Bringing Designs to Life at summer camp at Warrensville Heights Library

This summer, as part of PAA’s partnership with the Cuyahoga County Public Library, we are presenting 2D-3D: Bringing Your Designs to Life camps exploring how to take flat, two-dimensional drawings and ideas and transforming them into three-dimensional sculptural pieces.

On day one of each camp, students engage in a project exploring platonic solids. Named after the philosopher Plato, these shapes are three-dimensional convex polyhedrons (like a sphere or a cube). A pyramid, or tetraDSC09958hedron, is an example of a platonic solid. This shape serves as a primary building block for day one of the camp. I spent the most time at Warrensville Heights Library, observing and interacting with about 30 kids ages 10-14. The campers constructed shapes built from triangles that were prepped using laser cutters at think[box] at Case Western Reserve University. After mastering tetrahedron assembly, some campers created new structures from multiple forms, and others took on the presented challenge: build an icosahedron using only triangles and staples. This is a shape with 20 sides and is more difficult than constructing a five-sided shape.


Next, the group was introduced to an inflated sculpture and tasked with designing and building their own inflatable art. Bounce houses or blow up holiday decorations are easily recognizable examples of mass-produced inflatables. In this setting, inflatables are 3-D art made of thin plastic that is taped or fused together then attached to fans. The air that inflates the plastic gives it form. A successful airplane maquette was more complicated than anticipated when creating the plastic components so the artist worked with a group and was able to contribute in a different way. Another student built a cute paper dog but it was too small. She spent some time considering how to scale it up and how to use multiple colors of plastic, and she produced a quirky puppy that held air nicely. Concluding the session, PAA artist-educator Diana Bowman facilitated a reflection, providing the chance for everyone to contribute to a dialogue in response to the days’ activities.



On Thursday, Tinkercad was introduced. It’s a free app that allows anyone to design objects that can then be produced on a 3-D printer. The kids learned how to navigate the program and design plastic 3-D models that the library staff would print using a MakerBot. During an exploratory activity to teach about the printing process, each camper used pigmented glue sticks with low temperature glue guns. They emulated the printing process and formed mini-sculptures using layers of hot glue atop Plexiglas. See the work in action by clicking here. The artist-educators also gave a demonstration so everyone could see the 3-D printer in action and understand how it works.


On the last day when students finished their rotations through Tinkercad and the hot glue station, PAA artist-educator Frances Lee noticed a group of boys growing restless while others continued to work. She presented a new design challenge: each team received some scrap paper and tape, and they had to engineer a structure. The tallest would win. As more kids finished projects, they formed teams and constructed towers. A group of girls won, measuring in at 38.5”. It was a creative and productive week at Warrensville Heights Library and PAA is looking forward to continuing to explore art and technology with kids from many communities this summer.

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