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!
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!
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.
Stuffed Astroleo mounted on “selfie stick”.
Arduino GPRS + GSM
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.
The team on a walkabout, testing out the camera and sensors.
The rig so far.
Gluing the PVC and 3D printed connectors.
Gluing the PVC and 3D printed connectors.
Programmers describing the sensor code.
The MakerClub is set to tackle a new challenge: building our own High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) from scratch. Last year we put together a HAB kit from High Altitude Science and did have much good fortune and success, but this year we want to burst the abstraction barrier and design own own rig and code our own sensor computer.
Making a PiCam work.
Making 3D printable parts for the rig.
Coding sensors in Python.
Graphing test sample data.
To accomplish this task everyone has to chip in, so students have elected to form different teams to build the many parts of this contraction. Rig engineers will prototype physical designs, sensor programmers will use Python to code a Raspberry Pi with sense hat to log weather data, camera coders will enable a PiCam to record video of the journey, 3D modelers will locate and design custom 3D printed parts for the equipment, and our documentary team will record the design process with photos and video interviews.
Watch our planning & goals presentation here:
We are moving to a new digital fabrication unit in the 5th grade. We’ll build on our structural engineering unit concepts and transfer that to a future classroom furniture design challenge. After some initial skill building with hand tools, computer-aided tools and modeling software, the students will be tasked with designing actual furniture pieces that our faculty and staff will request. Below is the slideshow that students are presented with over the first 3 weeks.