Who says that Robotics can’t be tasty? If you believe that, then the L’Essor Secondary School Robotics Team, Team 6331 SaBOTage, would disagree with you. The team has produced a downloadable STEM book of recipes titled, appropriately, How to SaBOTage Your Kitchen. The students researched and published this guide to preparing delicious dishes. It includes scientific health tips and explanations, and has recipes that will appeal to a variety of taste buds, ranging from “Big Bang Caramel Popcorn” to “Exploding Bacon Pulled Pork.” To learn more about this FIRST Robotics team, located in Canada, you can visit their Robotics website. This unusual perspective on how STEM can even enhance our cooking is a great resource for families and students who may have a more narrow view when it comes to the usefulness of math and science in their everyday lives.
Chris Woods (@DailyStem) tweets STEM challenges each day. Even if you are not a Twitter advocate you can go to his website and download his weekly STEM newsletters for free. There is an archive of at least 30 newsletters on this page. Each one-pager has a puzzle, a mystery photo, and other short STEM articles that often have links to learn more about the topics. The articles are perfectly bite-sized previews about different ways that we see STEM all around us, and are often timely (such as this one that shares how candy can be looked at through a STEM perspective – right in time for Valentine’s Day). They would be great to post in your classroom, send home to families, or to comb through for awesome lesson ideas.
While you are visiting the Daily Stem website, go to the Resources Page for STEM movies along with project suggestions for each movie, as well as the Podcast Page for dozens of interviews with educators and other STEM experts.
According to its vision statement, “Beauty and the Bolt, centered on the idea that Brilliant is Beautiful, aims to make learning engineering easy, inexpensive, and accessible for anyone.” With that goal in mind, Beauty and the Bolt has: a blog post that lists women who teach STEM on YouTube, a map to find makerspaces around the world, and some fun STEM merchandise. There are also a few STEM lesson plans. One of the most expansive resources Beauty and the Bolt offers is its video channel on YouTube, with over 50 DIY and educational videos.
My favorite piece of merchandise on the Beauty and the Bolt site is a 2020 calendar called, “Princesses with Power Tools.” The calendar features 12 inspiring women who are involved in STEM careers, creatively and colorfully photographed as princesses. Unfortunately, the site states that it is sold out. I sent an e-mail to find out if it will become available again, and will update this post if I learn any more details.
I asked a couple of people on Twitter if I could share their projects today. I have been fascinated watching them post pictures of their 3d printed lithophanes. In the past, lithophanes were traditionally etched in thin, translucent porcelain that revealed the artwork when backlit. 3d printing technology, however, allows for lithophanes to be created using filament with very similar results.
Julia Dweck (@GiftedTawk) has been working on 3d printing lithophanes with her students to showcase their individuality. As you can see in the first picture below, the lithophanes are not truly visible without light. The second photo displays her amazing student photos once the lamp has been turned on. Follow Julia if you aren’t already – she is always doing incredibly creative projects!
Rob Morrill (@morill_rob) has also been working with lithophanes. His designs are in honor of Black History Month. You can see his Rosa Parks example below. I also suggest you take a look at his Nina Simone and Shirley Chisholm lithophanes available on Thingiverse.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was arrested in 1955 for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white passenger. Her subsequent arrest sparked the successful year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. 3rd in series of 3d printed lithophanes honoring women in Black History Month. @tinkercad Codeblocks pic.twitter.com/xaw0U4ERvd
— Rob Morrill (@morrill_rob) February 5, 2020
Rob has provided step-by-step instructions for creating lithophanes with Tinkercad here.
Most of the lithophane DYI articles, including Rob’s, recommend using this free online lithophane generator to make your photos into an .stl file. Once you have this file, you can use any slicing program, such as Cura, to prepare the file for 3d printing. This Sparkfun article has basic instructions. For more complex “tweaks” that you may want to make in your preferred slicing program, such as setting the layer height and infill, this Instructable may help you out. Most of the sources I looked at recommend using white PLA filament. Other colors may work, but the translucency will not be as consistent.
Let me know if you’ve done a lithophane project! I’d love to see the many applications of these unique form of art.
One of the many things I didn’t know anything about when I first started teaching at Advanced Learning Academy was working with textiles. My skills were limited to hand-sewing buttons. Even though my in-laws had given me a sewing machine a decade ago, I still didn’t know how to thread it or why in the world I needed a bobbin.
I had seen the Turtlestitch Kickstarter page, and was intrigued by the idea of using coding to design for textiles, specifically for embroidery machines. My colleague and I decided to order a combo sewing/embroidery machine (Brother SE600) for Zorro Astuto, and it arrived about a month before I retired. I took it home for the Thanksgiving Break to try it out and, with the help of a lot of YouTube videos, figured out how to use the machine. Although I was by no means an expert, I begged my family to buy me one for Christmas. I knew I would suffer from fabrication withdrawal once I was no longer teaching in Zorro Astuto, and the Brother SE600 seemed far more practical than adding a 3d printer or laser cutter to my personal collection – though I’m certainly not ruling those out for the future 😉
I’ve made a lot of mistakes with this machine, which makes sense since I knew zero about it when I started. For example, I didn’t know that you need to put a stabilizer behind your fabric (sometimes even on top of it, depending on the fabric), and that there are many, many different types of stabilizers. The type of fabric, or other medium, and the types of stitches will determine your stabilizer and needle types. This blog post was really helpful. I have also learned quite a bit about how to service my machine as pieces of thread and fabric have gotten caught inside when I didn’t stabilize correctly or a needle broke.
You can download embroidery designs, but most of them will cost you money. Finding just the right software for creating your own designs can be overwhelming. That’s why Turtlestitch is such a genius idea. Using block coding, you can create your own design and export it to a USB – for free.
To start, I decided to choose from one of the many free designs already available on the Turtlestitch site. The project is called, “Twisty.” Because I wanted my design to be in different colors, I decided to remix the original by randomizing the RGB colors. Each time I run the code, the colors will come out different. However, once I like the colors, I can export the file as a .dst, and those colors will be the set used for the embroidery file. The machine lists each corresponding Brother Thread color number as it is needed, and I was fortunate in this case, as almost every single thread color was part of my original package of threads.
My machine will stop for each color change, which turned out to be a bit demanding on this project, but I’m thankful for the automatic needle threader!
I love using coding with math, and there are lots of possibilities here. There are a few fractals projects already on the site, as well as tessellations. If you follow the @turtlestitch Twitter account, you will see examples of student projects, including jewelry (my next personal challenge).
Last nine weeks, I co-taught an Electronics class for our 7th grade elective. I say “co-taught” even though my colleague, Kat Sauter, actually did nearly all of the planning and teaching – and I learned nearly as much as the students. One of the projects that the students did was to take apart old battery-operated toys to identify the different electronic parts. After dissecting the toys and making posters that illustrated diagrams of the inner workings, the students could make new toys using the parts and any of the tools we had in Zorro Astuto. This group was particularly proud of the musical toy they transformed into a UFO, complete with 3d printed alien pilot, laser cut acrylic laser beam, and very confused 3d printed cow.
One of the resources Kat used for ideas was this “Toy Take Apart” project from the Exploratorium. You can find some more ideas in this article from User Generated Education. You can also see some other fun examples by looking at #toydissection on Twitter.
For anyone new to 3d design, Tinkercad is one of the best options out there. This free online design tool is an excellent introduction to creating .stl files that can be saved and imported into your preferred 3d printer slicing software. When I think of the dearth of 3d printing/design thinking resources that could be used in schools, especially in elementary, five or six years ago, it is heartening to see all of the curriculum, tools, and tutorials that have popped up since the days when my colleague and I started using City X with our students. Tinkercad has been a huge contributor of these resources, making it very educator-friendly.
Last November, the Tinkercad blog featured a post on “Design Slams” that has links to curriculum that was developed for 3 different grade bands: preK-5, 6-8, and 9-12. You can use these as starting points to integrate STEAM in your classroom and/or you can choose to enter the #AutodeskMakeItReal contest, also linked in Kellyanne Mahoney’s post. The themes of these units (Make for Everyone, Make it Green, and Make Justice, respectively) all have the common goal of teaching students to think about how they can impact their communities with design thinking.
New to Tinkercad? Don’t forget you can go to the “Learn” button at the top of the site to access tutorials to help you get started.