Posts Tagged ‘maker space’

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the makerspace this year. One of the tools I have been working on a lot recently is the laser cutter/engraver. I am a beginner with Adobe Illustrator so that has been a challenge.

I don’t know where I first heard about it, but I kept hearing about taking 3D printer files and laser cutting them. I also then saw these fun bots made by RoboMustache at a STEAM/Maker event with my personal kids. Seriously, how cute are these little things? I put these two ideas together and decided I needed to learn to design the shapes that I would need to create my own RoboMustache-inspired closed shape in TinkerCad, which I am better at, and then figure out how to cut them.

I googled how-to change 3D printer files to laser cutter and found this directions from Make Magazine. After looking at Methods 1 and 2 and decided on Method 2, because 123D-Make is free software. Win.

I know the directions were step by step, but still it’s a lot of translating files. The more translations, the more places to mistranslate. After sorting out a few issues with depth/height of the .stl files and scaling in 123D-Make,  I had a beta version. After a few more tweaks to the TinkerCad design, I had a solid box (small on one right below). I have to say that I felt pretty proud of myself getting it all figured out. It was not hard, but there was also no one around to go to for support. Plus, I have now explained it to others.

Here are my first boxes.

Photo on 3-10-16 at 2.53 PM

The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to get the DXF file from 123D-Make to come in to Illustrator the exact size they were created in TinkerCad. I’m not sure where I am missing a setting. With scale settings to set as the files move from each program to the next (.stl from TinkerCad–>123D-Make–>export as DXF–>open in Illustrator–>scale to size–>cut) I have a lot of combinations to try, and so far I have not dedicated myself to keeping track of attempts and results.

Onward!

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So, I’ve been thinking about my next taxonomy project (explanation of the project here.) I have a few sets of objects in the works. As you may recall, I decided that 5 objects in a set, rather than 10, was a more reasonable number for me, given that I have some other things on my plate.

I’ve been having a MakerSpace moment. I started before winter break on some patterned pieces that I thought I could connect into bracelets by linking many identical pieces together. I started by creating a 3D printer design. I tried it over and over. It was not working or getting better. As I once asked my 5th graders, “do we know the expression ‘beating a dead horse?'” Time to regroup.

I decided to switch to the laser cutter. I managed to translate my original pattern into a cuttable pattern in Adobe Illustrator. This was not a speedy process for me given my very elementary Illustrator skills. I decided creating images/patterns from scratch might not be the most efficient and started do some internet searching for radiator patterns–the patterned metal sheets that go in radiator covers, that’s what I was thinking about. Having found a few images that I liked, I had to do a little messing with them in Illustrator, which probably would take no time for anyone who actually has any Illustrator skills (adding this to be “to learn” list). Finally, I ended up with panels in black and clear acrylic that I turned into bracelets by linking the panels together with wire. It’s very temporary until I get some better fasteners. So, my first batch of patterns are the following:

Photo on 12-18-15 at 3.23 PM

Photo on 12-18-15 at 3.00 PM #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, recently I was thinking about Greek key patterns and those repeating boarder patterns. Many of those patterns were not really cut-able in the way I wanted. A little searching lead me to a few options that I put into Illustrator and cut down. Then I cut them out of wood and acrylic, black and clear.

Photo on 2-18-16 at 10.33 AM

I like the wood ones myself. I had thought about painting the wood, but I really like them as is. I have sets of each color and pattern. More bracelets on the way.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about how spending a few hours in the MakerSpace does wonders for my general sense of well-being.

The other day I went up there first thing in the morning to check on a 3D print I had started the previous afternoon. Since I am co-teaching a minor course, Digital fabrication, in the space, I try to print the designs between class meetings. On the day in question, I honestly don’t even remember if the 3D print turned out or not. I’m sure I got a few more student designs going on the other printers. My plan had been to leave by 9 am at the latest and get back to my office. However, at 10:15  I was still there. I had the lasercutter/engraver working on a couple of patterns in several different materials. Then, I noticed how interesting the cut out pieces were and the design created by the holes in the pieces of wood and plexiglass. There are easily 2 other posts about the actual work I was doing.

lasercut pieces

My focus in this post is about the time. I can totally justify the time I spend in there. I need to become more familiar with the tools in the space, and there’s really no way to do that other than by using them. So, I’m now comfortable changing the filament on both types of 3D printers; I can take apart parts here and there to clean out the nozzle on the Polar3D printers; I am getting to know some of the idiosyncracies of the printers; I unclogged the CubePro the other afternoon after quite a bit of this-ing and that-ing (so satisfying! It’s like undoing knots); I am getting better at trouble shooting, knowing when to suspect the printer, when to look at the file. This does not even begin to make me an expert. I’m also getting the hang of the lasercutter. I have realized that moving the bed up and down impacts the cut dramatically; I am a wiz at moving the laser to a good spot to cut repeated objects out of the same piece of material; I’m learning to look for any warping in the material and tape down anything I can; I’m making progress with scaling the cut or raster; I have tried cutting and rastering all sorts of materials, including orange peels and chocolate. Adobe Illustrator and I are not what I would call friends, but we are getting acquainted and taking it slowly. Again, all this knowledge that I have gained does not make me an expert in this either.

What all this does is make me a learner-a learner of totally new stuff, not just a little new. It has been so exciting and energizing. I can tell that I have reached a tipping point. I know enough to be independent, and I know enough now to feel confident trying more, which will let me learn more. Our MakerSpace leader has encouraged those of us who use the space to just do/try/fix things, but I am someone who needs to feel she has a bit of know-how before leaping in too far. I’m leaping.

As with my foray into graphic novels, I have spent time on this MakerSpace learning. A lot of time. In big chunks. I have had support and encouragement. I have talked with all sorts of colleagues about ideas for creations. My Advice station/New Year’s Maker idea continues to progress. At this point, I have more plans, and bigger plans, than I could complete in a year of solid work. (I have a tendency to plan bigger than my skills would suggest is wise. It’s one of my most endearing or frustrating qualities; you choose.) Again, my question returns to how we make time for students to do this kind of learning, beyond sports which does get big chunks of time. While I am sure the students are quicker learners than I am at this point, even they need more than a few minutes here and there. We know that learning takes time and practice that doesn’t always happen in 48 minutes segments.

So, I have been thinking about my new year maker idea, because progress is happening!

As you may recall, the plan was to make an advice station with an old rotary phone and Makey Makey. The idea was that a student would pick up the phone and hear a brief audio clip containing a bit of advice. My plan was to record words of wisdom from a range of community members. As you may also recall, I was not in possession of the skills necessary to make this work, but I had convinced some other folks it was a good idea.

Well, there is clear progress. So far, @Mr_Fornaro talked to the students in our Python class and one of them accepted the challenge of writing the code to randomize the audio file that gets played. The code has been written and is working.

@Mr_Fornaro has been working on getting the Makey Makey connected to the phone so that picking up the phone completes the circuit. In addition, he has got an audio file actually playing through the handset. Things are in a bit of disarray at the moment, but in a good way.

Photo on 2-5-16 at 9.26 AM

So, yesterday evening I sent out the following email with the subject line of  “do you have good advice for students?” (who could resist reading that?):

Hello colleagues,

A group of us are working on an installation that will allow students to pick up an old rotary phone and hear some words of wisdom. If you have some favorite piece of advice, we would like to include that in our installation. The advice will actually be spoken by you. Here is what you can do, swing by my office some time and we will record you, which should take about a minute and a half. 

We are hoping to have voices of many adults in the Shipley community. Please be in touch if you would be willing to be recorded. I can also come to you with my laptop to record.

Thank you,

Wendy

p.s. You can also send me a .wav file (not an mp3). 

I sent this message at 5:27pm on Thursday and got my first reply at 5:32. We are a prek-12 school, and I have had replies from teachers in all divisions as well as non-teaching colleagues. My favorite response so far:

THIS. IS. AWESOME. I’m in.

So I am now the collector of good advice (file that under duties to be defined later). I love this title. I’m looking forward to hearing what people share and to seeing the students interacting with the installation. It will still be a bit before our target space is available, but I’m getting excited. Time to plan the sign/invitation/surroundings.