First Grade 3D Jewelry Design with Makers Empire

Each year, the art teacher and I collaborate on a 3D design and 3D printing project to accompany her art standards in 1st grade. Blokify has been a trusty 3D design tool that has served this project well due to its simplicity on the iPad. However, this year we hit a road block. Blokify is no longer available in the app store, and this was the year that our iPads finally quit supporting its functionality.

I began exploring alternatives.  There are so many 3D design apps and web tools out there, but the tricky part is finding one that is developmentally supportive to 1st graders.  The app I decided on was Makers Empire. This app has a lot of options for 3D design and also has some gaming built in, but it has a block based design tool called Blocker that works very similar to Blokify. This app is free to use but it’s not free to access the teacher dashboard and be able to download the STL files for 3D printing. It’s also not cheap, so we decided to test it out with a free 14-day trial and see how it served our project.

After tinkering with the app on my own, I decided on some steps it would take to get our 1st graders designing. Makers Empire is not an app you can just open up and start. There’s some setup involved, which I felt like was a bit of a barrier to our 1st graders. Ms. Foretich and I made a slideshow of steps to get students started, and we all sat in front of the screen to do these setup steps together.

First, students tapped on “new” to create new accounts. First, they create a hero. This is their avatar, but we didn’t want to spend much time on this so we just told them to tap each button and make a quick selection.

Next, students let Makers Empire assign them a random name and skipped the password step.

Prior to their arrival, I went into the dashboard and setup a class for each 1st grade homeroom. Students were able to select their class, grade, and type their real name so that I could easily identify their account in the teach dashboard.

This finally brought students to the screen where they were ready to create in Blocker.

At this point, we had students turn over their iPads so that they could see the steps needed to create a jewelry pendant for 3D printing. Since Makers Empire has so many things to click on, I really wish we had time for them to tinker first. However, we decided to focus them on a few buttons and promise them that when they finished their design that they could tinker with any of the other parts of the app.

In Blocker, we only needed students to use the add, delete, and view buttons to create their design, so we showed them these 3 buttons. We also talked to them about the requirements for a pendant. It needed to be one level tall. All pieces had to be connected by at least one side. There had to be a hole for string to go through. Students could design a specific shape or something abstract.

We sent them to tables with iPads and then rotated around to support students with any design questions or confusions they had. Once students were actually in Blocker, most of them had little to no trouble figuring out how to design. When students felt their design was done, they raised a hand for us to come and double check it. Then, they named the file with their name and moved on to tinkering with any part of the app.

Once students left, there were several steps for me to do. I loved that I could log in to the dashboard in Makers Empire and pull up each class, see their files, and download the STL file. This was such an easy step that was so much better than my experience with Blokify. I imported each filed into the Makerware software for our Makerbot and put about 8 files on each plate. On paper, I labeled each plate with student names so I knew which file belonged to which student.

Then, the printing began. Each plate took about an hour to print and there were about 3 plates per class. In all, it took about 12 hours to print the whole first grade’s files across a few days. As each plate printed, I put pendants in individual ziploc bags with the teacher and student name written on the outside.

When classes were finished printing, Ms. Foretich took the pendants to the art room for the final steps. Students colored their pendants with sharpie markers, placed string through the pendant, and added decorative beads to finalize their jewelry piece.

I loved seeing students wearing their necklaces around the school. They were so proud to show them off to me in the hallways.

Now, Ms. Foretich and I need to think through this tool, how often we might actually use it through the next school year, and whether it’s worth the lofty price tag. If you know of other 3D design tools that might be a good fit for this project and first graders, comment below.

 

3D Jewelry Artists in 1st Grade Using Blokify

art jewelry

In my latest collaboration with our superstar art teacher, Rita Foretich, we are crafting with 1st graders.  One of her art standards has to do with students creating a craft, which is defined as an art creation that serves a purpose.  Rita is always pushing herself as a teacher to try new things and stretch the boundaries of what kids have experiences with. Along with this standard she wanted students to work with technology and to design in 3D.  What resulted was an art project where 1st graders are designing pendants in a 3D design tool called Blokify, 3D printing those pendants, and then using them in art to create a functional necklace.

When Rita first told me about her ideas for this project, my first reaction was whether or not Blokify was the right tool.  I had made pendants and charms in other tools like Tinkercad, but I knew that Tinkercad would be very tricky to do with a 1st grade class in the time frame we had.  Blokify is very user-friendly for very early learners, but I had trouble envisioning a pendant.  I even tweeted out to ask other people what they thought.

What helped me in the end?  Tinkering.  During our book fair, I pulled out an iPad and just tinkered at making a charm.  I can’t say that I came up with anything brilliant, but I did come up with some examples to help students see. The most helpful thing was for them to be able to visualize what the hole for the string might look like.

Each 1st grade class came to the library during their art time.  Ms. Foretich started the lesson with a quick video of a Makerbot in action.

It was fun to hear students talk about what was happening in the video because at this point many of them knew that it was a 3D printer, which would not have been the case a few years ago. Then, we showed the students the Blokify program. I really didn’t go into a lot of detail, but I showed them how to zoom in and out, how to add a block, and how to change blocks.  Then, students had time to tinker at tables and get familiar with the Blokify program.

Ms. Foretich and I walked around to assist students who were getting frustrated as well as encourage students to try various parts of Blokify such as adding a row, deleting blocks, switching worlds, and switching blocks.  Tinkering looked very different this year than it has in previous years, and my hunch is that students have more experience with Minecraft now, so they make the connection to this very similar program. I saw students being much more intentional about block placement even in tinkering instead of just tapping all over the screen.

We invited students back to the carpet after their tinkering sessions and gave them the specific task of the day: to design a one-layer pendant. We showed the examples that I had made as well as samples from other classes that had already printed.

Then, students went back to iPads and started a fresh design.  They only had a short amount of work time to create their designs, and I was so impressed with what some of them came up with.  They were so much more creative than my own designs!  As each student finished we had to email the files to a central email.  I had the email account pulled up on the board so that we could see if the emails came through.  Many of them didn’t, so we were slowed down by errors.  We had to go into the outbox of the email on the iPad and resend most of the emails.  For students that we couldn’t email in time, we put post-its on the iPads so that we could email the files after they left.

On the library calendar, I blocked off time slots for me to specifically work on prepping all of the files for 3d printing.  When you are working with over 100 .stl files to print, it’s time consuming.  I was able to put about 8 pendants on each print plate.  Each plate takes anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how large I make the pendants.  I name each file “Pendant 1”, “Pendant 2”, etc.  Then, on a sheet of paper I write out the name and teacher of each individual pendant on the plate.  These names are also written onto Ziploc bags so that finished prints can go into the bags ready for the art teacher.

I can’t wait to see how the final necklaces turn out once they return to art class.  This has been an adventurous collaboration full of challenges, but there have been many rewards along the way too.  It was especially rewarding to see some students shine at using Blokify even when they might struggle in other subject areas.

Fall Semester Makerspace Blowout!

project spark makerspace (28)

The fall semester at UGA is coming to a close, which means that our wonderful support in our makerspace is taking a break.  We will resume our open makerspace times in January when UGA cranks back up for spring semester.  Today, Gretchen Thomas’s entire class from UGA came out to support our young makers.  We pulled out many favorite activities from the semester: green screen, makey makey, littlebits, sphero, morse code bracelets, and safety pin bracelets.  It was noisy and fun.

Having this class come out has exposed our students to so many of the tools in our makerspace and also taught the UGA students what is happening in elementary schools today and just what elementary learners are capable of.  We are already brainstorming what next semester might look like.  I hope to see some more advanced projects come out of what the students know now that they have some familiarity with the tools.  Instead of just snapping littlebits together, I want to see them invent something.  Instead of driving Sphero all over the library, I want to see some programming or a use of Sphero that has a purpose.  Instead of playing a banana piano with makey makey, I want to see students designing their own programs that are controlled with all kinds of things that conduct.  The tinkering piece is important, and I love that so many students now have a level of comfort with the makerspace tools with a lot of room to grow.

We also want to look at how we can take the makerspace on the road by visiting classrooms and showing teachers and students what happens in makerspace, especially for those that are unsure or hesitant.  We started to notice the same kids always coming or teachers not sending kids for various reasons, so there’s  a need to get out into the classrooms.  We’ll also take a look at how to do another makerspace fieldtrip to the UGA campus sometime in the spring.

 

Banding Together with Rainbow Loom, Makerbot, and Libraries

Back at the beginning of the new year, my friend Shannon Miller in Van Meter, IA told me she was planning to do a research project that involved Rainbow Loom bracelets.  When she started implementing the project in her library, it organically grew into something much larger.  Through connections with In This Together Media , the project developed into “Banding Together”.  You can read the full details of the project here:  https://www.smore.com/n65m

Here are the basics:

  • Students at Van Meter, Barrow, and multiple schools around the country are making Rainbow Loom bracelets.
  • The bracelets will be sent to a school in Mangalore, India
  • Along with the bracelets, we will send poetry written by students, 3D printed charms designed by students, and a disposable camera to take pictures to send back

I announced the project this week on our morning BTV.  I placed a collection box for Rainbow Loom bracelets on our circulation island, and by the end of the day, a few bracelets had already been donated.  Students asked me about the project all day.  By the next day, several kids were bringing bracelets in.  I was so surprised by the generosity and enthusiasm from the students to send their bracelets across the miles.

First Day

Second Day

 

Next, we started designing charms for 3D printing.  I had already experimented some on my own, and I sent Shannon Miller a file that I made so that her students could print it and learn from the file too.  Her students took my file and modified it or examined it in order to design their own.

Shannon’s students in Iowa being inspired by the file I sent them

I have a group of 5th graders who have been exploring different technology and how they might support other classes trying to use that technology.  They have already been exploring Tinkercad to design objects for 3D printing, so I knew they would catch on fast to the idea of making charms.

charm design (2) charm design (3) charm design (4)

Since the Banding Together project has a lot to do with spreading the joy in our hearts, we have focused our charm design on that theme.  We decided that each charm should have some kind of heart.  Dmitri designed a heart with a heart hole in the center.  Walker designed a charm with the word “love”.  Instead of an “o” he used a heart.  I designed a triple heart to symbolize India and the US uniting together with our shared joy.  We took these first 3 designs and made sure that they printed correctly.  Once we saw how they worked, we started mass production.

charm design (5) charm design (7)

As charms were ready, parent volunteers helped put them on bracelets.  Dmitri and Walker also became quality control and made sure that all of the Rainbow Loom bracelets we were sending had joy-filled quality.  They continued attaching charms.

quality

We are waiting on a few more designs to be completed and we will ship our first batch of bracelets and charms.

Next week, we are adding a new layer onto the project with poetry, so look for an update soon about this exciting development that our 2nd graders will be involved in.

I love how this is a project that students in all grades can be a part of whether they made bracelets, wrote poetry, designed charms, or helped with packaging and quality.  We truly are banding together in more ways than one.

charm design (1)