A maker’s gonna make

There’s a lot going on.  Academic Dean candidates are on campus and bringing with them a lot of interesting ideas and challenging questions.  One candidate said (more eloquently than I’m about to write) that she wants students to be dissatisfied with the world so that they are compelled to change it.  I’ve been thinking about that and what it means to ask questions and make things.  Mick Ebeling was also recently in Richmond, so there’s been a lot of buzz about Not PossibleI’ve been thinking about dissatisfaction, the pressure of bettering the world, the TED-ification of things, play versus “purpose” and “intentionality.”

I want to carve out a little time to reflect on it all and write things down, just because I think reflecting/writing will help me figure out some conflict I’m feeling.

But that will come later (I hope).

Maker kids keep making, and this is what they’re up to:

Students come up with ideas to put in a Bored Jar.  There are plans for both a physical and virtual Bored Jar.

Ideas for a "Bored Jar."

Ideas for a “Bored Jar.”

With some borrowed materials from the science department and cafeteria, students work on candied LEDs.

Candied LEDs in the works

Candied LEDs in the works

After re-working her circuit, this student gets the lights for her skyline going.

City Lights

City Lights

A reverse geocache box is in the works.

Reverse geocache box in the works

Reverse geocache box in the works

This student teaches himself to knit while waiting for a model to print on the Makerbot.  A visiting middle schooler (bottom right) looks on.  No time wasted.  Texting not allowed!

While waiting for something to print on the Makerbot...

While waiting for something to print on the Makerbot…

A student has watched a ton of Unity tutorials.  She created the landscape and added her first character.  In a blog post a student recently wrote:

I would first of all like to take the first bit of this blog post to thank the inventors of ‘how-to’ videos for simple origami structures. Aaron Rodgers may be the NFL MVP, but you know what? You’re the real MVP to me.

 

So true.  Tutorials are the MVP.

Unity

Unity

Some students have christened the small rehearsal/recording studio.  It is now “The Beats Lab.”  Some students are working with Ableton Live and an Akai midi pad to make some “sick beats.”  They’ve been calling on Bruce from the cafe to walk them through some of the software.  Bruce has mastered coffee and audio production.

In the Beats Lab

In the Beats Lab

Onward!

Knitted nautiloids–better late than never

Last spring my son was fascinated with the Walking with Monsters: Life Before Dinosaurs series.  The fascination is understandable.  The first episode is full of giant sea scorpions, giant squids, and the biggest underwater pill bugs you’ve ever seen.

I got it in my head to knit him a giant squid.  After a little hunting online, I landed on this “George the Giant Squid” pattern even though it cost $6.  Knitting began back in late May/early June.

I really failed to document this making of this guy, but that happens.  Here are some highlights:

  • Some stitches were dropped in the making of the yet-to-be-named squid’s body.  Also, I’m not sure what I did to totally ignore the directions to make the top of his head.  Oh well.  Next time.
  • One is supposed to knit the arms in the round.  I didn’t, because I found it extremely tedious to knit a small number of stitches in the round.  I sewed the ends of the arms together
  • Because of dropped stitches, there were some noticeable holes in the body.  I patched these as best I could and then sewed an inside lining, which I stuffed.
  • I sewed the two tentacles and 8 arms together and then sewed that to the body.  There are actually seven arms.  I found a straggler on the sofa after sewing them to the body.  Again, oh well.  Next time.
  • My son insisted that I sew the mouth to the bottom of the squid where the mouth would actually be.  I talked him out of this.  I also ignored his request for a beak.  He didn’t seem too put out by it.  Next time.  Oh well.
Yet-to-be-named knitted Giant Squid

Yet-to-be-named knitted Giant Squid

Arms and tentacles

Arms and tentacles

I wish I had taken pictures of the sewn lining and other stuff, but most of my decisions with this project were spur-of-the-moment decisions or fixes based on preexisting knitting/sewing knowledge.

And there’s the interesting part (to me).

I’ve been knitting for about 15 years now and sewing for longer.  I don’t know everything there is to know about either craft, but I’m comfortable with them both.  I have the confidence and an understanding of the language to work through things I don’t know as I come to them.  I know enough to not think twice about veering from a pattern.  I know what makeshift fixes I can do when needed.

I appreciate this agility.

I don’t think the confidence and agility necessarily comes from the 15 years of “experience” though.  I think it’s from having a basic understanding of how knitting/sewing work, what the stitches do and how they look, etc.  I think the confidence comes from practicing and tinkering and making things.

So, yay.  Finished project.  Confidence.  Agility.  Comfort.

 

 

Time and space for wild imaginations

I did a double take at my calendar.  Second semester started January 6th, which means the DIY/Maker senior seminar started January 6th.  It seems like we’ve been going for both weeks and weeks and just days.

That makes no sense, does it?

We’ve managed to get so much done, but we really haven’t had that many class meetings when it comes down to it.

What have we done so far:

  • Started class with a design sprint, which involved the building of a paper airplane.  The plane had to have a flight time of six seconds.  Students can only uses scissors, paper, and staples.  To make it even more interesting, each team has a $40 budget.  Paper is $1, each fold is $1, cuts are $2, and staples are $4.  We did our design sprint in a 45-minute class period.  No plane flew for six seconds.  However, a couple of days later a group of boys did discover some gliders on Thingiverse. which did fly for 6+ second.  Perhaps printing gliders from Thingiverse isn’t all that impressive; but having a group of kids who have never touched a 3D printer figure out how to download a file, prep it for printing, and then actually print it was very cool to me.
Paper airplanes

Paper airplanes

Behold, the Tech Zoo

Behold, the Tech Zoo

Playing a Scratch game with Makey Makey

Playing a Scratch game with Makey Makey

Someone fell into a Scratch rabbit hole

Someone fell into a Scratch rabbit hole

  • Started projects!  We are 2-3 days into actual projects.  It’s completely insane.  The class flies by for me.  Hopefully it flies by for the students too.  There are 18 kids working on 18 different things for the most part.  There are some amazing ideas circulating out there too.  I’m especially impressed with Clair’s list of ideas and Emily’s thoughts.  It’s that kind of wild imagination that I hope can be nurtured by the time and space this class provides.

Some random thoughts/highlights:

  • Sam (he’s going to start blogging.  Oh, he is.) has been working on an Omniwheel Robot after learning to solder Tuesday.  He was wiring the motors today, and was frustrated by the instructions. By the end of class he exclaimed that he had things working.  I asked what he did.  His reply, “I thought about it for a little while and applied some physics.”

Maybe that’s insignificant for you, but it’s what I’m aiming for.  I want students to apply what they’ve learned in other disciplines to their projects.

This is my third semester teaching the DIY/Maker course.  Last semester I had a group of kids that were (so I thought) unmatched in their enthusiasm and curiosity.  My current class is diving right in too.  My first class stared at me a lot, but I’m pretty sure that it had a lot to do with the fact that we weren’t in a makerspace, and I didn’t know what I was doing.

What’s challenging is managing 18 different students with 18 different projects.  I think this will get easier as the students get used to searching for tutorials, using forums, using each other, etc.  However, right now it’s too easy for a student to slink off to hang out with  friends or for the quieter students to get lost in the chaos.  I need to improve the dividing of my attention.

Sometimes I’m sure someone will cluck, “And where is the academic value in all of this… this knitting… this magic wand making…  this sewing of LEDs?!”  There’s a valid defense, of course.  But that’s a post for another day.

Onward!

 

 

To the exploration of rabbit holes!

Today is the official start to the spring semester.  I meet with my senior seminar class for the first time tomorrow, and I’m really excited about the potential of the unknown.  It’s a new group of students with new interests and ideas.  That’s exciting stuff.

Bits and bobs for makers

Bits and bobs for makers

We’re starting with a design challenge that I picked up from a middle school teacher at The Steward School.  The students will be designing and making a paper airplane, which must remain in the air for at least 6 seconds and travel a straight path before landing.  They can only uses scissors, paper, and staples.  To make it even more interesting, each team has a $40 budget.  Paper is $1, each fold is $1, cuts are $2, and staples are $4.

Part of the design challenge has them documenting what they already know, what they need to find out, what goes well, what doesn’t, etc.

Students will be maintaining their own domains again this year through Reclaim Hosting.

I’m hoping that this design challenge, though small, will set the tone for the spring.  My goals are for the students to discover rabbit holes, have fun in that discovery, and provide detailed documentation of the explorations.

It’s going to be a good group of students, and I can’t wait to watch their ideas unfold over the next few months.