This Week in the Classroom I’m going to explore a variety of design challenges that I use in my classroom. I designed each of these projects to prompt students to explore the engineering design process, learn basic scientific concepts, such as forces and loads on structures, learn executive functioning and soft skills, and develop presentation skills in a variety of media. These projects are designed to be super flexible in practice. I can extend these projects, compress the time, develop thematic elements. None of these projects use expensive materials or electronics. Some of these project briefs I use nearly every year, in nearly every course. They are simply that good.
This fall I have introduced a new tech platform into my practice. The FunKey unlocks tons of potential in a classroom.
Do you want a board that reads keystrokes and plays like a MakeyMakey but with at a size and price point for a real classroom?
FunKey does that.
Do you now need a board which takes different sensory inputs and outputs as light, sound or motion?
FunKey does that.
Do you need a board which can help you teach programming?
FunKey does that.
Want a kit that comes with a variety of sensors, so quick and easy to hook up, students can create medical devices in a class period?
FunKey does that.
What doesn’t it do?
Teach. But that’s what teachers are for.
Let’s set up a few projects with a basic kit and see how we can put it to work in the Maker classroom!
In full disclosure, I received a pair of FunKey Super boards in return for a blog review, but all opinions are my own. Innovations, on the other hand, those belong to my students.
My semi-regular column This Week in the Classroom is back! I have accepted a position in a small, mostly rural school district just outside of Northern Virginia. It’s great to be in the classroom again, bringing project-based learning to new audiences.
I am teaching middle schoolers, all levels. Middle school is a great age to teach, despite some of the unique challenges the students pose. Students can really make connections, find passions and dive deep into a project. They are about as creative as they ever will be and watching a kid’s creative power light up is just something cool. Middle school is also a fraught time for many young people, making the classroom a place of great promise and great worry.
Here’s my current greatest hits list of web tools, software platforms and services I like to use in my Tech Ed/Maker Classroom.
Here’s a quick project to cut out on the scroll saw. Scroll saws are small, cheap, versatile tools that can cut through all sorts of thin materials, such as plastics, wood, plywood and cardboard. They have a very, very low … Continue reading Home #Makerspace: Paper Airplane Launcher
This week, we built a game board which you can customize to play marbles, skittles, carrom, billiards, pool, shuffleboard, crokinole and more!
My game board features two games, marbles and carrom. Marbles has been played for thousands of years in various forms. Carrom is a “strike and pocket” game that evolved in East India. Both games provide hours of entertainment for young kids during rainy days and family game nights. Carrom Company of Ludington, MI has a 100-in-1 version of this board that many, many grown kids remember.
This game board uses vinyl stickers for decoration, 45 degree miters reinforced with pin nails and grooves. This construction technique can be used to make large playing surfaces. I used the same technique to make The DIY Knock Hockey project a few weeks ago, and it will show up in next week’s project.
Every winter, millions of families prepare for serious bonding time at kitchen tables, in garages and in workshops across the country. We enter with dreams of speed, beauty and glory. With a little luck and skill, we leave with pride, joy and a completed Pinewood Derby Car.
Here’s how to generate that little bit of luck and skill for your family so you too can guide your young maker with confidence.
The Pinewood Derby is a race between small gravity-powered model cars. Each official Scouting kit contains a solid pine block, four nails and four plastic wheels but specialized kits are available online. Official rules vary from organization to organization, and in Scouting, district to district.
This guide will show you how to support and help your young maker design, make and race their derby car.
This week, we took to the skies with a two simple mobiles.
Mobiles are kinetic sculptures which rely on and play with the scientific concept of equilibrium and center of gravity. The pieces often spin and flutter with the breeze, presenting a constantly shifting face and focus to the observer. Some mobiles are motorized, such as the spinning toys hung over a baby’s crib.
Here are two very quick and easy ways to make spinning mobiles in your own home.
Every few years, I find an excuse to engage in one of my favorite old-school projects, rebuilding and repainting a kids bicycle.
Let’s paint some flames.
I mean, dragons. We will paint dragons.
This project is approachable for middle-school and high-schoolers. High-interest elementary school kids can definitely accomplish parts of this project with help from an involved adult. This project does involve dangerous fumes, so great ventilation and respiratory masks are a must. Be prepared to give over your work space for a three days to a week and a half to this project.
This project teaches basic competencies in graphics software, cutter plotter use, mechanic’s tool usage – wrenches, ratchets, etc., and paint prep and execution. These skills are directly transferable to manufacturing, automotive and graphic arts fields (for my fellow CTE/Shop teachers out there). Bike mechanics earn about $12 per hour nationally, offering a student an entry point into the skilled trades.
In school, I began with donations from student families. I then taught my students how to use tools and the basics of gears, force, torque and work. We fix’m up and get the bikes running. At the end of the experiment, we would give the bikes away to kids who need them. Workshop Houston began with a similar model and Cycle of Houston has given away 100,000 bikes in just over ten years of existence. Bikes can and do change a child’s world by offering opportunities to develop balance, judgement and freedom in the wider community.
Update: I’ve since found my write up from 2011. This is my second or third version of this project.
Sometimes, a teacher needs to court a little controversy. This week, Things 1 & 2 & I build a device which was banned in New York City from the 1940s until 1976, and can be found in high quality dens of iniquity and vice, such as bowling alleys and boardwalk amusements.
Pinball. I’m talking about pinball. Cue the Who!
This project is most appropriate for older makers in 5th grade and up depending on their skill and available supervision with box cutters. Makers in grades 3/4 would benefit greatly from guided adult supervision. I estimate 10 work-hours for young makers to build this machine. Simplifying or eliminating the mechanics will greatly reduce the time necessary.
While not difficult in terms of physical execution, this project involves a lot of cutting and gluing. The mechanical complexity can be daunting for younger makers. My 5-year old lost interest building the mechanical parts, but thoroughly enjoyed assembling and decorating the game. I have included plans in SVG & DXF to help you build your own baseball pinball game. Just print out full-size or copy the dimensions!
This week we will build a small, simple shelf to practice our hand tool skills. We will learn the rip cut and how to use the coping saw successfully. We will assemble and hang our shelf using wood screws, the … Continue reading Home #Makerspace: A Small Bookshelf Using Only Hand Tools