Design Challenge Makerspace

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I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We are so fortunate to have the University of Georgia right next to our school and even more fortunate to have instructors like Gretchen Thomas who collaborate with local schools.  Gretchen and I have been collaborating for about 3 years now, and each year we try some new things.  We’re always looking for ways to improve the makerspace time at our school as well as the opportunities available to students.

Gretchen teaches an undergraduate course at UGA all related to maker education, design thinking, STEAM, and more. Every Tuesday and Thursday, at least 4 of her students come to our library to work with students who sign up for our open makerspace time.

This semester we are once again trying something new. Rather than try to do something new on Tuesday and Thursday, students sign up for a 2-day makerspace that gives them time to work toward finishing a project rather than feeling rushed. In addition, we are thinking about design challenges as well as seeking solutions to authentic problems.

Sketching plans for @sphero chariots #librariesofinstagram #steam

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This week, we had our first UGA group of the semester and they offered a chariot building design challenge.  Students had access to Strawbees, popsicle sticks, cups, straws, tape, paper, scissors, and anything else in our maker supply cart.  Students from 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade came to the sessions.

So many chariot designs #designchallenge #steam #librariesofinstagram #makerspace

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The UGA group started out my explaining what a chariot is.  Then, they gave students the task.  Design a chariot that can be pulled by a Sphero robot.  Students grouped themselves in groups of 2-4 and brainstormed designs on paper.

Sphero chariot in action #makerspace #librariesofinstagram #steam #designchallenge @sphero

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Next, students started construction of their chariots.  There was a lot of trial and error during this process.  Designs on paper didn’t always translate to physical designs so adjustments were made.  The UGA students also got out some Spheros so students could check their design to make sure the Sphero fit in the right places.  No driving was done on day 1.

Students left their designs on the table in the makerspace so they were ready for day 2.  On day 2, students finished designs and began testing their work with a Sphero.  Most designs did not work out on the first try, so students brainstormed modifications and got to work. I loved listening to their thought process in deciding what was problematic and how they could fix that aspect of the design.

I also saw students considering the settings of the Sphero to change the driving speed in order to navigate an obstacle course of coffee cans and ramps with their Sphero.

I really loved this two-day model because I saw students able to finish a project and actually take time to redesign.  Students loved coming to makerspace 2 days during the week rather than just one.  We’ll keep considering how this supports students creation and how it might get in the way of opportunities.

I also have a group of students who are wanting to work on individual projects and Gretchen is going to help me pair UGA mentors with these students as a 2nd piece of makerspace.

We’ll see where this goes, but the potential is looking pretty miraculous!

Making Something New: A Makerspace Activity

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Recently, the Children’s Theatre Troup directed by Kelsey Brown presented “Another Kid’s Treasure Island” at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. This play also featured a makerspace activity for attendees to use a variety of objects to make something new.

Gretchen Thomas and her UGA students helped pack hundreds of plastic coconuts with craft supplies to support the play, but several coconuts were left over. Our makerspace was fortunate enough to acquire these leftover coconuts for students to explore.

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This week, we’ve been reading The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. I love the message that this book shares about perseverance and creativity. The character in the book tries multiple ways to make the thing she has in her head, but she just can’t get it quite right. At first, she easily starts over, but as time goes on, she gets pretty frustrated. However, even then, she goes on a walk to clear her mind. While reading the story, we paused along the way to setup some steps for “making”.

  • Have an initial plan after you gather your supplies
  • Try to make something
  • Take a look at what you’ve made and try again if needed
  • If something isn’t working, try to do it in a different way
  • If you start to feel frustrated, take a break or a walk, and come back
  • Don’t quit

We could keep adding to this list, but those were the basic principles we followed.

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I showed students one of the plastic coconuts filled with supplies and told them that their goal was to take the materials and make something new. We talked about how the girl in the story made something she could actually use, so they certainly could try to make something like a piece of jewelry, a hat, a container for rocks, or whatever else they wanted.

coconut makerspace (6) coconut makerspace (1)

I also put out some scissors, glue, crayons, and markers. Then, students got to work. Each student had a different strategy for how to work. Some got very frustrated and did indeed take a walk around the library. Some students collaborated with people at their table or traded supplies with a friend.  It was loud and messy, but I heard things from students like:

  • Is makerspace always this fun?
  • Do we really get to keep the things that we made?
  • When can I come back?
  • From a teacher: My students talked about what they did with you the whole next day.

coconut makerspace (2) coconut makerspace (4)

You could look at this and say….sure….this is just making a craft, but there’s really so much more there.

Making something new inspired by The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires #makerspace #makered #steam #librariesofinstagram

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Perseverance, problem solving, creativity, inventing, collaboration, and more were all there. Thank you to Gretchen Thomas for giving us an opportunity to bring makerspace to some of our grades who haven’t had a chance to use our makerspace quite as much. We have a lot of new students excited about finding more opportunities to use the tools in our makerspace because of this opportunity.

Winter Design Challenge Using Blokify and 3D Printing

Blokify Design Challenge (5)Our open makerspace on Tuesdays and Thursdays is taking a break while UGA is having finals and winter break.  However, the demand to use the makerspace doesn’t disappear just because UGA is on break.  I decided to have a design challenge makerspace on two days and feature the Blokify app and our 3D printers. Since 3D printing takes a long time to complete, I decided to create some rules to help us out with the number of pieces we would need to print in a short amount of time.

Blokify Design Challenge (12) Blokify Design Challenge (11) Blokify Design Challenge (8)

Rules:

  1. Design a winter symbol.  Any winter holidays or winter objects could serve as inspiration
  2. Design in 1 layer.  The more layers we have, the longer it takes, so we want our designs to be 1 layer only.
  3. Use Blokify to design and don’t worry about the colors of the blocks since your print will be whatever filament color we use.
  4. All blocks need to be connected so that your design prints in 1 piece.

Since Blokify uses blocks to design in 3D, I found some 8-bit winter designs to serve as inspiration for student winter designs.  I blocked off six 30-minute time slots on the library calendar and made a Google doc for teachers to sign students up.  I shared it with all teachers and encourage them to let any interested students come.  There were 8 slots in each time block.  It didn’t take long for the slots to fill with Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

During each session, I gave a very quick intro to Blokify and shared the 8-bit winter designs to consider.  I went over the rules as well, and students jumped onto the iPads to work.  It was a short amount of time to design something, so I told students not to panic if they didn’t finish a design.  As usual, students began looking at one another’s work for inspiration and helped one another with Blokify tips such as how to zoom in, delete blocks, or change the view.

It was fun to see what some of the students came up with and which students naturally gravitated toward this type of design because of their previous experience with block tools such as Minecraft.  We had Santas, a menorah, Christmas trees, snowflakes, reindeer, presents, crosses, and a few randomly shaped symbols too.

A few students did get frustrated, but most of them persevered through their frustration to complete a design.

Once designs were done, we had a process for getting them to me for 3D printing.  I created a separate email account just for 3D files.  Students went to “3D print” on Blokify and selected “Email to me”.  They emailed the .stl file to the 3D printing email account.  In the subject of the email, they changed the “untitled” file to their first name and teacher’s name.  This would help me in getting the printed file back to students.

At the end of the day, I sat down, logged into the email account, and started putting the .stl files into Makerware and Cubify.  Makerware works with our Makerbot and Cubify works with our Cube 3D printer.  For Makerware, I put up to 3 student files in a row on the build plate.  On a separate piece of paper, I wrote down the main file name and then wrote the student/teacher name in the correct sequence that the files would print on the plate.  For Cubify, I could only put on design on the build plate at a time, so I named each of those files with the student/teacher name.

cubify

Once all of the files were complete, I loaded them on a USB stick for the Cube and an SD card for the Makerbot.  Each day, I come in and crank up both printers right away and start printing the files.

I write the student/teacher name on a Ziploc bag and lay them out in the right order of the floor to await the finished print.  When a print finishes, I remove and bag them.  Then, I immediately start a new print.  I’m making good progress and hope to have all of the designs printed by Friday.  It takes a lot of organization to get this moving efficiently, but I finally have a process that is working faster than how I originally started.

Even with the speed I’m working at, the kids are still dropping by to ask if their design is done.

I loved the experience of having a design challenge and hope that the students did too.  I think if I offer these types of experiences more often, the students will start to develop their own ideas for 3D designs.  They will also get more comfortable with the 3D design tools.  We will try others in future design challenges along with Blokify.