Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Robots from scratch

As you can tell from the blogs lately, we've been putting our Makerbot to good use with plenty of innovative and creative designs, not to mention iterations.  A student recently came up with the idea to design and print the parts to create an underwater robot.
Here are labeled drawings of his initial design in his engineering-design notebook:

Here is a picture of the 3D printed parts, motors, propellers, and joysticks:

And, here is a short video description of his robot...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I have been exploring sketch-noting and brain-doodling lately and thought it would be a great vehicle my students to think, process, and organize information.  I started off with a class discussion and asking my students what they find challenging about note-taking.  Many of them shared that they found it hard to keep up with the speaker, and others said that they sometimes wrote so furiously that they couldn't understand their own handwriting when it came time to study for the tests.  Others shared how they found it difficult to make sense of their notes.  Sketch-noting seemed a great way to address some of these issues.  Introducing it through sample images of sketchnoting from Google images and sites like Sketchnote Army was a great way to start.  For more tutorials and ideas of places to start with doodling, I went to Brain Doodles.

Here, there are lessons, videos, tutorials, and a gallery of images.  I  really like this sketch-note example of the US Supreme Court in the form of a video tutorial.

I then took my students to an ignite talk to give our budding sketch-noting skills some practice...what better way than a talk on the history of the ubiquitous ramen instant noodle?

Here is what we came up interesting to see how we viewed and mapped the information in different ways.

Different ways of thinking means each one has different ways of organizing information.  Sketch-noting really provides alternatives to the linear way of displaying information found in traditional note-taking that may really help students make sense of what they are learning.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More Adventures in 3D Printing

Turning my classroom into a creative makerspace this year has really brought out new ideas and uses for the design and 3D printing that I have not seen before.  Just this week, a student designed and printed parts to go along with an assignment in English class - to create a board game based on the novel Walk Two Moons.  Love, love, love that students are putting their newfound skills to use across the curriculum and in authentic, needs-based ways.

Here is the student's board game.  The card-holder was customized to fit the cards and the title of the novel printed on it.  The game pieces were small cars in a variety of colors to correspond with the theme of the novel.

Here's another project that a student has just designed and printed...LEGO bricks, customized LEGO train tracks and train wheels...

And last but not least, a very original "8-bit Mario"...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Last evening, I was invited to attend an inspiring event during which COX Connect2STEM award winners were announced as well as an important inaugural announcement -  introduction of the Chief Science Officers initiative.  

My school is one of more than 50 middle and high schools to pilot the Chief Science Officers (CSO) initiative.  In this role, student-body elected CSOs will work on raising campus-wide engagement in STEM by serving as the “voice” for  their schools.  They will work on identifying science opportunities such as speakers, field trips, science nights and ensure that these opportunities reflect the interests of their peers. They will be the contact and streamline the ability for STEM-based organizations throughout the state to meaningfully connect with their schools. In addition, CSOs will participate as a member of a state-wide “cabinet” of other CSOs to engage in Arizona’s conversation about STEM, education and the workforce. To prepare for their coming responsibilities, they will be attending a summer leadership institute, fall and summer cabinet meetings and have on-site mentorship during the academic year, all supported by the AZ SciTech Festival.  

This is really exciting because of the tremendous impact this will have on bringing STEM to the forefront - and most exciting of all, spearheaded by students themselves.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Real Kids Meet Real World

During my STEM lab, two students approached me and asked if they could explore graphic design as their next unit of study.  I set out to investigate options for them and got a recommendation for a MOOC from my district's director of technology - Human-Computer Interaction from UC San Diego. This went right along with areas that I have been experimenting with lately - rapid prototyping and designing with the user in mind.  Tying this online experience in with face-to-face interaction with them in class, I have been able to discuss the learning with them and come up with practical ways for them to use what their new knowledge and skills.  One of the initial projects involved interviewing someone about what they would want in a dashboard.  I arranged for them to interview another teacher about her preferences for a personalized dashboard and they got a better idea of what it meant to design for humans.  For example, she would want to be able to control the notifications that pop up right from her dashboard.

I then shared the portfolio of a real-life graphic designer with them so that they could get an idea of how professionals work.  I also showed them an example of a contract that a graphic designer presents to clients to model for them the process of working with clients.  It involves the prototyping stage and presenting the client with three options and then discussing further iterations until the 'perfect' design is arrived at.

It was time for my students' first job!  I approached a local restaurant owner and she invited them to help them redesign the table tents she uses for special occasions at her eatery.

Here is the original design:

Here is my students' redesign using Canva (with the name of the restaurant omitted for privacy):

Great experience in design-thinking and design-making tied to the real-world for my students!