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