April 6, 2015

Making Circuits | 3D Printing in the Classroom

Circuits and robots make a great bulletin board.

Circuits and robots make a great bulletin board.

The week leading up to spring break was a fun week. This was one of those rare times when we have finished a unit in reading, wrapped up the math unit that we were on, and had time to focus on other projects. That is just what we did. We were able to finish our robot circuits. They are now hanging on the bulletin board outside my classroom. They look amazing, and I love coming out and seeing that they have been turned on. I keep turning them off to save the batteries, but there is no way the batteries will last until Open House. I might have to refresh them for the big night. We also had time to work on a project that I have been wanting to do for at least a year. A culminating project that demonstrates their understanding of circuits.

Students are taking apart an old VCR to find gears and motors for their circuit.

Students are taking apart an old VCR to find gears and motors for their circuit.

This project ended up looking much different than I first imagined it, but that’s just fine with me. While planning my circuit robots I knew I wanted to hang them on my bulletin board and thought I needed a good sign. Then I remembered a project that I had wanted to do but never had the time. I wanted the kids to make posters that define different kinds of energy (kinetic, potential, sound, solar, light, etc…). The posters would be on sturdy poster board and would define the different kinds of energy with words and pictures, but also with a circuit that uses the type of energy that they are defining. While the students were finishing their robots I realized I could do more with my “circuit” sign than just hang it on a bulletin board. I could replace the poster board with letters would be much more interesting, useful, and will make our bulletin board come to life.

It was a history lesson for the sound group. They had to be taught how a cassette player works. Then they took it apart.

It was a history lesson for the sound group. They had to be taught how a cassette player works. Then they took it apart.

I have a parent volunteer who has graciously taken on the task of making the sign. She has already cut out the letters out of wood and will be mounting them on a board so that they stick out about an inch. While she is working on that, I set out to work on organizing the project for the kids. I started with making 7 groups. This keeps the number of kids in the group low, which means more “hands-on” time for them. There are 4 groups that are creating circuits (motion, sound, light, and programming). Each group will get two of the letters in the sign. That is where they will be attaching the components for their circuits. One group is our design team. They are in charge of talking with the other groups, deciding what they need, and designing anything they need to be 3D printed, which includes a switch box that will control all of the circuits. Another group is our 3D printing team. They will be in charge of organizing and printing anything that needs to be printed, including the switch box. The final group is our wiring group. They are going to be in charge connecting the circuits on our sign to the switches in the switch box.

The 3D printing team was getting a lesson on how to put the printer back together.

The 3D printing team was getting a lesson on how to put the printer back together.

I’m really enjoying the collaboration that this project entails. Each group is responsible for an important part of the final sign, and each group has to work together to make it happen. With all the other projects we have done this year different students have developed different skills. I was able to put those students in groups where they could put their skills to use and teach other students what they have learned.

Thursday was the last day before our spring break and they were given plenty of time to work on their projects. I knew I was going to be doing this, so I invited my friends from Table Top Inventing to come and see what the kids were working on. I think they had a great time and really provided some great insight for the students. As usual, the students have far surpassed what I imagined they would do. I’m really impressed with what they have accomplished so far. I think I will dedicate a blog post to each of the groups and post them over the next few weeks. So you will have to stay tuned to see how they come out.

I also got to scan and 3D print a tool made by people that lived in our area thousands of years ago, but that too is a post for another day!

 

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