(This is the third post in a series; be sure to read the first for context).

This Class project was a year in the making: It began last spring, and I posted then about the class plans and my conversations with the working group as they “pitched it” to me and sought my approval and sponsorship. It is worth checking out this previous post to show the sequence, beginning with designing and planning and now culminating in completion:

Below are the student overview of the project’s purpose and procedure, and after the jump (more)  is the Solar Oven Project.

Purpose:  The purpose of this project was to provide the school’s students with an environmentally friendly way to charge their laptops.

Procedure 1. Screw wooden beams onto the preexisting structure. 2. Cut L-shaped metal to the correct length to fit the desired mounting angle of the panels and cut L-shaped metal to fit the length of the panel. 3. Attach the metal to the panel. 4. Attach the panel supports to the metal running the length of the panel. 5. Put the panel on the roof. 6. Attach the panel by screwing it to the structure. 7. Run conduit from the panels to the wall. 8. Drill a hole through the wall. 9. Run the wires from the panels through the hole. 10. Attach the panel wires to the charge controller. 11. Attach the charge controller to a car battery. 12. Attach the car battery to a power inverter. 13. Run a power cord from the inverter to a wall outlet outside. (more…)

See previous post for more information about the Design Build Tech Innovation Class. Reports written by students in the class.

Alex,  Nik and Michael: An LED matrix. 

8X8LEDMatrixThis project started with a 7 by 5 L.E.D Matrix found in the physics room. I then had the urge to get it working, so I started to test connections on the Matrix too see how the wiring was done.

I figured out that the Matrix worked in a row column fashion which made it impossible to make any other letter than I or l. Then I told myself that if I switched rows and individual dots every millisecond, I could then make any letter, picture, shape, etc. I then started looking for the most practical programming chip, an Arduino.

After the large amount of wiring I started programming. My first program consisted of turning on and of lights very quickly, which is simply but requires about 150 line of code. After completing one letter, “N”, everybody realized that this thing was freaking awsome! So everybody started to get involved (mostly Alex). (more…)

I’ve been writing recently about FabLabs (here and here), and the importance of providing times, ways, and places for students to design and build their own “solutions” to problems, especially problems they discover, and to refine those “solutions” in multiple iterations.

(Be sure to see the two other posts sharing class work also: here and here).

At St. Gregory, where we aspire to “create innovators,” one of our most important and most exciting initiatives over the past two years has been the steady advance of our “Design Build”  Tech Innovations class,  taught by the amazing and awesome Mr. Dennis Conner.   It is an entirely PBL formatted class, with no set curriculum other than having students investigate “problems” and choose one to design and build solutions for.

The class continues to be a great success, and the difficult question looming for us at St. Gregory is whether to decide to move it from an optional elective (it is taught pass-fail, students can take it as many times as they wish, and it has received great enthusiasm from its participants) to a required freshman or sophomore class, formatted as an “introduction to and foundations of innovation” class.     The jury is still out on this one.

Suzie Boss, an edutopia blogger and author of Reinventing Project Based Learning with Technology, and  who visited St. Gregory last spring for two days, wrote this recently, in a piece entitled “How Design Build Curriculum Can Transform a Community.”

Where does a project like this fit into current discussions of 21st-century skills?

Our students are learning skills like welding and carpentry, 2D and 3D modeling. But those are the vehicles to do something else. We blog as much as we’re on the table saw. We’re giving them tools for entrepreneurship, for innovation, for local citizenship and engagement. We’re giving them a way to think through problems in their own lives. Design is all about possibility. For a student, that’s the best gift you can give them.

With the fall semester now completed, I want to share, in this post and in two following posts, examples of student work completed in the past few months by their own reports.  You can find the whole set on the class website here.

Spencer B’s project: a HEXAPOD

This is a hexapod. A hexapod is a robot with 6 ‘legs’, in this case with 3dof per leg. And before I bore you, I want to tell you that this is quite possibly the greatest project I have ever worked on. It has cost me, so far, just below 1k. Bit expensive, no? But the experience and result has been worth it. Intrigued?

This has been a labor of love. It’s been frustrating. It still won’t walk, this is because I had no idea about its power consumption. 8 amps? Despite that ridiculous number for a rather small robot, the control program (which consists of a virtual cube you can rotate with arrow keys and change with a few keystrokes) is nearly there! I’ll post it later on.

The robot was constructed primarily out of anodized aluminum parts and 18 servos. It includes a high amp regulator, as well as a microcontroller and a radio module. It looks like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Here’s a link to where I got the parts:   WWW.LYNXMOTION.COM


Clayton M’s project: Rockets!

Michael and others: the Trebuchet 2:

Filmed at our soccer field just behind our Science Laboratories, and also at a Trebuchet competition held in October on the campus of the University of Arizona, in which our students competed.

In a recent post, I wrote about our advance here at St. Gregory into the world of Fab Labs and Makerbots, marked by the recent arrival of our new 3D printer.    Below are three videos further exploring and demonstrating the value of fablabs, the first a TEDx talk by Stanford Professor Paulo Blikstein, and the 2 others showcasing Fablab activities at a very fine school near Stanford, Castilleja School.

In education, we don’t know what to give up: We want to teach new skills but not give anything up from the past.   One of the greatest things about Apple is that they know what to give up.

We need to make big changes not only in the means, the media of education, but the content of education.

A lot of skills we teach in schools now are obsolete… It is amazing that school is not doing anything more to teach us about science and technology around us.

You can’t teach sports unless you have a gym;  it is the same idea for 2st century skills, if we want to teach innovation, critical thinking, deep understanding of science and technology– if you don’t have a place to teach those skills you can’t really do a good job.

We can’t assess new skills with a pencil and paper test, just as we couldn’t assess swimming skills without a pool.

[Let’s help students so] they are not looking at tech as something magical but looking at tech and Science as a tool that can change the lives of others, which is the fundamental skill we need to develop in these [Fab] lives and in education in general.

Below (after the jump-“more”) are the Castilleja videos, provided me courtesy of the Castilleja Head of School, Nanci Kauffmann.  The Castilleja faculty is shown spending a great day inside their own school’s Fab lab, and experiencing themselves the learning experience and the thrill of discovery and invention these spaces, and these kind of learning activities, can provide.