By Colin Christy, David Vanzant, and Sonya Pryor-Jones
The Team and Task
In December 2017, the SCOPES-DF Leadership Cohort inaugural session met in Boston, MA. Team members took on the charge to examine an existing SCOPES-DF lesson and make improvements. Our team consisted of Sonya Pryor-Jones, Chief Implementation Officer, Fab Foundation; Colin Christy, engineering teacher, MC2STEM (Cleveland, OH); and David Vanzant chemistry teacher, STEM School (Chattanooga, TN). Together, we went through the Oresmian Coordinate System lesson created by Anders Bod Lund of Denmark. Some of our immediate thoughts centered around machine selection and use, environmental considerations, and student engagement.
Please see the original lesson at https://www.scopesdf.org/oresmian-coordinate-system
The SCOPES-DF website contains lessons, created by formal and informal educators - used with students. However, the lessons have yet to be adopted significantly in a variety of formal school settings. The goal of remixing the Oresmian Coordinate lesson is to gain the perspective of two high school teachers and determine how the material could be adjusted to better fit in their respective classrooms.
The Fab Lab Network & the Community of Practice
To prepare for the remix, the team wanted to be as informed as possible about the original conditions surrounding the lesson’s development. On Tuesday, February 27, 2018; we hosted a conversation with Anders Lund, one of the original developers of this lesson. Initially, there were technical difficulties, routinely associated with international calls. So, in an effort to make the call free for Anders, we decided to host it on Google Hangout. However, the firewalls in the schools prevented this as an option for our teachers, Colin and David. Anders decided to try the conference line, and it worked. By the time the team shifted to the conference call line, we had lost approximately 15 minutes in meeting time. The remaining time on our call was very useful.
We wanted to dialogue with Anders in order to gain a greater understanding of the conditions in which he developed and taught the lesson. We also wanted to hear some ideas about what Anders would do differently. As our discussion progressed, we discovered that Anders and his partner, Helga Negendahl, had developed this project - as part of a larger study to achieve two objectives: (1) to help teachers develop the mindset most useful for integrating innovative technologies (e.g. 3D printing) into the classroom; and (2) to strengthen their own practices as part of a graduate thesis in Engineering Psychology at Aalborg University.
We wanted to remix and augment the lesson for use in the Fab Lab, so we spent some time talking with Anders about why the 3D printer? We received an unexpected nugget about the developers’ motivation. Anders has a personal love for 3D printing, and another component of the project included a partnership with a 3D printing company. The company provided each teacher’s school with a 3D printer as a means by which to study technology integration into the school. Read more about the company and the 3D printer later in this blog post.
Additionally, Anders believes that 3D printing has a lower threshold for entry into technologically integration for classroom teachers. First, the company provided the printer to the schools in exchange for the opportunity to study integration while removing the financial barrier of a purchase. Secondly, at least conceptually, everyone knows what a printer does. So new teachers will most likely understand that this form of advanced technology ultimately prints. Like the inkjet printer in their home or workplace, teachers understand that something created on a computer in software, will translate to a printed object. Most importantly, perceived or real barriers to integration are at least partially removed as teachers try something new.
Lastly, Anders shared essential information with us regarding the name of the project. As we inquired about the different transportation infrastructure that could be considered, our team inquired why not an underpass or viaduct? We assumed there were some differences in Denmark’s terrain or another nuance that had been lost in translation. We discovered that Anders and Helga named the project, The Oriesmian Coordinate System-Bridge, to illustrate the “bridging” of new technology into Denmark classrooms, more so than to depict the physical transportation infrastructure.
As we ended our call, we agreed to email follow-up. To our delight, Anders expressed excitement about the remix of his lesson. Sonya thanked him for his contribution to SCOPES-DF, encouraged him to participate in the Community of Practice growing around the project, and asked for feedback on the curated version of his lesson that was posted.
Please see more information about Anders’ and Helga’s research at: http://projekter.aau.dk/projekter/files/260289755/3D_PRINTING_FOR_TINKERING.pdf
This delightful conversation with Anders further sparked our interest in how ideas and technological advancements might be bridged into classrooms. How can they be relevant and useful to student learning? How can we stimulate teacher thinking toward thoughtful integration?
Going Off on a Curiosity and Learning Tangent
During the call, Anders suggested we investigate a 3D bridge built in China. We found this two-part bridge was built in part with a robotic arm and took over 300 hours to print. It is part of a special project at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University in Shanghai.
Although this 3D printed pedestrian bridge is for display only, it joins several others around the world that are changing the way infrastructure is being designed, procured, used, and repaired.
In Nanjing China, 3D printing was used to repair a busy bridge. The bridge railings were deteriorated and replaced with 3D printed parts. The company leading the project claims it was done with less time and cost.
Another bridge for cycling in Amsterdam, has pushed the conversation around human centered design infrastructure. It increases human mobility and addresses all three tenants of a comprehensive sustainability strategy: people, profit, and planet.
3D-printed bridges around the world! What does that relate to teaching and learning? Our team responds, “A lot!” Our exploration for a few hours, made our team even more curious!
So, let’s begin with a lesson like the Oriesmian Coordinate System-Bridge. Then, transform it into a project opportunity with elements for student engagement. Let’s make sure those elements are relevant to the world around the students – with real problems to solve; extensions for multiple machine and materials use in a Fab Lab or makerspace – then learning could be endless!
Create It REAL and their School Partnership Project
The creator, Anders Lund, designed this project around the use of speed 3D printers created by the company, Create It REAL. It specializes in creating control systems for 3D printers that increase the print speed. In collaboration with the Chinese company Weistek, the Weistek Ideawerk Speed was created for educational purposes. These companies wanted to conduct research 3D printers to quickly manufacture prototypes, so students would be able to take home sturdy plastic models rather than flimsy cardboard cutouts. The goal of this collaboration between companies was to support teachers using 3D printers and help establish a tinker mindset within schools.
How Technology is Changing Engineering 101
The bridge challenge is a bread-and-butter engineering project. Overall, engineering students will be tasked to design, create, and test a bridge. In the past, this type of project was done in many classrooms using arts and crafts supplies, wood, and cardboard. However, in 2018, students and schools have access to a wide range of technology and equipment that can move this project into the modern era. Instead of graph paper, pencils, and rulers; students can design bridges with CAD software on computers. Instead of gluing popsicle sticks together, students can 3D print or laser cut pieces of their bridge. The availability of digital fabrication in the classroom can push students’ levels of creativity and better prepare them for modern jobs in today’s workforce.
Some Ideas for the Remix
This lesson can fit in any classroom. Teachers should not feel restrained by the availability of 3D printers or other technology. Although it would be ideal and awesome to have 15 fast, 3D printers in a classroom, this is not feasible for the vast majority of American public schools. In Colin Christy’s classroom, for example, he only has access to a single 3D printer for classes of 25 students. However, he has multiple laser cutting machines and an infinite supply of hot glue. This lesson could work for his classroom by quickly cutting layers of the bridge design out of cardboard. The students would then hot glue their layers together to form their designed bridge. They could use whatever CAD software is available and all the accompanying Engineering lessons about strength and stress would be identical. Using a laser cutter would take less than a minute to cut per iteration, whereas 3D printing could take close to an hour on some machines. If a 3D printing lesson is required, groups of students could 3D print their final bridge design after testing numerous laser cut cardboard versions. This use of another machine also allows students to compare workflow, materials, and resource cost. These are all relevant in a wide range of future experiences and jobs.
Math and science are often in tandem. For this project, we found that an extension into the environmental sciences were a natural fit. One remix would require students to develop miniature environmental impact reports for their bridges by choosing a specific geographic location and identifying a specific ecosystem to research. As part of the research process, students would be able to go on a Google Expedition using Google Cardboard to explore their chosen location. By choosing this specific location, students will be able to distinguish the intended and/or unintended consequences of their product and examine the impact of their new bridges on local ecosystems and organisms.
Find more about Google Expeditions here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MQ9yG_QfDA.
With less time for a comprehensive social studies curriculum, high school students are often entering into civic life ill- prepared to fully participate in our democracy. This lesson provides a practical opportunity for students to think about our aging infrastructure and ways that technology, coupled with thoughtful design and public policy, can rebuild the country’s infrastructure. As an extension to this lesson, students can study the infrastructure needs of their community; design and prototype a solution; and present it to a governing body.
Armed with policy information through trusted resources like The Congressional Budget Office and a wide range of capabilities in the Fab Lab for prototyping, students could develop a research paper or presentation to accompany the original lesson with working prototypes. They could also work on an extended project which includes formal recommendations to local, state, and federal government leaders as a demonstration of mastery.
Ultimately in our remix process, we concluded (1) Tool choice is an essential element of learning and impacted by the larger context; (2) Classroom walls do not have to be boundaries or borders to learning; and (3) Following our own thread of curiosity expanded learning for the SCOPES-DF project itself.