Roller Coaster Marble Run

This week we went to University Settlement for their first one hour design challenge. The students at this day camp are middle school aged and are going to be participating in various one hour design challenges provided by us throughout the summer.

On June 14 we presented the first challenge which was to experiment with force and motion to build structures. We decided to do a marble run using cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and tape. We divided up into three teams. The challenge was to both create the longest track for the marble and make the marble run up and down.

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The first team stacked boxes on a table and had the cardboard tube run down to a chair. The marble then had to incline onto a different table that led into a maze and then eventually fall down into another tube.

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The second team stacked three boxes on the floor and created a tube ramp straight down to create enough potential energy for the marble to fly up a second vertical ramp.

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The third team stacked boxes all the way to the ceiling and created a long ramp down. Similar to team 2, team 3 built an incline at the end of this ramp so that the marble rolled up again and then down to the floor.

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The kids learned that gravity is a force that pulls all objects towards the center of the Earth. They also learned about potential and kinetic energy. A marble will have more potential energy the higher the initial ramp is. All the teams ran into obstacles trying to have the marble run up a second incline. We had to problem solve different ways to provide more potential energy for the marble to have enough to get over a second hump. In the end all teams were successful and created fun and functional marble roller coasters!

 

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South Euclid 3D Printing!

We wrapped up the week at the 2D/3D camp by introducing Tinkercad to the campers, working with glue guns to mimic 3D printers, and bringing in a Makerbot 3D printer to the library to show the campers what their Tinkercad creations would be printed on.

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Tinkercad went over really well, even though some frustration had occurred at first. The campers had a lot of fun experimenting with and learning the program. Everyone was able to create something they were excited about and proud of by the end of the last day. Some of the objects they created included, the great pyramids of Egypt, a gorilla, ice cream (in cups and in cones), a claw machine, and a camera!

The glue gun activity was to show the campers a process similar to how a 3D printer works, glue (filament) is melted and then extruded on to the plastic sheet (the build plate) and the a fan cools down the hot glue (filament) layer so a new layer can be applied on top. This really helped the campers grasp how a 3D printer works and they had a blast creating multicolored creations with the hot glue.

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Lastly, the Makerbot was a big hit, the campers were ecstatic to watch the 3D printer work. We printed a part Diana had created in Tinkercad, and seeing the machine in person sparked a lot of questions and interests. They wanted to know about the way it worked, how it melted the filament, and the possibilities the 3D printer gave them. Some of the kids even shared stories they had heard  about 3D printers as well as some personal experiences.

The first week was a success and gave us a lot of feedback to help make the rest of the camps an even better experience for future campers.

 

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South Euclid 2D to 3D Camp June 6-10, 2016

Two activities that we focused on were building platonic solids and creating inflatables. The children were provided stacks of paper triangles that Leah and I had laser cut earlier in the week. The first shape they built was a tetrahedron and from there the children were encouraged to create larger more complex shapes. The individual 2D triangles transformed into 3D structures that ranged from geometric to more organic shapes.

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If the kids wanted to experiment with more complex platonic nets we provided some net printouts of shapes like an octahedron and an icosahedron.

Using tape, staples and paper allowed the children to quickly move through their designs and easily revise.

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 The platonic solids was a great introductory activity to show the transition of a flat shape to a 3D structure.

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Last Week as a Maker Corps Member at Camp Base Middleburg Heights

Our last camp was in Middleburg Heights.  While in need of another blog post about how the week has been and to keep up with everybody, it has taken me a little bit of time to reminisce, digest, and organize my entire experience as a Maker Corps member at Progressive Arts Alliance so I apologize for the delay.  Sadly, I have no pictures to show this week but that was because I had enjoyed every minute working with the campers in my final week; they were a blast.  Everyone was so well behaved, friendly, and ready to go on an adventure.  Even all the siblings that came got along and worked together so well, there were no issues at all.  A lot of the kids brought they own little components from home to add and personalize to their sculptures, some decorative and some functional which has always been equally advised consistently through the summer.  One of the groups brought in dinosaur themed objects and created their sculpture based on a Jurassic theme where marbles went through mysterious tunnels, slides, ramps and pathways.  There were so many ideas they had wanted to incorporate that their sculpture was extended out to being supported by chairs and down to the floor!  It was so cool.  While still being super creative, all of the groups were still very technical and organized in their planning.  It has been so nice to see some of them become so proud about what they had achieved and even in the small things they had built to incorporate, they were so concerned with the craftsmanship of their own pieces so it was a variety of multiple components built by different kids coming together that made it so magical for them, which is so rewarding to see in the end while they are presenting.  I have learned and grown so much from this experience and am so happy that I had this opportunity, thank you to everyone at Progressive Arts Alliance, the Cuyahoga County Libraries, as well as the campers that I got to work with and create so many amazing chain reaction kinetic sculptures.

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Campers Tinkering and Innovating at the Parma-Snow Branch!

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As we soon approach our last week as Maker Corp Members at Progressive Arts Alliance, this past week felt like it went by so fast.  The kids also seem to be getting a little more apathetic as their summer unfortunately comes to an end, but everyone ended up with amazing sculptures.  Most of the campers seem to have gotten along pretty well, except for the siblings.  We had a lot of siblings the past week which comes with some advantages and disadvantages, but the most important goal we had was to keep them working in separate groups since part of the camp experience is also to work with and meet new people.  The biggest issue that was brought up this past week was that the older siblings had a difficult time giving respect to their younger siblings.  As everyone had brought their own little detail and idea to the table, they all focused more on how they could change their sculptures or make it even better.  The older siblings would realize how much they had underestimated how much their younger siblings could accomplish.  There was always consistent competitive nature yet healthy momentum throughout the summer within each camp, which brings even better chain reaction kinetic sculptures.

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Part of their sketching process before building involves this aspect of remembering to consider alternatives just in case one thing does not work, that everyone has good feedback to give, and that we all learn from each other.  It’s always amazing to see and watch the campers grow and get excited to build more at home from this experience and come to us in the end saying thank you’s and ask us if we will have this program again next summer.

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Working in Groups

Since the beginning of this summer the kids in the Imagination and Innovation camps have been building their projects in groups. This is helpful really in getting kids to work with one another and cuts down on material usage and space. Throughout the summer though I have been really interested in how the kids breakdown and establish certain roles on their own within groups. Not entirely surprising is that a lot of the groups have chosen a leader that would help guide the group through the week. This is common but when it happens we like to keep an eye on the group just to make sure the leader doesn’t start determining too much at the expense of other more shy campers.

Other groups set certain roles for each member without ever explicitly discussing it. One of the kids might be the Scratch specialist while another would do the bulk of the cutting and drilling and one might be the lead at testing and adjusting the final piece. This system, as well as the one where everyone does a bit of everything seems to work the best but what’s most interesting to me is that when I talk to the kids about their roles they seem to have no idea that they were in a specific position.

When working your position is typically made abundantly clear and you have a good idea of your place in that particular system. However, kids manage to mimic a lot of those relationships without having, necessarily a boss, or a coordinator. I think that the way they break apart responsibility, although not always a success, is really interesting. It feels more fluid than most team oriented tasks that I see or do as an adult. I think it’s awesome that kids can assign and change roles quickly and that they can assess how to best create their project really without ever having a sit down meeting and discussing it. It’s just one thing among many that although subtle has surprised me that kids are really creative and intelligent despite age or experience.

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Doing Their Own Thing

Before coming to Progressive Arts Alliance my method as a teacher and instructor was very “hands on” and I really thought it was part of being an effective teacher to guide students precisely through the lesson. However, through this internship I have found that kids do their best work when left to their own devices for a majority of the time. The way that I look at it is that by the time people get to my age they have been impressed upon and told specific ways of how to do most things that the creative process is somewhat stunted. When I first approached Scratch or the Teeter Totter challenge I employed a pretty pragmatic mindset. I figured out the simplest way to do a certain task and thought of that as accomplishing or achieving my goal. This quickest, most efficient mindset is something that has been impressed on me and ingrained into my habits and is thus communicated to the students that I instruct.

However, by stepping back and allowing the kids to have the freedom to make choices and decisions I can limit how much I impress upon them. Kids don’t think in the most direct terms often and because they haven’t been told over and over again how to most efficiently accomplish a task, they are so much better at thinking outside of the box. I love giving a basic assignment or telling them in the broadest sense what they will be doing (building Rube Goldberg machines) and watching them interpret that in any way they wish to push it creatively. Even in the short teeter totter challenges kids are still coming up with completely new ways to construct a simple machine. I have yet to go to a camp where there isn’t a teeter totter that I haven’t seen before.

As an artist that is really one of the coolest and most gratifying things about working with kids. Approaching my final year of school I really am excited to see how these experiences have effected my own creative process and art making techniques.

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Camp Base Brooklyn!

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Our 9th camp for the summer was at the Brooklyn branch.  It has been a really good week; the kids are very ambitious and engaged in the program.  A lot of them even brought in their own supplies to incorporate into their chain reaction sculptures, such as K’NEX and Magnetix kits, which are also very cool.  We were a little worried in the beginning because sometimes the introductions, safety instructions, and demos can be a lot to listen to, and it seemed as if they were less interested in what was going on.  As soon as they got to get their hands on tools and materials, they blossomed into little tinkering engineers and carpenters like no ones business.  As time went by and they worked on their projects more, the more amazing they became.  The remaining kids who have been frequently attending the camp show they truly care and are passionate for the camp and their sculptures, it has been amazing watching what they come up with, this week has been filled with some of the fastest workers.  The first picture above is one of our campers who created a trampoline-maze-ramp for a marble that was inspired by his Magnetix kit that has a trampoline in one of the ramp structures using only wood, rubber bands and popsicle sticks!  And there are also additional pictures below of some of their in progress tinkering.

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Camp Base Strongsville!

Strongsville has been a pleasure, the kids were all very excited and ready to build immediately.  It was amazing watching how creative the kids got with some of the materials.  Rubber bands was one of the most commonly used materials this week.
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In the picture above, this group made a maze for marbles to go through using only wood with preset holes, golf tees, and rubber bands.  My mind has again been expanded with how the kids brainstorm together on how to go about building certain things in the most effective ways.  Although most of them did not have much experience with neither Scratch or using power and hand tools, they got the hang of it pretty fast and easy.  Most of the groups had ambitious plans for their sculptures and they all turned out pretty successful.

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Overall the week was great and below is a picture of a bracelet that one of the kids brought back for me, braided out of rubber bands, it is very comfortable and well made.

 

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This Week at Strongsville

The Imagination and Invention Camp and the Maker Corps. (Steph and I) went over to Strongsville this week. The kids were bursting with energy which is always good but challenging for them when it came time to get the introductory stuff out of the way. Many of the kids had never used power drills or saws before so I was somewhat apprehensive about how the camp was going to go down but I must admit that I was pretty impressed by what I’ve seen this week. The kids have made really nice progress in their craftsmanship, teamwork, and focus. It’s like a completely different mentality at the camp and they are doing great with it. A lot of the kids have managed to all but finish their projects by Thursday and some of the ideas they have come up with have been really creative. My favorite one that I’ve heard thus far has been a group that is embracing the somewhat unpredictable nature of such complex machines and have created a machine that has multiple endings for multiple outcomes. I really like the new mindset that’s present in the group where instead of trying to exercise control over every imaginable variable they have instead tried to reactively plan for simple unpredictability.

Today is the last day for the kids at Strongsville and it’s the first time Steph and I have been leading a camp on our own. It’s a great experience to get to work with the kids and to try to help them solve problems with their own solutions. This week the kids have had plenty of confidence and I think that that has helped them greatly in coming up with creative quick fixes. I have my fingers crossed that today will go just as smoothly and that we’ll get to see some awesome final projects.

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