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!

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!

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.


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.