This is 'Iolani School

This is 'Iolani School

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Laser Etching A Pumpkin

I had seen posts other places about laser cutting and etching a pumpkin so I figured I'd give it a try on my lunch break. I was hoping to use our rotary attachment but the pumpkin I had was too big. So this first try is with a stationary one. All I did was raster this time...need to get a few more smaller ones and I'll try to vector cut them.

First I made a basic design on Inkscape. Then I found the flattest section I could and propped the pumpkin up. After setting "home" for the laser, I set the properties and we gave it a try.

We have an Epilog Mini 60Watt machine. I set it to raster with the following settings:
Speed 50, Power 100, DPI 600, Engrave direction - bottom up, Image dithering - Jarvis.
I had the laser raster the design 4 times to get the between 1-2mm deep.

Not bad for a first try.

A few days later, we tried 2 more pumpkins. For the smaller one we used the rotary tool (that spins the object while lasering...great for etching glass jars or "hydroflasks") a wavy effect but it's cool. Then tried a green "pumpkin". Not bad results:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Different Grades, Different Creations, Innovative Ideas: One Laser Cutter" - Presented at FabLearn 2016

"Different Grades, Different Creations, Innovative Ideas:
One Laser Cutter"

P. Matthew Dillon
'Iolani School
Honolulu, Hawaii
United States of America

'Iolani's Lower School FabLab/MakerSpace has a variety of equipment, but none are more in demand than the laser cutter. Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, students from every grade, kindergarten to sixth, have made projects using this digital fabrication technology. This presentation will look at different creations made by three different grade levels (kindergarten, third and sixth grade) who used this one machine to make innovative ideas come to life.
FabLab; MakerSpace; Curriculum; Laser Cutter

1.1 Description of your setting
'Iolani School is a culturally diverse, co-educational, college preparatory school for over 1900 students K-12 founded on Christian values, located in Honolulu, Hawaii. In the spring of 2014, following the opening of the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Learning, 'Iolani began the process of creating a S.T.E.M/FabLab/MakerSpace for the Lower School (K-6). In the fall of 2014, the FabLab opened for the 550+ students and 40+ staff in the Lower School. The Lab is equipped with four 3D printers, a laser cutter, a desktop CNC mill, two 3D scanners, ten laptops, twelve soldering irons, twenty MakeyMakeys, fifteen Arduino sets, a variety of tools and assorted material for "making". Students use the Lab as individuals, small groups and whole classes.

The FabLab/MakerSpace at 'Iolani's Lower School is run different than most. We are open and accessible to students and teachers from kindergarten through sixth grade. The program is run as an enhancement to the curriculum, rather than a pullout/special for specific grade levels.

We service our stakeholders in four different ways: first, we offer a 90 minute class to grades kdg through sixth that can be signed up for anytime during the year. Each grade level is offered a specific topic: kindergarten - Building Structures; first - Creating Sound and Light; second - Scratch Jr.; third - Scratch & MakeyMakey; fourth - Inkscape & the laser cutter; fifth - 123D Design & the 3D printer; and sixth - simple circuits. The rational, is that by the time our students complete their years in the Lower School, they will be exposed to the design process, and all the different types of technology we have to offer. This will be beneficial because beginning in seventh grade, students will have access to electives in the Sullivan Center of Innovation and Leadership which offers classes like Make It 101, Design & Fabrication, and Robotics 1 & 2. All these classes can make use of the upper school makerspaces in Sullivan, which include, amoung other things, two laser cutters, a varitety of 3D printers, a waterjet cutter, and a ShopBot CNC mill.

The second thing we do for our students and teachers is be available for them to come in and create projects. These projects can be for either school assignments or just for fun. Students and teachers can come into the Lab at whenever it’s open for "Free creation" time.  

The third way we assist our stakeholders is to give the teachers the opportunity to reserve the Lab so the students can make curriculum-specific creations. Teachers come to the Lab with topic ideas and want to include some form of technology. We discuss their ideas and then give them possible ways to have the students us the Lab. Then the teachers will sign-up for specific times in the Lab so that their class or portion of it can come in and create.

Lastly, we offer afterschool classes and summer school classes to students in 3rd grade through 6th grade. Recent topics have included "Design It-Make It" and "Intro to Circuits". These classes are open not only to 'Iolani students, but children from our surrounding community.

1.2 Description of the educational experience
Being our second year, the Lab was put to more use since students and teachers knew what could be done there. The most used piece of equipment has been the laser cutter. The following are examples of some of the things our students made during the 2015-16 school year:

1.2.1 Kindergarten Garden Stakes
Although our kindergarten students cannot do all the "technical" things with the laser cutter or it's program, these 5 and 6 year olds are involved in all the imagining, planning and designing, and are present for the creation of all their projects. This year they began the year making stakes for their garden. In the past, students would draw their garden stake on a piece of cardboard and attach it to a stick before putting it in the garden. However, the first time it rained or the sprinkler watered the plants, the sign would get wet. With the use of the laser cutter, we can approach this project a bit different. First we ask the students to draw a big (8.5x11) garden sign with whatever they want. Next we tell them that their real sign will only be as big as a card (3x5) so they have to decide what information is really important to have on their signs. Then they draw the 2nd iteration of their sign on a 3x5 card and we talk about the design for the stake...what should it look like. Once we decide on a design, they send all the cards down to the Lab. In the Lab we scan the picture and send it to the laser cutter. We then create the "stake" design around the pictures. Next, it's time to bring the students into the Lab. We go over the process we used to take their pictures from paper to the laser cutter, and how we made the stake shape. Last, we get the laser cutter running and the students all watch how their idea is created on wood. Christmas Ornaments
For Christmas our kindergarten teachers wanted to have the students use the Lab to make ornaments for their parents. We came up with two different ways for them to do that. The first way was similar to the way we made the garden stakes. Students draw pictures on 3x5 cards, they were scanned and laser cut. The children then colored them to make them pop.

The second way they made an ornament was to first work in our computer lab. Students used the program KidPix to create an ornament design. We then printed their design and, using an app called Vectorize It, the students took a photo, cropped it and sent them to the laser cutter. After all the designs were laid out on Inkscape, we brought the students in to watch them be cut out.   

1.2.2 Third Grade Desk Caddies
At the end of the 2015 school year, two of the third grade teachers came to the Lab with an idea. They wanted to do a design thinking activity with their students at the start of the next school year. The idea was to have the students come into school on the first day and have all their supplies in a box in the middle of each table. This would cause a problem for the students: how could they organize all these things? In the fall of 2015, the students came into class, finding their supplies all mixed up in a box in the middle of the table. After a class discussion on design thinking, each table started doing research on "desk caddies". They next started to imagine possible caddy ideas, decided on one and started creating it using cardboard. Once they had a prototype of their caddy, they had to draw out all the parts, including measurements. Then, they brought their plans to the Lab and we put them onto Inkscape and laser cut them. The students put their pieces together and they had their own desk caddies. Office Caddies
After the success of the desk caddie project and as a part of the third grade "Mini Society" unit at the end of the year, the third grade teachers, with the help of our Educational Technology Integration Specialist, took this design-thinking project to the next level. Student groups went to visit different offices in the school to see if there was anything they could make that would help these offices out. The groups made "empathy" visits to each office to come up with ideas. They returned to their classrooms and began coming up with possible ideas for caddies. Once they decided on one idea, they began using 123D Design to come up with a 3D drawing that they could share with their client (the third graders were taught how to use 123D Design prior to beginning this activity). At the next meeting with the client, the students shared their idea and the clients made possible suggestions for changes. Back in the classroom, the students made changes and began planning their design on Inkscape (which they were also taught how to use earlier in this unit). Once the designs were complete, the pieces were cut and glued together. With everything complete, clients and design groups met for the presentation of the final project.

1.2.3 Sixth Grade Ancient Egyptian Artifact
As part of the sixth grade curriculum, students learn about ancient civilizations. One of these is ancient Egypt. As part of the unit, students have to research an ancient Egyptian artifact, recreate it and then give a presentation about it. During this time, the students are given the option of coming to the Lab and making their creation using the technology we have available. About 20 percent of the 6th graders this year made use of the Lab's 3D printers and laser cutter. One of the coolest creations was a mini sarcophagus. This student first traced the top of the sarcophagus and then designed it's sides. She came to the Lab, where we scanned the drawing. Next she traced the pieces so they would be cut out and put together to finish her project. Once it was all pieced together, she decided to use a pencil and hi-light the drawing to give it a real 3D look. Catapults
In the second half of the year, the students were studying the medieval times. In the 6th grade science class, they had always made catapults out of cardboard. With the Lab, we were able to take this project to another level. After researching this ancient device, the students were given a list of criteria they had to follow while making their catapult, like: all pieces had to be cut our of a 12x8 piece of wood, and they could only use 2 rubber bands. Students then created prototypes out of cardboard. If the prototype was acceptable, they took that design and made it on Inkscape. Once the design was done, we laser cut it and the students put their catapults together. Once everyone’s was done, they were taken out and tested. Data was collected and analyzed as part of their final report


2.1  Results

At the end of each project we realized a couple of things. First, both the students and teachers were more engaged in the process because of the use of this technology. Even though it was more involved, the challenge of taking your idea from paper to computer to wood gave everyone a new sense of excitement. Second, the additions of the computer programs made the students, especially in the upper grades, have to do more "math" but they didn't mind (or sometimes didn’t even notice they were doing it). Third, students and teacher started thinking about other ways to use the Lab for projects they needed to do in other areas of the curriculum. For example, the sixth grade students came to the Lab and make objects to use during their "Medieval Faire" making targets for the archers, swords and shields for the knights, game boards for the jesters and signs for a variety of things.

2.2  Broader Value
When we talk about the need to incorporate S.T.E.M. or S.T.E.A.M (or whatever other acronym you like) into our daily activities with our students, a laser cutter will do all that. It is a machine that can tie all these "subjects" and others, together.

One subject that is used heavily when doing a laser cut project is mathmatics. Here is a break-down of some of the skills that were used at each of these grade levels while the students imagined, planned, created and improved their creation.
Kindergarten: Shapes, symmetry, patterns comparison of objects, 2D & 3D geometry, measurment, and basic addition & subraction.
Thrid Grade: Rounding numbers, addition & subtraction, measurement (US standard and metric), fractions and decimals.
Sixth Grade: Ratio and proportional relationships, addition, subtractions, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, measurment (angles, perimeter, area), and data collection & analysis.

Just think about the amount of math that would go into ecthing a word or picture on a “Hydroflask”. Even adults are challenged to do this.

Although it will probably be the most expensive piece of machinery one can add to a makerspace, it is by far the best. I would encourage everyone to consider getting this for his or her space. Not only will students make use of it, but also the school can make things like nametags, signs and a variety of other things to benefit the entire community.

2.3  Relevance to Theme
The use of a laser cutter and the type of projects that can be done with it fit perfectly into the conference theme of "Diversity in Making: People, Projects and Powerful Ideas". This piece of technology can be used by a variety of people to make an assortment of projects that can show powerful ideas.


P. Matthew Dillon is the first S.T.E.M/FabLab teacher at 'Iolani's lower school. Matthew began teaching in 1986, after completing a MA in Curriculum and Teaching Childhood and Elementary Education from Columbia University-Teacher College. He has taught in NY, TX and HI. In public schools, he has been a self-contained classroom teacher in every elementary grade except first. In private school he was an kindergarten through fifth grade science teacher, and a pre-K through 5th grade Engineering & Design Teacher/Science Coordinator. He has just completed his second year at 'Iolani School. Dillon has presented at a variety of conferences including Schools of the Future Hawaii-2013 and 2015, NSTA S.T.E.M. Forum-2015, FabLearn-2015 and ATLIS-2016.

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