A Treasure Trove and a Redesign

The last couple of weeks have dragged on with our interactive whiteboard marker. We have had a week off of school and have been stuck getting our design to print 100% the way we want it to. We’ve tried a few different software programs, had a Google Hangout with an expert, and tried several versions. We were close, but at a bit of a stand still. Then we had our standardized testing. I won’t go into the details on that or how I felt about it, but I will tell you that it meant we were spending a lot of time in our computer lab which has all kinds of forgotten treasures (also known as obsolete technology, or junk). I had time to go through the cupboards while the students were testing and I struck gold.

A box full of obsolete remotes
For us “gold” came in the form of remote controls from an obsolete video system. I checked with our site tech who gave me the green light to take them off his hands. Inside each of the remotes are a battery pack already wired up and not one but two infrared LEDs. I knew we were going to have to figure out the battery pack issue down the road. Finding that many battery packs saved us a lot of time and money. The LEDs are just a bonus. Now we can save the money we were going to use on the LEDs on better switches or something else.

The new design came out well, and all the parts fit inside of it.
Now that we have the battery packs, we realized that we are going to have to redesign the shape of the marker. The kids took their newly developed skills, measured the battery pack, and mocked up a new model in a few minutes. I was impressed with how quickly they were able to scratch their original design and come up with something new that will work even better. They chose to go with a rectangular prism shape with a pyramid on top. They added holes for the switch and magnet, put some text on it, and had a new version printed in no time. We now have a working model that just needs to be wired together to see if it works. The kids have set the next student council meeting as a deadline for a working prototype and are working hard to get one together. They have also tore down the remotes and harvested the parts they need. As they finished I heard one of them say, “Wow, we just broke a lot of stuff.”

Harvesting the parts.

The goods. A battery pack and 2 LEDs in each remote.

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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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