Corrine Takara (@CorinneTakara) has been sharing her explorations with making materials rather than buying materials. She’s launched inspiring projects with mycelium, kombucha leather, and other bio materials. In late September, I took a workshop at the Textile Arts Center in New York City that sounded equally appealing and practical, Textile Futures: Bioplastics upcycled with Sheri Shih-Hui. You can follow Sheri on Instagram at @chi_Sheri.
Here are some photos from the workshop:
After, I considered ways of cooking and using bioplastics with children in different grade levels. Maybe students could make their own disc (with unique colors and/or bits embedded in the mold) and hang it from a class mobile? Or they could make jewelry (medallions or earrings)? Or maybe they could preserve an object or drawing in a sustainable mold – rather than use resin or plastic or something non-biodegradable? In turns out that the bioplastic will melt if exposed to heat or water, and there are ways of making it last longer. One trick is to rub it with beeswax to make it a little more water-repellent.
We just started a new trimester, so I have a great batch of girls signed up for our “Nailed It” afterschool class. We’re going to use our bio-plastic to mimic bits of glass and used in a modified version of a Tiffany lamp. The girls will design art for each side of a four-sided lantern (since it’s an easy shape to construct), then we’ll cut out their designs with our Cricut Maker, cook up bioplastics, and piece their “glass” into the walls of the lanterns. Possibly due to time constraints, we’ll just use a flameless LED tea light in the center of the their lantern… Stay tuned!
I had a great time participating in Portfolio School‘s annual community Halloween event for both neighborhood families and children who attend the school! Here are links and descriptions of the two activities we offered for participants:
- Lever art inspired by @RobIves — Jeannette of Portfolio School kindly used their laser cutter to pre-cut cardboard into rectangles per Rob Ives’s template. We offered children the option to make a simple lever or lever with linkage and used construction paper, markers, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and glue sticks to create their design. I made an example with a flying pumpkin over a pumpkin patch, but then a lot of children wanted to copy it, so I made another example with of plain cardboard lever ready to be decorated.
- Lava Lamps by SteamPoweredFamily.com — Jeannette and Katarina of Portfolio School went to town facilitating this activity! We had a popsicle stick with a line drawn across it to estimate how much water to first add to the jar. Then kids added oil, food coloring, glow in the dark powder, and a teaspoon of white powder (which was a mixture of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part citric acid — alternatively, Alka Seltzer tabs would work as well to jumpstart the fizzy reaction). I appreciated that Katarina and Jeannette encouraged the children to try different combinations of colors and different amounts of oil or mixture or UV powder. Prototyping!
Photos of the Lava Lamp activity:
Photos of the Levers activity:
Movie of Amanda Grutza’s flame thrower!
Photos of Portfolio’s awesome learning spaces, Makerspace, and classrooms:
I attended Design, Engineering and Maker Cultures this week which was hosted at Columbia University’s School of Engineering, organized by STEMteachersNYC, and led by Michael Katz and Frances Hidalgo (two volunteer teachers from the STEMteachersNYC community).
Here is the workshop’s description as per their registration page:
Interested in learning more about the engineering and design process, and how to incorporate it into your classroom? This workshop is designed to show how you can infuse engineering and design thinking into your curriculum. Drawing from the NGSS Engineering Design standards we’ll explore how students can use design and affordable makerspace technologies to ask questions and define problems; to formulate, refine, and evaluate testable questions; and design problems using models and simulations.
Throughout the workshop, participants will explore easy-to-deploy design experiences for a range of grade levels. Participants will have the chance to experience several hands-on projects like making paper circuits, while also troubleshooting strategies for setting up a Makerspace in your school and using this as a platform for curricular integration and development. Attendees will also spend time identifying areas within their curriculum that naturally lead to incorporating more creativity, innovation and collaboration. So whether you teach elementary or high school students, come learn and experience how fun and easy it can be to incorporate engineering and design in your classroom.
This was the first time this workshop has ever been offered, and I imagine the next manifestation might have less pre-activity lead-up discussions and more time for hands-on learning, group activities, and collaborative lesson brainstorming. Here are some of my highlights from the three days:
- I loved meeting awesome educators from public and private schools who all have a shared interest in expanding their skillset, innovating, and sharing ideas.
- I worked with a group to build a prototype of a machine inspired by nature. Biomimicry is defined by the Biomimicry Institute as “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” My team considered how the blue whale’s baleen might inspire an amphibious coastal Roomba-like cleaning mechanism. Our design, Blue Whale Blue Crab (or Beach Clean Baleen) also included crab-influenced claws. Ideally, this amphibious machine will travel on land and sea, filtering inorganic material and sorting it into onboard containers. Metal could be further sorted by using a magnet on the claw and a more powerful magnet onboard near the sorting bins. I was really happy with our teamwork and proud of our protoype!
- Gail Sestito (aka @TheRobotFairy) totally blew my mind when she shared how a student of hers demonstrated how to merge two words into a fascinating mathematical parametric 3D shape using Onshape. She then took this idea and collaborated with an English teacher for a project that physically illustrates the concept of Doublespeak from George Orwell’s 1984. For example, they made word sculptures where one view of the piece reads Truth and one view reads Lies. Or War/Peace. Or Love/Turture. Such a great project!
Here is Gail’s awesome merging of her name and my name!
- Bill Miller is the Makerspace manager, and he showed us two fascinating innovation centers. First we went on a tour of the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s extensive fabrication spaces. After, Bill showed us where the new community Makerspace will be — it is transitioning from a decent sized room on the 12th floor (which I visited many moons ago) to a huge facility on the 2nd floor. The budget to revamp and outfit this newer facility was $400,000!. 💰😳 Here are some photos:
After seeing their bank of Ultimaker 3D printers, I offered to connect Bill to @LizArum, Ultimaker’s Community Manager and an incredibly knowledgeable, generous, and brilliant friend. Yay for connecting people who may end up further collaborating in some capacity! Here are two upcoming and worthwhile events Liz is organizing: