The Story of C.R.E.A.T.E.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

More of a Good Problem

I've been trying to push my advanced 4th-grade 3-D design student (See 3-D Prodigy: A good problem) to up his game. His current challenge is to design something in multiple parts and assemble after printing.

His latest design is a satellite with a separate ball-pin piece that fits into a hole on the body of the spacecraft. I suspect that he made the hole exactly the same size as the pin, which will make it difficult or impossible to insert the pin. The design also has a lot of overhang on fragile pieces, which will make it difficult to remove the printing support.

The design and the toolpath visualization, including the overhang supports.
After printing it, I blue-taped the piece to a hard-copy assignment:


Remove the supports and assemble the object. Return the assembled object and report to me about how well the assembly worked. Be prepared to answer the following question:

How could the object be improved?

My goal is to open his consciousness to the limitations of the medium (you can't print on air) and the material (it's difficult to remove supports from tiny parts) and to the math of fitting parts together. I hope that this will motivate him to be more analytical and bring his design chops to the next level.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cubbies Part 2: From Need to Knowledge

A while back, I mentioned a need for storage in CREATE (You Can't Be Too Rich, Too Thin or Have Enough Storage) and the plan for the students to build it.

The Mental Hurdle

Even though some of them have lived in a three-dimensional world for more than a decade, most elementary students don't understand the depth element of drawn plans. The implied Z axis is not instinctive. They understood that our cubby units would be 70 inches high and 42 inches wide, but they didn't understand that the plans sunk down into the paper 25 inches.
The plans.
Rather than blow $300 in lumber and hardware, I had the students start with a scale-model prototype in cardboard. To shrink it down, we converted the inches to centimeters and divided that in half. That gave us a manageable 35cm-high model. (It also created a math challenge.)

Some of the teams still weren't getting the Z axis, so I built a small section of it in Tinkercad and printed-out the parts from our 3-D printer. That way, they could see and feel the way the parts looked and fit together.

3-D Z-axis mental aid.

Because the first model was just a rough guide of a portion of it, I also printed a 21-piece 6% scale model as an assembly guide. As much as I believe in the Maker ethos, we had to make all of our mistakes in cardboard.

Basic drafting, measurement unit, cardboard construction technique and practical arithmetic levels: Achieved!

Yeah, but you've still gotta pay for it

By virtue of a check from our Home and School Club and the transport help of our pick-up truck-owning 5th-grade teacher, the raw materials were in-house.

The lumber arrives.
Next up: Practicing technique with the real stuff. We still had some 3/4 and 1/2-inch MDF left over from the workbench construction, so we'll use that to practice router techniques, measuring and cutting and the "screw and glue" construction method.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hacking hot glue

The Maker ethos is largely about taking control of your own environment. In a workshop, sometimes that means not accepting the "right" way to use materials and tools. Few things give me more pleasure than seeing students hacking their world.

We do have a rule about respecting materials. In other words, consumables should be consumed with a specific purpose – not just wasted. So when I saw a student coloring a hot glue stick, I told her that wasn't OK – the the hot glue sticks were only for use in the hot glue guns. She explained to me that she was going to use the stick in the gun and that she was trying to color the hot glue flow. When I found out she was hacking, I gave her a thumbs-up and praised her for using her imagination.

Colored hot glue.