Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What We Made This Summer at Create Make Learn

How many times have the things your students made become refrigerator art? 
Well here is our virtual refrigerator - filled with the amazing things educators made this summer as part of the Create Make Learn Summer Institute 2014 held at the Generator (Burlington Maker Space) and Champlain College.   We have just set our dates for next year. 

Save the Date 
Create Make Learn Summer Institute 2015
 July 13 - July 17 

If you want to be get an early-bird registration invitation a week before General Registration opens, sign up to be on the Create Make Learn Mailing List here. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Making a Big Difference at Essex HS STEM Academy

“It seems so little but its making such a big difference”  described a STEM Academy student as he snapped together components of each finger printed from ABS filament off the uPrint 3D printer located in Room D-104 of Essex High School. He described that the 3D printed hand his team was assembling was going to help a 17 year old boy from Washington state.  

When I walked into the room, minutes before class was about to start, I noticed 4  lunch trays, some pliers, a hammer, and a few other tools  strategically placed on round circular tables. Each lunch tray contained 32 ABS parts that had been printed over the previous  few weeks.  “This one part took 22 hours to print” explained STEM Academy leader,  Lea Ann Smith,  as she held up the largest piece in the collection.  

Lea Ann Smith and Doug Horne,  dedicated teachers who have put in countless hours to make sure that the each part was  successfully printed and ready for the weekly advisory meeting time of the STEM Academy students greeted their 17 students with a look of anticipation as they walked through the door.

Although their teachers,  Mr. Horne  and Mrs. Smith,  were also learning the process outlined by the eNable community for assembling the hands, their years of experience brought many skills to the process, ranging from an understanding of technical 3D modeling software like Rhino to classroom management in a  project based learning environment. Mrs. Smith learned about the eNable community while attending the CREATE MAKE LEARN Summer Institute last summer and saw this as the perfect authentic project for her STEM academy students. Together with her co-teacher, Mr. Horne, they skillfully administered just the right amount of direction and scaffolding to guide the students successfully to the next step of the process -  not an easy tasks for a class that meets once a week for 30 minutes.

Just last week the students had used RHINO to scale the pieces and prepare them for the printer. One STL file had to be scaled to fit a 3 year old child, the other a 17 year old boy, and the last two were going to help a 58 year man who had lost fingers on both hands. The students were matched with their recipients by a community of volunteers collaborating to match those in need of fingers with 3D printer enthusiast called eNable. (Learn more about them at Enabling the Future)

Mr. Horne created a smooth transition from last week’s class by gathering the students quickly into their seats  facing a wall sized slideshow of the printed parts.  

With only 30 minutes of classroom time per week,  the students knew they had little time to waste if they were to stay on schedule with their plan to eNable each of the hand donors with a newly assembled 3D printed hand.  The students took a few minutes to review the instructional video from eNable volunteer, Jeremy Simon, demonstrating how to work with the snap screws and individual components of the hand.   

After  reviewing some key components of the video,  the students grabbed a set of clearly printed directions, and quickly grouped around the lunch trays and
went right to work moving their 3D hand assembly to the next level.   Meanwhile  Mr. Horne and Mrs. Smith answered questions and  encouraged each group to write a short paragraph providing the donor with an update of the progress of their eagerly anticipated hand.  

The 17 students taking part in these 4 eNable hand assemblies  are part of the Medical Advisory portion of the STEM Academy  at Essex High School in Essex, Vermont.  The STEM Academy  currently consists of 50 students and seven faculty members.  The purpose of the Academy is to give students an opportunity to experience STEM disciplines in a deeper and more meaningful way than is typically available in the classroom.  The major elements of the program are enrollment in the weekly STEM Advisory, attending STEM Lecture Series events, participating in an internship and creating an independent project.  Students in the STEM Academy will be exposed to a wide variety of new ideas and hands on projects.  They will meet people who share their interests, both in their high school peer group and in the community, and they will learn how work collaboratively and creatively with these people to solve interesting and relevant problems.

Communication,  collaboration,  close reads, technical skills, career education,  along with a feeling of contribution to quality of human life were all part of this powerful carefully designed instructional experience that aims to make a BIG difference from such a small but precious time slot in the week of these Vermont students. Follow them on Twitter @EssexSTEM

Monday, October 6, 2014

3D printer Communal Build a Success at Champlain Maker Faire

Just ten minutes before the close of the Champlain Mini Maker Faire,  the last piece (the power supply) of the 3D printer was added to our communal 3D printer build and we all cheered as the glow of the green light indicated that the 3D printer was complete.  Yeah!

After mentoring several educators in building their own 3D printers earlier this year at the Create Make Learn Summer Institute held the The Generator this summer, Craig Lyndes and I had a vision that we could start and finish the build of a 3d printer at the faire and include as many people as possible in that build.

Oh what fun we had.  It was amazing to watch father/daughter teams; mother/son teams; father/son teams; mother/daughter teams; husband wife teams;  students teams; and volunteers of all ages from Kindergarten students to retired engineers join us in completing the 41 steps necessary to turn a box of parts into a working 3D printer.

We ordered our Printrbot Simple Maker Edition Kit a few weeks ago and opened the box at 10 A.M.  Saturday morning at the Coach Barn of Shelburne Farm as the Champlain Maker Faire opened its doors.  Jill Dawson started by sorting out the parts in our trusty egg carton, and we recruited the first visitor to walk by our exhibit to start cutting through the laser cut wooden pieces.   Williston Central School teachers,  Julie Rogers and Leah Joly joined us to help  build, document, and answer questions about what is happening with making in Vermont Schools.  In the afternoon,  John Cioffi and middle school students from St. Albans City School not only helped with the build, but brought their own Printrbot Maker Edition kit that they were in progress of building in their classroom.   By the end of Day one several volunteers from the Maker Faire had completed about half the steps in the build.

Day 2 brought a whole new set of volunteers to the Create Make Learn exhibit. Shannon Walters from Integrated Arts Academy,  Sydney Whipple from Lake Region High School, along with Sue Wade,  Erica Bertucci and Rosies Girls representatives from St. Albans City School were key to engaging volunteers to join our communal 3D printer build

Many thanks to the educators from our Create Make Learn Summer Institute who volunteered  to help run the exhibit which included the interactive 3D printer build,  several 3D printers printing out various size artifacts,  a library of books that can support making in education, Little Bits and Legos, students and their projects from St. Albans City School and Rosie's Girls and displays of the projects that several teachers made during our summer course.  

The next few blog post will dive deeper into what we learned from this amazing collaboration.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Announcing CREATE MAKE LEARN 's mobile pop-up maker space

TechSavvy Solution announces Create Make Learn ~  a mobile learning experience that brings the opportunity to CREATE and MAKE to teachers, students, and life-long learners.

After months of planning, organizing, collaborating with amazingly creative educators and supporters, we launched  our first CREATE MAKE LEARN event in Burlington, Vermont.  

Fifty educators spent the week learning together creating, making, and learning together. Each of them is returning to their classroom with new skills, new tools, and new ideas for increasing student engagement, empowerment, and agency as well as ideas of how to use the power of making to meet new educational standards.

The resounding “we want more” from participants has validated our vision to turn Create Make Learn into a mobile learning experience that brings the opportunity to CREATE and MAKE to more learners.   This vision started  in Austin, Texas during SxSw 2014 and continued as we traveled, worked, and learned from our 1983 Bluebird bus.   We, soon, started to make plans for what this might look like as we drove towards Vermont.  

The success of our first event “igniting the spark” of creating and making with Vermont educators has confirmed that we need to follow our heart and continue to ignite the spirit of creating and making in more educators in hopes of transforming the learning experience of today’s students.  Follow Create, Make, Learn on Google Plus   or Join our Mailing List

Thank you Shelly Fryer for capturing the reason why we need to ignite the spark of learning by creating and making during our first Create, Make Learn event in Burlington, Vermont. Thank you to Wes Fryer, Kevin Jarrett, Craig Lyndes, Caleb Clark for being awesome collaborators in making this first event a huge success.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sierra's journey of personalized learning with 3D printing

Sierra 's Science Fair Project
On Thursday, June 13, the gym at Monkton Central School was buzzing with students passionately showing off their science fair projects.  The artifacts, ranging from poster boards to digital exhibits created using applications like Haiku Deck and Prezi, to 3D printed hands, represented learning driven from the curiosity inside each of these 5th grade students.    

The curiosity of 10 year old, Sierra, about how 3D printing can be used to improve the lives of humans and animals, lead her to a journey that went far beyond textbook or Internet research.  It lead her to connect with the e-NABLE community for some real ‘hands on’ learning assembling her own 3D printed prosthetic hand.  

While Sierra was doing research for her science project, her mom noticed an announcement of a Google Hangout on Air where Vermont educators were conducting their own inquiry about the role of 3D printing in education.  She quickly followed up with Vermont educator, Lucie deLaBruere,  to get contact information about  Jon Schull, researcher scientist from Rochester Institute of Technology who had  joined the conversation and shared the work of the e-NABLE community.  Sierra and her mom, Lianne, reached out to the eNable community and got a quick response from volunteer member Jeremy Simon.

Jeremy, who runs 3D Universe, helped Sierra understand the math involved in printing a hand and printed a hand that fit her own hand.  Within just a few days, Sierra and her Mom were opening a package mailed to them from Jeremy which contained the hardware and 3D printed parts that Jeremy had printed for Sierra to assemble a 3D printed hand.  Sierra followed the step by step directions posted online, stopping for an occasional ice cream break, while her mom documented the progress using the iMotion app on her iPad.

Persevering past her bedtime, Sierra finished the assembled hand within 2 days. The build took approximately 5 hours and made it possible for her to reach the following conclusion for her science project:

“My results show that the 3D printed hands can help people in need of hands. I know because of my research.  People have sent hands everywhere to people who need them and they work - people can pick up things.  It’s like a real hand!

As often happens during authentic personalized learning, the whole class learned from watching their classmate’s journey, and Sierra’s teacher, Ms. Gagner, invited Jeremy Simon, e-NABLE volunteer, to share his expertise about 3D printing with the whole class via Skype.  Bringing experts into the classroom using virtual field trips via Skype and Google Hangouts is expanding the possibilities of what students learn and from whom they learn, making learning even more personal than ever. 

Student learning is no longer limited to what their teacher’s know or to what publishers include in textbooks.  Mentors like Jeremy Simon can help individual students or a whole class understand new ideas and concepts, with students driving the learning with their questions being answered in real time.

After a successful assembly of the “Cyborg beast” as a model for her science fair project, Sierra wanted to take her learning to the next level and actually print a 3D hand for a real child.  The e-NABLE community quickly found an 8 year old girl who has a functional thumb, but missing fingers.  Sierra is working with her new mentor, Jeremy from 3D Universe, to help build and test a new type of design, that will be sent to an 8 year old girl, 2000 miles away.

In an era where the educational landscape is filled with talk of personalized learning, Sierra’s story provides a powerful example and model of how maker tools and maker empowerment can contribute to true personalized learning.  

Learn more about Sierra and her project here:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

3D printers in Education - Much more than KeyChains

It started with a group of Vermont educators sharing their journey into 3D printing in their schools and ended up with conversations about the past, the present and the future of printing.

At Vita-Learn's recent Google Hangout on Air featuring 3D printers in education, we reminisced about the days when printers arrived on the scene and we were actually trying to find things to print on our fanfold paper and dot matrix printers.   Many of us remembered trying to justify the cost of our school's first laser printer (much more expensive than the price of a classroom style 3D printer).   Just as the laser printer has become standard equipment in today's school,  we expect that it will not be long before most students will find a 3D printer available to them in their schools.  In last week's post I featured two Vermont middle schools using 3D printers.  This week we take a look at some examples of high school students printing for a purpose.  (You can watch Eric Hall from MMU showcase the work of Dan Tolle's high school students in the following Google Hangout on Air) 

The schools that have ventured into the world of 3D printing are already finding the need for a second printer as more and more students are experimenting with 3D design as a way of expressing themselves or solving problems. While most schools start using their 3D printer in a class that aims to teach the design process, it doesn’t take long for the availability of a 3D printer to become common knowledge as the first round of 3D prints circulate amongst students.   

At  Mount Mansfield Union High School (MMU), students are often introduced to 3D printing by science teacher Dan Tolle in his TEAMS class. (Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics and Science)  MMU now has both the MakerBot2 and the MakerBot 2X which allows them to print more items and to also print using  both PLA and ABS filament. ABS filament is a harder substance similar to Legos and requires extra printing features to control the heating and cooling process. Most schools' 3D printing projects start using PLA filament which is usually biodegradable and requires less ventilation.

It was no surprise to find MMU students in Dan Tolle's design courses printing parts to solve engineering problems for the University of Vermont's annual TASC design challenge.  This year, Mr. Tolle's students are printing parts to use in their wire walker (a device that can travel from one endpoint to another on a steel wire, reverse itself and return) While some student designed wire walkers included just one 3D printed component, others were totally constructed from  3D printed parts.


As availability and awareness of 3D printing increased, the MMU school community started to imagine and design their own solutions to problems such as missing tripod mounts or the broken vacuum cleaner part pictured below.

Students motivated by the possibilities were teaching themselves  the software that best fit their modeling needs  and showing up with files looking for a 3D printer. Tech integrator, Eric Hall shared a design created using  Sculptris software by an MMU art student that is not only part of her portfolio, but also part of her identity as an artist.  Students become more and more vested in the product during each iterative step of the design process. Free modeling software and the access to a 3D printer provided the tools for this student to take what she imagined to a new level.  

Students also use modeling software such as Shapesmith, Sketchup and OpenSCAD to turn their designs into a 3D print.

With the ability to easily share and showcase design files using online spaces like Thingverse, the interactive process of design continues to evolve beyond the original design. Not long after chemistry teacher Dan Tolle posted these 6 tactile and visual representation of the different properties of the elements of the periodic table to Thingverse, he discovered that it had been downloaded and repurposed as a Braille periodic table. the concepts of mashups, innovations, and building on each others work.

Once students are given access to tools that create models and  the ability to print their designs, it takes a educator who is truly committed to the process of learning to challenge students to move beyond the quick rewards made possible by increased access to tools such as 3D printing and online repositories of printable objects can bring.  In his recent article Blikstein warns us about the “keychain syndrome” that the level of engagement made possible by tools like 3D printers can lead lead to.

“The workshop became a keychain factory, and students would not engage in anything else. The plan worked too well – it backfired. Students found an activity that was personally meaningful, produced professional looking products that were admired and envied, and used a high-tech device. However, as much as it was a very effective solution to engage them in digital fabrication, it offered a too big reward for a relatively small effort, to produce an object that did not include any computation or complex constructive challenges.”

— Blikstein, 2013, p. 9 Digital Fabrication and 'Making'in Education: The Democratization of Invention

But with the right guidance and tools, high school students like Charlotte, Catherine, Mike and Henry can discover and join authentic work where  a collective group of “Makers” are designing and building 3d printed prosthetic hands.   These students recently saw the “Snap to” version of the hand posted at Enabling the Future,  and started working on their own version  that would make the hand more functional.
According to the Enable the Future blog, the students

“worked with their mentors Saeed and Andrew, they came up with the “Ratchet Hand,” “Writing Hand,” and the “Baseball Hand.” The Ratchet hand has slots for utensils, slots sized just right for crayons, pens, pencils and paintbrushes. These students strongly believe (as they should!) that everyone should have the ability to create, draw and write easily – so they focused on coming up with an idea that could help people to do just that!

Jon Schull, Research Scientist in MAGIC (RIT's Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity) is hopeful that educators will work together “to develop an e-NABLE curriculum that includes design, 3D printing, service, philanthropy, biology and social studies(especially if we make hands for children in conflict zones). The concept of high school students printing hands for others is spreading and more and more students are finding support and posting their stories in e-NABLE's G+ Community.

Although many schools we talked to felt they were in very early stages of figuring out curriculum connections  and the place of 3D printers in schools, the growing presence of 3D printers and increasing feeling that anyone can do it, with a focus on printing functional things, not just designs, is leading to real world authentic learning for students which has moved way beyond the printing of keychains.

Is your school currently using 3D printers with students?  Is so, please share your learning, insights, aspirations.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

NOT SO RAPID Prototyping: 3D Printing With Middle School Students

In this post we feature two middle school educators who joined Lucie deLaBruere and Charlie Wilson in a recent conversation about 3d printing in education as part of the Connected Voices series of Google Hangouts sponsored by Vita-Learn.

Fifth graders at Browns River Middle School love their 3D printer, but are baffled that the process of design is called “rapid” prototyping. A two hour print is “not rapid prototyping to an 11 year old”, says middle school teacher Mr. Willie Lee who would love a second printer to keep up with demand. As students are nearing the end of a design challenge where they create a board game and that includes 3D printed game pieces, the printer runs all day, yielding 3-4 game pieces a day. With 45 fifth graders participating in this challenge, the printing process can take up to 2 weeks.

After extensive research, Willie Lee took the recommendations from Make magazine, and purchased an Affinia H Series 3D printer for his classroom.

The metal printer with its 6X6 build area was ranked at having one of the best ‘out of the box’ experience, making it a great choice for a classroom. It has SD storage which frees up your laptop from the long print times. The print software was very intuitive and gives you lots information about your surfaces before the print job goes live. Students currently are not involved with cleaning up a print for printing using this software, but they do use professional modeling software to create their designs. After about 3 - 4 class period, Mr. Willie’s 5th and 6th grade students are able to use Sketchup as modeling software well enough to assemble imagine and invent using various shaped objects (often known as primitives) to complete new design challenges. They enjoy putting their skills to the test by participating in the Phone of the Future challenge [designed by Tony Galle] during the annual Engineering Day sponsored by the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Science. Bringing home several awards, Lee’s students have motivated other students to get involved.

Meanwhile, at Swanton Elementary school, fifth graders are using Tinkercad to reate their 3D models in Mr. Gregory’s school. Rusti Gregory, tech integrationist, ventured into the world of 3D printing two years ago with a SolidDoodle 2 - which was NOT an “out of the box experience”. Two years ago, entering the world of 3D printing meant a lot more tweaking with settings, command line software, and longer set up times. Then there was the very “common” first timers experience of learning how to make filament stick to the bed — hairspray, or perhaps some blue painters tape along with the fiddling with the settings. But like many early adopters, Rusti and his students were not deterred and their experience and blazed the trails for others.

the printer was working smoothly, Mr. Gregory created a valley as a design challenge, for which the students started designing the perfect bridge. After they printed and tested their first design, students had a chance to ‘fix’ their design and print a second attempt. As in most design challenges, the changes to the second version included much more accurate measurements and strong evidence of learning through iteration.

Once the printer was working smoothly, Mr. Gregory created a valley as a design challenge, for which the students started designing the perfect bridge. After they printed and tested their first design, students had a chance to ‘fix’ their design and print a second attempt. As in most design challenges, the changes to the second version included much more accurate measurements and strong evidence of learning through iteration. students understood the process of design and print, the printer started to be used by students for passion projects. 

Every Friday students and teachers at Swanton Elementary participate in elective choice classes, where both teachers and students participate in passion based teaching and learning. When a group of students working with circuits to find different ways to generate electricity got the idea of using a water wheel, they found themselves approaching students learning to model 3D objects for help. This not only lead to collaborative learning, but also to ‘electricity” being generated using student designed 3D printed objects.

As the need to have a second 3D printer to support demand, Swanton Elementary looked again to SolidDoodle and purchased one of its newer models. Thankfully the new printer arrived just as their original 2 year printer stopped working. “I learned that it had outlived its life expectancy, so I guess we got our money’s worth and we learned that 3D printer parts have a limited life expectancy, so be prepared to replace them as needed.”

Caleb Clark, who helps teachers discover 3D printing, circuits, laser cutters, and more in his “Introduction to Making and Fabrication in Education” at Marlboro College’s Teaching with Technology program believes that early adopters of 3D printers in school, like Rusti and Willie, are models for best practices, “because 3D printing and other “Maker” type activities not only teach valuable engineering, math, technology and art skills but working with them also help students find out WHO they are and what they like to do. Traditionally asking kids “what are you passionate about” has not been a large part of school culture, but knowing what you love to do is very important in the search for satisfying and sustainable employment. The so called Maker movement is sneaking in an opportunity for students to discover their passions.”

As the bars for entry gets lower and lower, as software gets easier and a teacher knows they can plug it in and make it work, we will see more and more educators making curricular connections to the processes like 3D printing. Meanwhile, educators like Rusti Gregory and Willie Lee are preparing students who will be ready to help others as they enter the world of 3D printing.

Listen to the complete conversation below: 

Also See Part 2 of this series on 3D printing in Education where we feature high school students printing for a purpose. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

eTextiles + 3D printing = fun name badge

In my early search for my first authentic e-textile project,  I wanted something that could be  "a walking" billboard promoting the maker spirit.  My original thoughts was that it would be some type of e-textile project that could become part of my book bag which I have with me most places. I spent a lot of time playing with this idea as I  picked up supplies at Michael's and Walmart and ordered LilyPad components from SparkFun.  When my  Sparkfun package arrived,  I was able to easily get my computer sending schemes to the Lilypad boards and started creating circuits using craft materials, conductive thread and basic Lilypad components.

The Sparkfun website is filled with tutorials that might be helpful.  For getting started with LilyPad e-textiles, I would suggest  the following series.

Since I had just finished my own build of a 3d printer (The Printrbot Simple  ) I decided I wanted to integrate 3D printing with the e-textile components in a way that would start conversations about maker empowerment.   Although the book bag idea seemed fun,  the design wasn't jumping out at me. Then while cleaning out the bus one day, I found some name badges from recent conferences, and it  occurred to me that conference name badges are meant to provide just enough information about you to start a conversation - so why not find a way to add some maker elements to a badge holder.  Although I had lots of different components, most of which were overkill  for this project,
I settled on augmenting the battery powered basic circuit with a LilyPad Twinkle board.

This board actually has an ATtiny microcontroller which is programmed to make LED's you attach blink like fireflys. Although there was no need for programming for this project, I did find lots of advanced user tips for those who wanted to tackle programming the board. The built in firefly effect was going to work just fine for my project (attention getting in a subtle way).


What seemed like a quick and easy project ended up taking much more time than expected due to my lack of modeling ability and unexpected challenges of working with fine wire. I found a model on Thingverse that would work if I could create a cutout in the middle for the LED. After struggling to get the extrusion working with 123Design, I resorted back to TinkerCad and was able to get the right size hole after only 2 prints. (The digital callipers came in very handy and I was tickled to use my newly assembled printer.)

Wire management ended up being my biggest obstacles. The fine wire I used was conductive enough but had to be pulled really tight to complete the circuit and became much more tangled and harder to manage than I had expected. But after multiple takes and some reinforcement with the glue gun, I now have a fairly solid name badge holder than can start conversations about 3D printing, circuits, and maker empowerment.