AH&A 5128: Rules & Assignments

Sister Cortia Kent’s famous “10 Rules” are as motivating as they are well known in the world of studio educators.


I am most taken with rule seven, “The only rule is work” for it’s assertiveness

It’s terse prose and large typeface insist upon itself. I’m bigger than you! I matter most here in the middle of a list full of meaning. It’s also disruptive and a little counter to the rest of the list and then also itself by putting the word “only” into play. How could this rule be the actual and “only” rule after we’ve come along reading this far? Exactly because the most audacious and illogical feature of great work is often it’s own blind determination to summon itself into existence.

In response to John Baldesarri’s list of assignments from “Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Assignment,” I have assembled a list of New Media Art prompts.


My own New Media Prompts:

  • Collect all the unidentifiable wires, cords, and cables in your home and bind them as a sculptural piece.
  • Guess and write down a list of potential email passwords for historical figures of note that died pre-Internet.
  • Print and display (or post) a continuous 3-day section of your browser history without any context.
  • Take photos of people taking selfies (or using phone cameras on themselves in anyway).
  • Paint still life portraits of your power strips and connected plugs.
  • Make 1000 recursive copies of a photocopier’s own quality guide, guarantee, or warranty.
  • Record the sound of 10 common ringtones sounding semi-simultaneously. Make that your ringtone.
  • Register 5 new email accounts. Post them publicly on 5 different web domain platforms in hypertext. Wait one year for web crawler bots to pick them up for spam. Print out the email inboxes as a book of correspondence letters.

2016 3D Design & Fabrication Challenge Complete

Our school year has ended and so has this year’s 3D Design & Fab Challenge at The School. I’m always revising the parts and processes of this unit each year, and (hopefully) improving it on each revision. That said, I think that this year’s crew of 5th graders have performed outstanding feats of design. Each group went through 2 – 4 design revisions, and while I would budget even more time for revisions next year, I was really happy with their work. We ended the unit with a pop-up gallery of all the student work and samples of their design documents, interviews, drawings and early prototypes. Some final products were 3D printed, few were hand-made from craft materials, and a few others were hybrids of the two. Parents and teachers came to experience the work and it was great to see the students talking about their process and their products with adults!

Unsurprisingly, we have authentic, student-designed solutions to these authentic problems that teachers posed to us many months ago. Enjoy the photos and captions below of all the student designs:

While I personally would love to share these 3D files on a hosted platform like Thingiverse or YouMagine right away, I should talk to those students first. My fifth graders are certainly under 13-years old, which means that they can’t yet have accounts on these sites based on privacy concerns, but more importantly I never got their permission to share their work for them. 🙂

One of my concerns about this project was that I never truly touched on issues of IP, CC licensing, or the Open Source movement with the students. A new goal for me next year is to bring these issues to them, and to encourage them to find a way to share their designs with the world via these Open Source platforms. For now, we’ll all have to enjoy these photos until a future share date!

MakerClub T-Shirts

Our final MakerClub meeting of the year culminated in a t-shirt modding activity. Students had previously turned a printout of our club logo into a cardboard stencil. We spray-painted that stencil onto our t-shirts for a custom look. A great capstone activity for the year!

Monstrous Beats

Here’s a fun Scratch activity that we’re remixing this week in the 4th grade. I call it Monstrous Beat Squad. It’s a remix of a great project by Eric Rosenbaum called Beatbox Quartet. You’ll know Eric as one of the inventors of the MaKey MaKey, a wildly popular computer interface board – the one that turns fruit and other conductors into keyboard keys – that is loads of fun for kids and adults.


Enjoy the project. Have your own students build a similar project all on their own with the help of this Scratch activity guide that I wrote. I use it in class with my students. Happy programming!

Revise, Revise, Revise

We’re deep in the trenches and doing the hard work that engineers, designers and inventors must do for the next few weeks. Something I thought to briefly touch on again this week before letting the student work independently was to have a quick discussion of two engineering design cycle diagrams. I handed out both, students read and talked to each other about similarities and differences, and then we had a brief discussion and I talked about how they will go through the cycle a few times, just like professional engineers do.

Enjoy these two diagrams. They are my favorite ones for sharing with students.

Copyright: Engineering Is Elementary

Copyright: Engineering Is Elementary

Copyright: The Works Museum

Copyright: The Works Museum

Choose Your Own (Design) Adventure

This week our 3D design & fabrication jobs were announced to the 5th graders. [You can read this year’s list here] Each year I make a request to the faculty and staff at our school for authentic design challenge proposals. Students will then work towards making their own solutions these problems right here in our building. I usually prefer challenges that are not too physically “big” so that the students can manage the crafting portion of these challenges. For example, it’s more appropriate on “scissor storage” or “door stops” rather than “auditorium lighting”.

After reviewing the list of challenges, students are encouraged to form teams and apply their new engineering design and 3D modeling skills toward solving these authentic problems. They must conduct themselves through all phases of the design cycle that we have studied, questioning, researching, brainstorming, prototyping and revising their solutions until the end of the school year. We prototype with high and low tech materials, like craft sticks, cardboard, power tools and 3D printers.

Here’s to happy inventing!