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.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Physical Computing Class - Inspired but intimidated

After reading all the introductions by member of my new Maker class,  I almost dropped out, but then I remembered the advice I have given so many young women  during my 30+ years of teaching   about the 'experience gap" that women face.   Many of my female students have found themselves the only female in a class where the difference between them and other students is more than gender -  it's also the difference in experiences they have had  (or lacked) that will provide a frame of reference for all they will learn. 

  • I remembered Amber signing up for computer programming instead of the art class her guidance counselor tried to steer her in because Ms. deLaBruere told her programing was a gateway to so many opportunities;  
  • I remembered Samantha telling me that she survived her first semester as a civil engineering student in college because , thanks to Ms. deLaBruere,  she understood that she was 'not stupid' but had an experience gap with the tools they were being asked to use. 
  • I remembered  Tony, Bud, and Corey whose desire to learn how to make a web server soon was fueled by brand NEW  (local) access to the WWW - the first year that it was NOT a long distance call via CompuServe.  That year I let them "make/build" the first school web server from spare computer parts in my classroom.  I didn't know how to do it, but I knew how to encourage them and support them to find the resources they needed.   (oh and I also enrolled in Marlboro's new graduate program - Masters of Science in Internet Engineering) 
  • I remembered my first semester as a grad student at Marlboro building a Linux server, feeling like I was stumbling around in the dark all the time - but persevering and learning not how to make a Linux server - but learning 'engineering thought' and experiencing what it was like to "truly LEARN" how to learn. 

So inspired by Amber, Samantha, Tony, Bud, Corey and thousands of students that have come through my classroom,  I'm staying -- but I'm super intimidated by everyone else in the class.

My experience has mostly been to recognize the value of making and supporting others to make because of its contribution to the process of learning.  I've owned  Pico Crickets, Picoboards, a Raspbery Pi, Mindstorm,  WeDo,  conductive thread and wearable sensors (Animomagic)  along with Tinkertoys,  Legos,  Lincoln Logs, PlayDogh and have created some amazing learning environments for students using these tools.  Just as an orchestra director does not have to know how to play all the instruments in the orchestra, s/he just has to know how to encourage each player to be as good as they can be and to play together -- I was very good at understanding and encouraging my students to reach their goals and to use some of these tools to help kids learn how to learn.

Unfortunately, I packed away or gave away most of my toys/tools when I  gave up my apartment to move full time  into my home on wheels - this 1983 Bluebird bus.  (our location - where ever the bus is parked, see map on our blog.  We are heading to South by Southwest, which should be the ultimate maker experience.
My home and office

But I'm thinking that the 'bus' will provide many opportunities to uncover the "maker" wannabe part of me and I'm in close proximity to a 'real maker' - as coach/ husband/ friend who promised to support me through this venture.  He's really good at  explaining things and letting me 'do' and not doing for me so I think this is going to be fun.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Moving From Coach To Maker

Every few years I make myself try something new that reaches far outside of my comfort zone.  This is the best PD ever, since it puts me in the position of the reluctant learner - the learner who is afraid, the learner who lacks the foundational skills, the learner who is convinced that they can't succeed, the learner who feels they suck at this so why do what they suck at, the learner who will need to develop different approaches to succeed,  the learner who is hard to reach for many teachers.

Some past examples have been learning to play tennis,  to swing dance, to drive a motorcycle, to program in Java.  We'll this time,  I am about to dive into the MAKER world of physical computing. I have always had a maker spirit but reserved it for making in the digital world. Mostly I have used that spirit to coach others to learn by making.  We'll this time I am moving out from behind the desk into the world of physical computing.   I have set up this blog to document the journey and my learning.

One additional twist is that I am going to add to this journey is to consider the role of mobile technology in the process of making.  What can you do or not do in the process of making with a mobile tool. Let's start with the making of this blog.  Using a mobile browser, it is 100% possible to create it on a mobile tool.  I created it using Safari on my iPad and will use a few apps to update it, including the Blogger App