Saturday, April 12, 2014

Final Project - A Maker Name Badge

In the early planning stages of my final project, I wanted something that was "a walking" billboard promoting the maker spirit.  My original thoughts was that it would be some type of e-textile project that would become part of my book bag which I have with me most places. I spent a lot of time playing with this idea as I  picked up supplies at Michael's and Walmart. When my  Lilypad e-textiles components that I ordered from Sparkfun arrived,  I was able to easily get my computer sending schemes to the Lilypad components and  start creating circuits using craft materials, conductive thread and various Lilypad components.
The Sparkfun website is filled with tutorials that might be helpful.  For getting started with LilyPad e-textiles, I would suggest  the following series.

Eventually I decided I wanted to integrate 3D printing with the e-textile components in a way that would start conversations about making.  Although the book bag idea seemed fun,  the design wasn't jumping out at me. -Then while cleaning out the bus one day, I found some name badges from recent conferences, and it  occurred to me that conference name badges are meant to provide just enough information about you to start a conversation - so why not find a way to add some maker elements to a badge holder.  Although I had lots of different components, most of which were overkill  for this project,
 I settled on augmenting the battery powered basic circuit with a LilyPad Twinkle board.  This  board actually has an ATtiny microcontroller which is programmed to make LED's you attach blink like fireflys.  Although there was no need for programming for this project, I did find lots of advanced user tips for those who wanted to tackle programming the board.  The built in firefly effect was going to work just fine for my project (attention getting in a subtle way).

What seemed like a quick and easy project ended up taking much more time than expected due to my lack of modeling ability and unexpected challenges of working with fine wire.  I found a model  on Thingverse that would work if I could create a cutout in the middle for the LED.  After struggling to get the extrusion working with 123Design,  I resorted back to TinkerCad  and was able to get the right size hole after only 2 prints.   (The digital callipers came in very handy and I was tickled to use my newly assembled printer.)

Wire management endedup being my biggest obstacles. The fine wire I used was conductive enough but had to be pulled tight to complete the circuit and become much more tangled and harder to manage than I had expected.  But after multiple takes and some reinforcement with the glue gun,  I now have a fairly solid name badge holder than can start conversations about 3D printing, circuits, and maker empowerment. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

From Build to Print

Totally excited from completing the last step of my Printrbt 3D printer build,  I was eager to move to to actually printing something.

My experience so far was sending designs off for others to to print at places like Shapeways  or Sculpteo or finding someone else who has a printer for hire through xyzmake.  I have seen plenty of 3D printers at conferences and even had the privilege of being at Swanton Elementary School when the day they unpacked and tested their first 3D printer. My research lead me to understand that there was a lot of "adjusting" and "tweaking" necessary to end up with quality prints.  So I was a bit nervous about the next steps.

Step 67 ended rather humorously and then sent me to a the next  Getting Started Guide which suggested I download Repetier software and proceeded to offer screenshots of how to configure the software for your first print.  Replicating each setting in the 5 pages of screenshots gave me a tour of the software, but also made me very aware of how much more there was to learn.  A slight thrill came over me as the x, y, and z axis all moved when performing the initial test as directed in the guide.  The temperature graph showed that the extruder was heating up on command.   (smiling)

I fed through some black filament (included in the kit) and then pressed the SLICE button as directed.  With all the talk about "slicing"  that I've heard,  it seemed a little anti-climatic that it took literally 2 seconds.  The CONNECT button responded positively which mean I could talk to the printer.  I hit the SET Temperature and watched the temperature curve quickly reach 195 degrees.  Next step "RUN" to start your PRINT!

THIS DID NOT SEEM RIGHT! Seemed there had to be more than this.  What about the print head?  Where should it start?  Surely there must be some directions about calibration somewhere.  I reread the guide and found none.  A sense of anxiety came over me.  What was I thinking "trying such a project" in a 'bus' parked out in the middle of Texas.  It's not like I could drag it into the local "genius" bar and ask for help.  It was getting late and I didn't want to go to bed feeling anxious,  so I decided to "go for it"  and hit RUN as instructed.  Yeah-  filament started to squirt out! Boo - none of it stuck to the print bed and instead globbed up around the tip of the extruder.  What to do?  There were no instructions on what to do if that happened.. but looking around the software I found a "KILL JOB"  button!  Phew!  The printer stopped!  Exhausted by the long day of building filled with 'creative tension' of so much new learning, I decided that I could head to bed knowing that the day had been a success!  The printer worked!  And  filament was coming out!  And my hunch that their was a missing piece to these instructions was spot on!  Tomorrow I would tackle that step!

......  next day

The first step was getting the blog of filament off the print head. Thankfully it came off easy enough. I did lots of poking around the Internet looking for answers.  Armed with just enough knowledge to enter some key words into Google Search,  I skimmed resource after resource picking up new terminology each time.  RichRap's blog post on slicer offered lots of pointers, but felt a little over my head for this stage in the game.  But I saved them for a later time when I have more experience and am ready to tackle the granular advice offered by Rich.

Just as the "I'm not smart enough for this" anxiety started to rise I discovered JOSH!  
OMG!  Josh Marinacci not only had the same 3D printer and model that I had,  but he knew how to write great documentation that helped me regain confidence that I could do this and my brain stopped sending me "I'm not smart enough messages"  and started to send more rational messages like "I have an experience gap that makes it hard for me to do this" and Josh is about to help me bridge that gap!  And the fact that his blog started with tales of his recent adventures at SxSw made me trust him immediately.  For all I know, we might have been sitting in the same sessions at SxSw. The fact that he added pictures of at least 5 "less than perfect" prints before getting a successful print also helped manage my expectation and prepare me for the fact that I might still get a globby mess.

I followed his advice step by step, starting with adding blue painters tape to the print bed. When there were discrepancies in the Prntrbot documentation and his directions (i.e. 4800 for feedrate vs 500) I chose to follow his specs.  Moved the extruder so the X and Y axis  appeared to be front and left, and brought the z axis motor so that a sheet of paper slid through with a little friction.  Then we calibrated the extruder feed rate by marking off some filament and sending 10 mm at a time through the printer.  The extruder feed didn't even need adjusting,  but it was good to see that Josh offered all the "math" necessary to make the adjustment should we need them. (I'm keeping those formulas handy).

Took a deep breath, hit the software HOME button on x, y, and z  - crossed my fingers and HIT RUN!  First relief and soon glee came over me as layer after layer stuck to the bed and built up a 5mm calibration cube!  And best of all - it didn't look like a glob - it actually looked like a pretty decent print.  I was high as a kite for the rest of the day! I was able to happily tuck the printer away as it was time to move bus again and we had  3 days of driving head as we left from Texas to Oklahoma City and then to St. Louis.

Here is the short video peak at my first print.

More maker adventures to come! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Assembling my own 3D printer

In search for the right 3D printer for my needs and for schools I might work with has been an eye opening journey.  At first all eyes pointed to the Makerbot Replicator 2, but as I have been meeting more 'makers' I'm finding lots of different possibilities including the Lulzbot,  the 3D Cube and new models from Printrbot.

Although the 'extreme' maker would MAKE their own 3D printer, program their own arduino board to operate motors and extruders and laser cut or 3D print the parts,  I wasn't quite ready for that journey.  However I felt confident enough to order a KIT and do my own assembly. Although I didn't feel the Printrbot Simple would be the right kit for a classroom environment, the company's reputation was sound enough for me to give the build of their low cost model a try.

The package arrived the other day and I could not wait to dive in.  It was a great feeling to open the box of parts and find that a degree of comfort with the parts included.  I could  envision the machine that had laser cut the wooden pieces; I immediately recognized the arduino board, and was not afraid of the colored wires and end stops, motors, and wire tires.  The combined documentation (in the box and online supplement) was very thorough. I especially liked the way that the online documentation broke down the steps by steps with 3 visuals for each of the 67 steps.  Also helpful was the way each step linked to user comments as they completed the steps. (I always read those, figuring I could benefit from other's questions and feedback).   I used my Nexus 7 to document my own work.   Here are the first 2 days of the build.

My amazing partner/coach/friend/husband was great support and lent me his tools and  showed me all these little tricks (i.e. working with zip ties and hex nuts, cable management, etc) while demonstrating  extreme self-discipline by letting me fumble through some awkward moments with tools I've never used before.  (And yes, I did let him play with a few of the steps, but only after I experienced it myself first).  The build did require a trip to Home Depot to pick up a few tools we were lacking including a micro cutter, more exacto blades,  tinier Allen Wrench, and thread blue).   As the assembly started to take shape,  my motivation to make it to the end increased and we spent a LONG day at it on Saturday and finished the build!  Yeah!

I had to laugh at the last step when I read the following
Step 67
Simple build finished. Great job! You're not quite done though. There are a couple more steps on your journey to 3D printing glory. ...I know, it is sort of like beating a level in Mario Bros, when the bad guy runs off with the Princess again.
See the Getting Started Guide for info on software settings and other tips.

Because that was exactly what I felt as I discovered that I had NEW software to learn and didn't have a clue how to  calibrate the x, y, z, motors and extruder -- all steps which ARE NOT in the Getting Started Guide!    Ask me how I know!  --- (perhaps by the glob of filament stuck on the extruder, instead of stuck to the print bed, where it should be.... KILL Print Job... Stay tuned for more learning)

But boy am I EXCITED  that we have a working 3D printer in our bus - and I assembled it - with a little help from my friend,  coach,  partner, travel companion, husband -  Thanks, Craig.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Exploring Circuits

Completing the 15 circuits in the Arduino Inventor kit earlier this semester was the perfect entry point for me to learn more about programmable circuits.  There was just enough documentation to support my progress through each of these circuit exercises, but not so much that I felt like I was just walking through the steps.  I had just enough background in programming (which is not much) to start to tweak the code and remix and mashup some of the circuit examples.   However, I kept thinking that this would not be the correct entry point for someone who has had NO background in programming.  So even though the Arduino provides a HIGH CEILING environment for creating,  I don't feel it was low threshold enough for most learners to easy start creating. 

My past experience with Pico Crickets has allowed me to see the type of learning that happens when you have LOTS of arts and craft materials,  Legos,  Sensors, and a low threshold programming environment.  Since PicoCrickets have been retired,  I embarked on a mission to find many different "on ramps" to the world of programmable circuits for different types of learners. 

After seeing some of the products showcased at the Sparkfun table at SxSw I placed an order for a Makey Makey and lots of LillyPad (eTextile) components. It was hard to know which components would be the easiest to start with, so I ordered a variety of different pieces.  My 'mentor' (also my husband)   suggested that I figured out what I wanted to create so I could select the 'right' pieces,  but it's hard to know what you CAN make until you have had a chance at some open play with the tools to see what's possible. 

Several hundred dollars later,  a package from Sparkfun arrived that contained  Lilypad circuits, LED's, and all types of conductive materials (thread, paint, fabric, tape, etc) 

My mind started to imagine all types of possibilities with the components I had ordered.  I wandered through the craft section at Walmart and the Michael's store with a very different lens.   After picking up a few hundred dollars worth of materials and/or inspiration,  I was eager to start playing.

A brief visit to Michael's 

Inspiration from Walmart

While I was drawing ideas for what might become an adhesive walking advertisement for Creating and Making - somehow adhered temporarily or permanently on my book bag,  FED EX delivered another package I had ordered from Little Bits.  In the box were  two Little Bit kits to explore circuits that seemed to have the potential to introduce our youngest learner to the Internet of Things.  Very much inspired by  Little Bit creator, Ayah Bdeir, whose workshop I attended at  SxSw,  I ordered the Premium Kit and the Korg Synth Kit.

If you are not familiar with Little Bits, the best way to learn about Little Bits is from the creator -Ayah Bdier, herself.

Since I was flying back to Vermont this week for 3 professional development events and to spend time with grandchildren,  I had all these packages delivered at my grandson's home.  Watching what happens when packages like these show up at the home of an 8 year old and 2 year old brought lots of new insights (which I will share in another blog post).  But needless to say - my  "planning week"  for my Final Project was spent  exploring lots of possibilities,  and using the eraser end of my pencil as I tried out different ideas on paper and in my head.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Adding Physical Computing to Scratch with PicoBoard

Well I started with a plan to use the makey  with Scratch and even had a plan to procure one. The folks at Sparkfun at SxSwEDU offered up there Makey Makey to me on the last day of the exhibit, so I didn't order one. I showed up at their exhibit on the last hour of the last day and almost walked away with one. But unfortunately got engaged in a great discussion with Jeff one of their reps that is very connected with the Vermont Maker movement and we started to make plans about future collaborations and I walked away forgetting to grab the makey makey. It wasn't sure that we were going to be stationary long enough for me to order one now, but alas, I remembered that I did have a PicoBoard with me and that this could possibly serve a similar function in that it also works with Scratch. Working with the constraints of using materials I had with me in the bus - I came up with the idea of making a "portable drumset" for people who "live in a bus" and reached for some picnic supplies to help solve this "problem" <<grin>>

I apologize ahead of time for quality of the video, I was focusing on making and realized AFTER the fact that I should have gotten out the tripod. (sorry)

I started by using the resistance sensors on the Picoboard to make a physical drumset play a virtual drumset created in Scratch. Once I got that working, I decided to add new features that would use each of the sensors found on the Pico board.
the slider sensor adjust the volume of the drums
the push button changes the Lighting (stage background color)
the light sensor was used to make colored laser lights appear when its dark
the sound sensor turns the stage to dark with an Thank You message when you applaud loudly (now that I think about it I should have applaud loudly result in an encore performance)

I need to give credit to the user cwb2001 on the Scratch community whose "sprites" I found that would serve my purpose. I learned that if you try to download the sprites from the online community, they did not work in my local version of Scratch, but if you click on the individual costumes, you can export the png locally (very useful tip for remixing for those of us who are NOT artist). I also want to acknowledge Mr. Michad from Nebo Elementary School who has some great lesson ideas for music, technology, and more for the idea of creating a drumset.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

SxSW Synergy with CNC

My First Cut is a story of Synergy and one more fun story I will be able to tell about Living and Learning Mobile. I can't wait to have some time to add it to my blog. When  the CNC topic was introduced  in our Physical Computing class, I had NO clue what CNC was and started to read about it and learning about gCode and all the converters and the multi steps from the design stage to the CAM stage. Seems like it was accessible with enough scaffolding but also offered many points of failure. (the first of which was having a Mac).

I kept looking for opportunity to complete this assignment and am happy to say that thanks to events like SxSwCreate (which was open to the public and did NOT require a SwSx badge), and maker groups who are active on Twitter, I was able to complete my first CNC project, and use the soon to be released EASEL app along with the Shapeoko 2 at the Inventables station. I believe that the affordability and accessibility of these two tools will mean that school Maker Labs will end up with both a 3D printer and a CNC mill. Easel took the complexity and extra steps out of the equation. It currently only does 2D, but is on the way to be able to work with 3D. I encourage you to sign up for the release which is happening over the next 2 months

Here's my Synergy story

Saturday, March 1, 2014

SCRATCH that Creativity Itch

Probably my favorite learning tool in the world is SCRATCH as it makes THINKING and LEARNING really visible. You can take any pedagogical textbook and illustrate its key concepts using Scratch as a tool.

(can you tell I'm a fan)

Here is a video I captured from my Tech Savvy Girls Camp of a group of young ladies designing their first game in Scratch. I filled the room with lots of fun creative objects to provide inspiration.The girls were asked to use the physical objects in the room to design a game. The game had to have at least 1 FAIL state and 1 SUCCESS state. Then they were given a short intro to Scratch lesson, and then asked to use Scratch to implement their design.

Here is their final Game Implementation on Scratch - Can you you use the cursor keys to navigate the frog through the maze.

This example  was an "outside" of school learning activity, but Scratch can be used in the classroom, as you can see from this "connecting Scratch to literacy" example.

A few years ago I went on a mission to move these creative type activities INSIDE the curriculum and worked with another Creativity enthusiast colleague to kick off a project that we called "Create Simulate Innovate"

I was astounded at how hard it was to get teachers to buy into this idea. Even my most creative teachers went would respond with "sounds like a great after school activity" or 'perfect for enrichment class".

I did have a few successes and here is one of them.

A fifth grade teacher who I saw a connection between teaching kids procedural writing in language arts and SCRATCH. She discovered that having kids "LIVE" and "EXPERIENCE" procedure was a perfect connecting to WRITING out procedures.

They examined the ultimate procedural writing text - "cookbooks" then create their own Interactive procedural pieces using "Scratch" before they moved on to the actual writing piece (which I believe was a local assessment)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Toy Hacking in New Orleans

Toy Hacking can be all consuming, that's for sure, but what fun. Since I took all my toys to Good Will before I moved into the bus, I had little to work with. No Good Will stores nearby, but aha a Dollar General. Rounded up a few toys with potential and came up with this Toy Hack. 

Deconstructing was great to do "after" a circuit unit. I understood what was happening and imagined the parts I could not control (like the song being played) .

I appreciated the programming in the Toy Phone which had both English and Spanish, and lots of conditionals (including a built in Quiz)

One of the toys appeared not to work, but after swapping out the watch batteries from another toy, we discovered it was the batteries and upon further deconstructing discovered the switch was stuck on ON (thus the drained batteries).

After I got everything apart I started to imagine possibilities. In playing with possibilities, I managed to dislodge some wires, which gave me the opportunity to learn to solder. Lucky me, I had a great teacher nearby who let me use his tools.

This got me to reflect on the importance of having access to resources (both tools and people) to support your process. Also important is a person who notices when you've reached capacity and encourages you back on your journey to a point where you have the desire and confidence to keep going. After all the tools were put away and we were working on some decorative elements, Mr. Potato Head's light up nose, stopped working - didn't take me long to spot that one of the wires had broken on the switch. ;-( By that time it was late at night, I had worked all day on this, and didn't have any stamina left for this 'slight' setback. Although Craig had left me to my "inventions" most of the day, he was within earshot and stepped back into the picture long enough to get my spirits up again, and offered to take out the solder so that I could "practice my new skill". ;)

A school environment does not lend itself well to the extra time mishaps take to fix. And many kids do NOT have mentors outside school that could lead them through this type of learning. When I read the Steve Jobs biography, I learned that Steve's adopted father was a tinkering and set up many opportunities for Steve to feel empowered as he learned to control computing devices. Where is that opportunity for our kids today?

To me creating these type of opportunities provides a common goal for schools and community to work  for together on.  I'm glad to see the interest in "making"  come to the surface again.   I think its a sign that our society is try to correct its path after having wandered too far off course.   
Time to  make to learn, invent to learn, and play to learn. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I See the Light - Exploring the world of Microprocessor Circuits

I See the Light - Exploring the world of Microprocessor Circuits
My learning journey in the world of physical computing continues to bridge the experience gap for me as I complete the 15 circuits from the the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for the SparkFun RedBoard.

As I worked through these circuit building exercises from my Intro to Physical Computing Course from Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies, I became more deeply aware of how the experience gap widens as kids miss out on the opportunity to learn some basic science about the world around them.  I’m not sure when budding scientist usually get introduced to circuits, but I don’t remember it from my elementary school days.  It certainly didn’t happen in my household of 5 girls.  I don’t have any memories of doing this type of thing with my parents either. So by the time I got to high school, I found myself accepting the fact that my understanding of the world of science was “muddy” and learned to live with that and cope.  I put off taking Chemistry until my senior year, and then used my ability to ‘play school’ well to get through that without any deep understanding.  Needless to say, I never made it into any physics classes.  

I was pleased to learn that my science/math distribution requirements in college could all be fulfilled with math classes, which offered me yet another way to stay in the dark with my understanding of science.  Ironically  I am fascinated by science and frequently in awe of engineering, but I’ve learned to accept that this is something I can enjoy the marvels of without ever being able to do it (or truly understand it) myself.  After all, we can all enjoy music without being able to play an instrument or art without being able to draw or paint -  so it must be with science.  Maybe!  But by curiosity always made me wish I could have had a deeper understanding of so many wonders that could be explained by science.  I learned to accept the fog--which of courses increased the gap in experience and in understanding. [photo credit: doug.siefken via photopin cc]

As I proceeded through the first couple of projects in this Inventor Kit, I had a real meltdown.  Circuit 1 was pretty easy to put together. But as I was completing Circuit 2, I became very aware of my lack of any deep understanding of what was happening outside my ability to follow directions and assembling wires and components accordingly. The tension made me want to shut down and not move further.  There was no way that I would be able to complete the next 14 projects feeling this incompetent. So I took a step back and did what I usually do when I feel over my head - and that is to become a student and tune into my learning style.  I copied the code to the circuits into a Google doc and started to break it apart 1 line at a time, using yellow to highlight important concepts, orange to highlight any actual snippets of code as I dissected it, and pink to  highlight any points of confusion that remained.  The comment feature allowed me to add free form thoughts and ideas as I worked through the circuits.

But that was not enough.  I was seriously lacking some very basic basics.  Thankfully my husband is an engineering type and was more than willing to help me fill in the gaps.  After some of the fog had lifted about the basics of circuits and circuit boards,  I went back and redid the first project and moved through the next several projects with increased confidence each time.

By circuit 3 I was able to look at the little schematic and understand what was going to happen, even before I turned the page and read on.  I found myself color coding the wires I selected according to the energy flow and polarity.  Anything that went to + or 5 volt got a red wire.  Anything that went to ground got a black or white wire.  Wires back to certain pins got a different color.  As my confidence and understanding grew I started playing with positioning the wires and resistors in locations that worked for me that would yield the same results. I ran into another challenge when I hit the project that introduced transistors and relays. My curiosity and unwillingness to wander in a state of fog lead me to grill my coach/mentor/husband once more until things became clear enough for me to have a basic understanding of the role of transistors and relays in circuits.  

I completed a video of each circuit as I completed it.  Explored it further by playing with the code and then sailed through most of them (except 14 - which gave me a real hard time).  Here is my documentation.

I had 3 circuits to complete by the time we had to leave Grayton Beach, Florida on Monday, but I managed to complete and shoot the video documentation for those last 3 circuits on the road while we travelled from the Florida, through, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Throughout this wonderful learning opportunity, I found myself thinking about the importance of  Curiosity, Confidence, GRIT, Motivation and understanding your learning style.  Had I not had the curiosity, I would have never sought out this experience; had I not had the motivation and GRIT, I would have given up; had I not had the understanding of my learning style, I would have failed to see a way through the challenges and had I not gained confidence along the way, I would not have enjoyed any of it, nor built any desire to explore further.

In education today, we are doing more and more student centered learning, and offering students more choice in determining their learning path. But what does it take to create the curiosity, confidence, motivation for students to venture into unknown territories or discover areas of knowledge that might never cross their natural path? What if a desired path leaves you in the dark lacking major understanding of what is and what’s possible in our world? How can we move forward in the personalization of education without failing our children?  Providing access and opportunity to learn is not the same as providing students with the ability to reach beyond where their natural path or choices might take them.  My choices left me void of understanding of many scientific concepts.  But should my educational system have allowed this to happen? [ photo credit: Auntie P via photopin cc}]

Some would say this is why we have high stakes testing - to spot the failures and fix them.  But is that fixing the problem or making it worse. Not only do these test not reveal much data about Curiosity, Confidence, GRIT, Motivation and understanding one's learning style, they don’t yield improvements in the design of learning that increases any of these essential components. Often, they have done the opposite in that they have brought about an increased focus on remediation at the expense of creative learning environments that challenge learners to wonder, take risk, construct knowledge, and persevere. Finding a path where learners can experience that joy of thinking hard, where they have choice, follow their passions, and unpack their own understanding of the world without missing important and key understandings will not be easy - especially in a world where knowledge is growing at an exponential rate.  Thankfully people are still asking the important question of “How do we do this.. where is the path that will yield the best results?”  [photo credit: NASA HQ PHOTO via photopin cc]

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A New Part for the Bus

The success I experienced at a getting a playful artifact printed on a 3D printed lead to the modeling of more practical piece to be printed.

The 30 year old vintage bus we live and learn is lacking some pieces on each screen, that keep it in place in the tracks.  They no longer make the part, so our 3D printing assignment led me down the path of getting a replacement part modeled and printed in 3D.

I started by using 1233Dcatch to see if I could get accurate enough dimensions to design it myself.

I learned that getting a good 3D scan is not that easy, but it was a great experience.

After realizing that the precision and curves of this part would require more experience and better tools than I had access to,  I decided to send my modeled file to  someone who could give me an estimate on getting a more precise model of the part I modeled and getting it printed in a substance that could withstand the tension that moving a screen back and forth on a track would produce.

Johnny from Delray, whom I discovered on  from Makexyz  modeled the part, printed it,  and provide us with the STL file for $30.   You can view it in 3D here.

 He quoted us an additional price if we wanted 10 more  of the same part.  We have decided to test it for a while.  The little knobs broke off when we put the part in the window, but they don't impeded the part from doing the job of keeping the screen 'intact' on the track.   We are thinking that the part needs to be printed with a slightly more flexible material.

Upon the recommendations of my classmates in Intro to Physical Computing, I've decided to try to have the part printed at Shapeway since they had a wide variety of materials to choose from. We've ordered 5 copies which comes to about $17.00 (with shipping).

Johnny's story is an interesting one so we asked him if we could interview him.  This interview is a great inspiration of a young man who had an idea and thought himself the skills he needed to make his idea a reality.  He has no formal training in 3D printing, but wanted to create a prototype for an invention.  He not only taught himself the skills, but also brought a 3D printer to create the prototype.
  He currently has a patent pending on the kitchen gadget that he invented. That is what I call a real Maker.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Maker 'STUFF"

In Chapter 8 of Invent to Learn,  Stager and Martinez offer a long list of stuff that a maker space should have for students to tinker with, design, or solve problems.  The one part of the list that could easily get looked over is 'arts and craft' materials.   You should ABSOLUTELY not skimp on these.

I would advocate that the Maker Space needs to be filled with  lots of colorful materials along with arts and craft stuff.  Don't limit your maker space to mechanical stuff  and electronic stuff.  The Google Maker Space - The Google Garage pulls you in and spews of creativity.  I would love all maker spaces to look like this.

The maker lab can be a real turn off to some who would benefit from it.
Also the Maker movement would benefit from some whom they might never attract.

I'm thinking of artistic students who are are attracted by color, shapes, textures.
I'm also thinking of female students who might not see themselves as a maker nor interested in the types of products they might associate with tinkering and making.

One of the things I still own is a set of Pico Crickets and all the idea cards that come with them.  They were amazingly effective in getting girls to 'make'.   Every year for summer camp  I would round up all types of colorful and unique materials that my 'campers'  could use to invent with.

The unique designs that came from this (from both girls and boys)  were amazing.  It reached a different type of student.  One that would not necessarily be attracted to the sensors,  motors, and alligator clips.

A few years ago I picked up some Lego Mindstorm kits and created a robotics center at Tech Savvy Girls camp.  The girls were NOT drawn to it even though it was lead by an amazing fun energetic young lady.  Reluctantly, a couple of girls agreed to be the first to give it a try.  We COULD NOT get them to stop and give the other girls a chance once they got going.  Several girls put Mindstorms on their Christmas wishlist that year.   We had a great debriefing session with the girls about their change of heart which ended up with them redesigning the LEGO box - they spiced up the font and made it more funky and colorful and added funky accessories.  I actually had the chance to give the pictures to some LEGO staff members who were visiting from Denmark at Tuft Universities STEM camp one summer.

Another experience that I'll never forget was the summer that I hired Tom Tailer to do an engineering strand for my TechSavvy Girls Leadership Camp.  Even though he was highly recommended, I really wanted a female role model for the girls.  Tom, a physics teacher from Mt. Abraham High School, turned out to be the perfect match and inspired girls to make the most amazing creative engineering projects.  When one girl imagined that the "bridge truss" she was making could be turned into a dollhouse for her younger sister, Tom pulled out colorful pieces of silk cloth she could use to finish it up with.  Another girl imagined a treehouse, and Tom came in the next day with a branch from a tree and inspired her design to completion.  

So as you equip your maker space,  make sure that there are plenty of arts and crafts materials mixed in with electronics and mechanical parts.   Remember that what pulls you in might not be what pulls others into the design cycle.  Encourage diversity in our maker space with the right stuff to attract all types of makers.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

From 3D printing assignment to fun Friday night date

How my 3D printing assignment turned into a fun Friday Night Date night in Delray

This semester I am enrolled in  a graduate class - Introduction to Physical Computing  from Marlboro College Gradaute and Professional studies.  Our assignment this week was to complete the cycle from design to printing of a 3D object.  

I already knew that I’m not very 3D spatial by nature, so I was not surprised to be challenged by this assignment.  I had tried Sketchup a few times and  always amazed at what I have seen 5th graders do with this professional level tool.  But then again I can’t hold a candle to a 5th grader at any video game that requires 3D movement. 

My husband suggested that a dice might be a good entry point for me.  Sounded good, but  I wanted something a little more creative, than the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6 on a cube, so I came up with the idea of six inspiring words on each side of my cube.  (imagine, invent, innovate, create, make, learn).

Now inspired, I was ready to tackle the task. 

Since I am on a personal inquiry about  the role of mobile tools in the “maker movement” I thought I’d give this a try using some of the AutoDesk iOS Creativity apps that I had once downloaded on my iPad.  

Although these are amazing apps,  I was not inspired by the parts available on the 123D Design iOS app.  They all felt so mechanical and robotic, and there did not appear to be any way to add text to my cube, so I proceeded to the online version of 123D design using my computer and found that it had a feature called SmartText that allowed for text extrusion.   By sticking with a cloud based product I felt like I was still within the realm of mobile since inspired students could use this tool on ANY computer that had internet access and would not have to download software. 

Unfortunately  my lack of experience did me in.  Although I was successful in getting one of the words etched into one side of an object by pushing it down into the object and using the void feature, I eventually became frustrated at my lack of understanding of how to join objects on different planes as I tried to work with the other sides.  There was so much more to learn to get this right and every piece of new learning was taking so long.  Thus  I decided it was better to complete the ‘cycle” from design to print with something simpler than to keep building my skills in using the design software.    So I settled for a small object that had the word “imagine” etched in.  I could always come back and build my design skills later. 

On to the next step in in the process.  After exploring 2  popular sites for getting objects printed on a a 3D printer (Sculpteo and Shapeway)  I learned that as long as I could get my design in a format called STL I could upload it to those sites and order my object in a variety of colors and textures. I was even more impressed when I noticed that 123D Design (and probably many other pieces of software)  had a “Send to 3D printer” feature what connected with one or both of these online printing services. 

Who ever thought you could print such creative objects such as this spiral "pot"  or custom designed fingernails.

However I was quite surprised at how small my object had to be to stay under the $10 cap we were trying to work with. I reduced the size of my objects to about 3 cm long. 

Unfortunately the turnaround time for delivery was a little too much for my mobile lifestyle and even with expedited shipping it would arrive the day after we hit the road again.  However this constraint led me to explore where people list their 3D printers locations and offer to 3D printing
services.  I found 2 within a 20 minute drive from our campground and started a conversation with a young man named Johnny Harris in Delray.  He quoted me $10  or $15 depending on the resolution plus a small service feel.  I opted for the higher resolution and made arrangements to pick up my 3D print in a public place (hotel lobby in Delray).

I now own a  $17 red piece of plastic (3 cm long) with the word “imagine” etched in.  But heck, the experience was totally worth the cost. 

The best part of the experience was hearing Johnny’s story. He is self taught with no formal training. He  bought the 3D printer because he had an invention he wanted to make and didn’t have a way to get  a prototype.  The invention ( a vegetable peeler that peeled from all sides) is now in the patent process and this young man is now building a new fancier 3 D printer. We were quite impressed with him.  So much so that we commissioned him to model a part for our bus and print 10 of them. 
The $100 feel might seem a little more than we wanted to pay for 10 small plastic pieces, but we both liked the idea of supporting Johnny’s entrepreneurial journey - and if the material is strong enough to do the job of holding our screens in place, then perhaps Johnny will have lots of new customers from the Wander-lodge bus  owners around the country who can no longer get this part. 

It was our first time in Delray and we were quite taken by the creative economy in Delray.  We ended up walking around an Arts Garage  (seemed like an incubator building for artistic industry), a puppet theater, and a few galleries.  We ended up purchasing some fancy olive oils and vinegars and went in search of crusty breads. Lots of dessert bakeries, but no crusty bread until we hit a health food store and walked out with two different types of gluten free bread. The search for bread inspired us to stay for the evening.  We did happy hour at an Oyster bar and dinner at a Mexican place that had a large choice of tequilas , really fresh local ingredients, and wonderful service. 
Part of the street was closed off for a well attended fashion show featuring local designers and shops, which we watched for a while as we walked around town.  We finished up the evening lingering over decaf and conversation about how my 3D assignment turned into an unexpected but very fun Friday night date.