Thursday, March 31, 2016

Weeding Vinyl

With several new classes learning to vinyl cut, I have been teaching them all how to "weed" their designs.  We did a little time lapse video of the process today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Developing Maker potential in High Schools

A belated "Hello" from Mount Mansfield High School! As a long-time computer & technology teacher in both middle and High Schools I am constantly exploring ways to leverage our investments in technology to improve teaching and learning. Preparing our students with the skills to move into the 21st century workplace and the flexibility to adapt as technologies evolve is an important part of our mission. Sadly and despite our investments in equipment and infrastructure, my observation is that a large percentage of technology "use" in schools has simply replaced books, pen and paper with word processors and the Internet, and students are still most often reading and writing which is not always engaging. That is not to say that there are not benefits to a digital workflow even if the content and products are more traditional, but as I collaborate with teachers to develop instruction my goal is to find the "value added" that will not only engage students but allow them to explore and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

As a former outdoor educator and Science teacher I have always valued an open ended, project-based approach to learning that allows students to DO things, make connections between content and "real life" and exercise their creativity. When I began to explore the Maker world a couple of years ago it seemed the perfect venue to combine my educational ideals with the opportunity to create more tangible and durable products with our tech tools. It is also a perfect fit for my "inner tinkerer," nurtured through years of bicycle & auto repair, woodworking, DIY home improvement and tendency to fix things before throwing them away. Last year I began to create a Maker Space at our school, bringing in the 3D printers that had been lurking and in limited use in our Science Department as well as a new Shapeoko CNC, a fair supply of Arduino components and misc tech bits including some older computers and other electronic oddities like this beauty.

The space has slowly taken shape over the last year, enough to draw the attention of students and teachers such that we have now integrated 3D printing and Arduino as options in a number of projects and the CNC machine has recently been in use in the wood shop. I know the latter seems like a no-brainer, but integrating new tools into established programs can be a slow process. More than anything else, the visibility of the MakerSpace has brought a collection of like-minded souls who enjoy spending their available moments designing, inventing, exploring and sometimes just BS-ing about geeky stuff. The core students are also members of our rookie FIRST-FTC Robotics Team.

The opportunity to join the Generator community and explore the available tools and resources is tremendous. My initial goals involve pushing myself forward with automation and kinetic sculpture using Arduino and possibly RaspPi, but I am also appreciating access to the laser cutter (on our shopping list for next year) and CNC. Lowering the learning curve by identifying a straightforward workflow for each tool and process is an important part of the support I provide to our teachers and students, and I am also always looking for ideas on how these tools can be applied. Seeing the dynamic and creative culture that has evolved around Generator has already given me much inspiration, and I look forward to continued exploration. Onward!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Going Through the Looking Glass

Hello folks, this is Kevin Laverty, a teacher from Christ the King School embarking on the Ignite a Maker experience. I'm keeping this blog to record my thoughts on the making, my experiences, and (hopefully) my progress. 

So, I’m at the Generator right now and I’m thinking about
Me at Generator working on designs
what sort of projects that I’ll get myself into.
I just went to the orientation on Wednesday and I felt like kid left alone in a roomful of little doors, each one with a sign on it marked “open me”. Which one do I open and what sort of rabbit hole will it lead me into?

I’ve been working on channeling that nervous excitement, and I think I’ve come up with something that will allow me to leverage the most out of my experience here. I’d like to design “stock car” kits cut on the laser cutter to produce for use at school and design a track to test the cars using three metrics: speed, distance, and power. With a little front loading, I’ll open a challenge up to the students to design a car using some provided parts (wheels, body specs) but allow them to vary the power source (sail, rubber band, mousetrap, etc, but no electric...maybe solar?) and then compete.

I’m hoping that going through the design and prototyping myself will give me valuable experiences to bring back to my students so that I can support them in the process. I’m nervous to step out of my own comfort zone, but that’s exactly what I ask students to do, so I'd better cowboy up!

Because I haven't been certified on the laser cutter yet, I think I’ll start on the track design. I’ve already found some resources for sensor triggered race car tracks.  There’s no turning back now, I’m going to have to jump into electronics with both feet. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Welcome to our New Ignite a Maker Team

I'd like to welcome a new team to IGNITE a MAKER  for March and April.  During the next two months Kevin Laverty and Eric Hall will our Maker-Educator.  We also have the pleasure of having Chris Whitaker from ECHO as a community mentor.  I look forward to see how Kevin and Eric experience a two month membership at Burlington's Maker space.

March - April Maker/Educators
in Collaboration with Chris Whitaker (ECHO) as a Community Mentor

Kevin Laverty
Christ the King School
Technology Engineering Design Teacher

Eric Hall
Mt. Mansfield Union High School
Technology Integrator

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I was just getting started...

 I've really wanted to make lamps, and here's a rough (very rough) draft. Glad this is cardboard, because the design needs a lot more editing.

It's funny, I tried to make a similar lamp using 3D printing. When I look at the 3D prints I made of a lamp and a stabile, I see I was printing lots of flat shapes and assembling them: that's a smarter job for a laser cutter.

Not sure how I'm going to keep going now that my time is drawing to an end. There are so many things I want to design and make using the laser cutter. Without this opportunity, though, I don't know if I would have ever gotten started.
I guess my options are to do some form of Generator membership...maybe as needed. It's a $25 / day fee to use the laser cutter with an affiliate membership, but I guess that could work. It'll be around $30/month to subscribe to Adobe Illustrator. In order to continue this design development, it's an investment I'll have to make.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ironic? I hope not

When I hung up my art teaching beret & returned to school librarian, I inherited a collection that hadn't been weeded in 20-30 years. It was time for a haul-out. I started folding some book pages, and thinking about the discarded books as sculptural objects. I laser cut some letters I want to add to the books to make a read sign.

laser cut books

So I'm still learning Illustrator, and after doing a tutorial, I tried making some simple, stylized deer out of basic geometric shapes. This took me awhile. It would be a lot faster if I could import my drawings, and find the outlines. Seems pretty basic, but I'm not there yet. I'm going to start a month free trial of And when my month-long trial of Illustrator runs out, I'll probably start paying to continue. Inkscape, while free, just doesn't compare. 

I was worried about the book smoldering or catching fire, but in fact, the book cover is far harder to cut than cardboard. It is pretty dense, after all.  So this is a quick experiment, but there's so much more I want to do with these. First I have to build my skills.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year, New Resolve

As the new year rolls in, we can not help but reflect on the past and look to the future.
I resolve to make more and procrastinate less.  That being the theme of my vacation this week, let me share what I have been percolating about and what I have started!

I finally, after years of dusty storage, hooked up the used kiln that has been haunting my laundry area in the basement.  My husband has been integral in jump starting my ceramics habit.  We had a successful bisque firing earlier this week, and are creeping up the temperature scale toward a cone 5 glaze firing today!

Loaded kiln after first bisque firing
My kiddos painting on glaze

The book garden idea my sister and I cooked up is starting to take shape as well, and will be next on the assembly list this weekend.  We thought that creating a fairy garden around a book theme that could be hung on a wall would be cool.  The first step is to assemble the laser etched pieces to create the book-like shape.  We picked Alice in Wonderland as our first story.

Sketches of ideas rumbling around my head

Laser etching the 'page' texture on the sides

Next, I am going to add in the garden bits.  Then, maybe add some LEDs and eventually a moisture sensor!  If I am really cool, which has been a subject of much debate, I will add in a bit that will alert me when it needs to be watered and control the LEDs to simulate daylight.  But that is a whole other level of geeky goodness.

The clock assembly is my last vacation project.  My husband wants a clock for our living room, so, of course, I decided to make one.  I etched the bits, am pretty pleased, but want it a bit bigger for the space.  Since I have the tools at my fingers (the laser cutter at the Generator!), I will see what I can do.  I was also thinking that it would be cool to cut it out and make a darker natural wood behind with a lighter natural wood as the design.  Hmmmm.....  It may take longer than the three days I have left.

Anyway, the new year brings with it all kids of possibilities, and as my mom used to say, the world is my oyster.  It's time to look for that pearl.  Happy New Year everyone!