, band saw, drills, drivers, clamps, square and measuring tape. They learn to take accurate measurements, to plan ahead, and to organize their materials and tools. They learn to respect the use of power tools and to work safely.
The primary project for students in Creator's Studio is a personal one. After training on these tools, and others in the coming weeks, students will focus on a project of their own making. They will select the tools and materials they need in order to complete that project. It may be digital, it may be analog, it will likely be a blend of both. I am eager to see what they create.
As our school year comes to a close, students are working hard on their personal projects in Creator's Studio. While there are some projects that were inspired by previous students' work, the majority of projects this semester are new to the class.
Two students are working together to design and build a motion sensing gumball machine, powered by an arduino, PIR sensor and servo motor. They have used wood and glass for the most part, but have 3D designed a special release mechanism, which they just printed out this week to test.
Two other students are each making their own name in lights, a project that's been done before, but this time they are adding speakers into the design. There are two more LED projects, a night light that started out as a puzzle, and an LED Cube using 64 interconnected LEDs.
Students are creating rocket launchers, skateboard ramps, laptop stands, wooden charging stations and wave machines. They are building Retro Pi gaming machines, portable gaming controllers, and a prototype light sensing mini blind.
I am excited about the progress each and every student is making and so look forward to their final products. To check out their work on a weekly basis, read more on the student blog.
The introductory project for Creator's Studio this semester is the design of a personal fidget spinner using Tinkercad, our 3D printers, and skateboard bearings. Prior to the start of the course, I created a variety of spinners to test out shape, weight, and overall design options. Students explored these models as they tested what design elements appealed to them, what worked well, what didn't work, and then started preliminary sketches for their own design. When we return to school next week, they will take their designs into Tinkercad.
An enjoyable aspect of this project is the integration of 3D printed material with other real world parts, and the precise measurements required to make everything work together. It's one thing to design a stand-alone 3D printed object, when size and dimensions are somewhat arbitrary. When the model becomes part of a larger project that requires interaction with existing components, the stakes are raised for accuracy and purposeful design. I will share student designs in a future post.
In the meantime, students are also researching ideas for their personal project (Project #2) which will take the remainder of the semester to complete. As is the case every term, I am excited for what students will find interesting, and where their passions will take them.
Below is a short clip of one of my designs, and a link to our tutorials.
As part of my outreach to the younger grade levels, I have started a unit for 5th graders using Hummingbird Robotics boards and CREATE Labs Visual Programmer. In doing so, my hope is to give these students an introduction to the robotics platform at an earlier age, thereby providing an opportunity for them to incorporate Hummingbird in future projects in other classes during the remainder of their time here at St. Matthew's.
In order to create context for learning about robotics, I have teamed up with our science teacher as she takes these same students through the topic of natural disasters, and our need for early detection of when disasters occur.
Using the Hummingbird platform, students will be tasked to design and build an alert system for early warning using one of three different sensors; distance, light or temperature. The project is open-ended in that their early warning system can take whatever form they decide to design, as long as it accomplishes the goal of "Sense, Think, Act". Some students may decide to build a model in cardboard, while others will opt to 3D design and print components. It will be interesting to see where their imagination takes them.
I have broken this unit into the following stages:
1) Introduction to robotics - Google Slide Deck
In this initial stage, students are introduced to the concept of robotics and the different levels of robotic interaction. I break the interactive levels into three+ categories, with a focus on level 2 for our unit of study. See the slide deck above for more details about the levels of robotic interaction.
2) Hummingbird and CREATE Labs Visual Programmer - Google Slide Deck
Here students are introduced to the Hummingbird robotics platform and CREATE Labs software. We experiment with the creation of expressions and sequences using sensors.
3) Design, Build and Iterate
During this phase students can work alone or in pairs to create their disaster alert system. While continuing to work on the coding side of Hummingbird, they will also draw out initial designs for their system on paper. We will then move on to prototyping, building, testing and improving their new systems, integrating the Hummingbird board with materials of their choice.
4) Share what you have created
Once they have built, tested, modified and improved their new systems, they will share out their work to classmates, teachers and parents through SeeSaw.
We are currently in stage two of this process. In a future blog post, I will highlight our student projects as they near completion.
As part of my goal to spread out the tool training and design/making experience to other grade levels, I am currently taking students in 5th grade through a design thinking and 3D printing unit called CityX. I had known about this project for some time, and was looking for an appropriate place for its application. It turns out, 5th grade is an incredible fit.
In the story of City X, a colony has moved from Earth to a new planet as a way to expand our reach in the universe. The colonists have begun work there, but have limited resources and very specific needs. We, here on Earth, have been tasked with designing solutions for them. The CityX curriculum is well laid out and includes step by step lessons, reproducible materials, and supplemental digital resources.
Students move through the steps in the Design Thinking Process; Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, and Share. Each student receives a specific character with a special need (see photos below), but the class discusses these needs not just as individual problems, but potential societal problems for the residents of CityX. Students define the problems, brainstorm ideas, and eventually build an initial model of using play dough.
After sharing our ideas and prototypes, we then move on to 3D design. We use TinkerCAD as our design tool, and this series of tutorial videos. Students learn the basics of combining and subtracting geometric shapes, and we discuss topics such as use of support material, efficient design & material usage, and consideration of print time.
The products are just starting to print out. Students will present their product to the whole class and share how it meets the needs of the CityX resident. They will also share their experience in 3D design and the design challenges they faced during this unit.