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!

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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.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/110603440/?autostart=false

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!

Project Astroleo: Our HAB is Ready for Launch!

Our custom, student-designed, student-built, student-programmed HAB rig is finally ready for launch. PVC pipe structure with 3D printed joint connectors. RaspberryPi controller with SenseHat data logger coded with Python. PiCamera capturing HDMI video and stuffed Astroleo selfie-shots. Arduino GPRS+GSM tracking system. 3D printed cases and mounts all the electronics.

Let’s hope for a clear day with kind winds in the future. Our planned launch is halted if we don’t have clear skies or if the prevailing winds would blow the balloon into NYC airspace, or simply send the rig over the Atlantic Ocean where we cannot recover the payload.

Code To Learn: Game Mechanics

My 3rd graders are digging deeper into programming and game design with Scratch, and this time we’re exploring game mechanics through mazes. I’ve included a 6-part Scratch activity of my own remixed from an original maze activity from the Scratch Creative Computing Curriculum Guide. The guide is great for many reasons, but one important one is that the ScratchEd team encourages remixing and sharing of the guide, under it’s Creative Commons Share-Alike license.

For the students this will be a multi-week exploration where they can learn some new programming skills, make customizations to the code and graphics, and share their work with their peers. Here’s a sample of what a final project might look like, and a downloadable copy of the Scratch activity guide handouts that I made.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/115221815/?autostart=false

Project Astroleo: Progress

Our student-designed HAB rig is coming together! Just a few more tests and tweaks. We’ve been building and gluing the PVC rig together, fitting the 3D printed parts, modifying the sensor and GPS tracking programs for our Raspberry Pi, and testing the results… we take a walk around the park with all the components turned on, and then we read the data after we return. Onward and upward.