Small Victories

Small Victories

My students are making great progress with Interactive Whiteboard Markers. They have successfully overcome two obstacles that were slowing down progress. The first one may have been the most satisfying for them to accomplish. The original file that we downloaded from Thingiverse does not have a cap on the end. Therefore, we needed to fabricate one.

This presents a host of wonderful problems for the students to solve. They have to come up with a plan on how they will make it work, design it on the computer, print it, then improve it. This kind of problem solving falls right inline with what Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager have coined “Think, Make, Improve” (TMI). It’s a fantastic process that gets the kids’ minds firing.

It took a few tries to get one that fits.

The students decided to make a kind of cork shaped cap that they could just stick in the end of the pen. It only took them 3 tries to get it to fit. When that cap slipped in the end of that marker they jumped up and down, high-fiving each other like they just won a national championship. Their confidence is growing and they are becoming more skilled at using Google Sketchup.

The next problem they overcame is getting the tip of the marker to print correctly. For some mysterious reason the tapered end where the tip of the pen is only printed partially. For this problem I called in some experts. My friends at Table Top Inventing looked at the file and quickly diagnosed that it was not “water-tight”. We had no idea what that meant, so we scheduled a Google Hangout to be walked through the process. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our schedules aligned so that never happened. Instead we hit the inter webs and found a nice tutorial explaining that “water-tight” meant just that. In order to print the file has to hold water, a phrase that means here able to carry water (I’ve been reading a lot of Lemony Snicket lately). The walls had to be thick enough and the sides had to be touching at every intersection.

Still not perfect, but the tip is there.

The students were off. They zoomed in on the their design, found the parts that were too thin, and made sure every intersection was “water-tight”. They had a new prototype printed by the end of the day. We are getting closer.

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Clark Barnett has been an educator for 13 years. He currently creates and innovates with his 4th grade students in the Conejo Unified School District using 3D printing, arduino electronics, and whatever else they can imagine with. He agrees whole hardheartedly with Seymour Papert who said, "The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge." Mr. Barnett earned his Master of Education degree in learning technologies from Pepperdine University.

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