What Are We Making Today?


Introduction to Engineering Design:

We are attempting to complete the entire Automaton project in the first semester, so we’re in full swing now! It has been an amazing learning experience for me on project based learning. Some skills get front loaded and others wait until they are needed. And we can make some plans but we also have to be flexible as new difficulties come up.

So the first big skills push was for Autodesk Inventor. I did the usual set of tutorials and let them have a decent amount of time to explore and learn on their own. Some students took it upon themselves to learn assemblies with no real help from me (except for a quick question here and there). I think what prompted them to do it is that I put out a list of things they needed to create and an assembly for their box was one of them. Some students will wait for the lesson on assemblies before they really get into it and that’s ok. 🙂 We’ll do them next quarter as we start to test our cam mechanisms in Inventor. One of the coolest things has been the students help each other with this. Once they realize there is only one of me, they just start doing it!

Before I let them construct anything for their Automatons, I wanted to see a drawing of the part with dimensions. This makes sense logically because I want to be able to check their dimensions on everything (especially 3D printed parts, so we don’t have to reprint if it’s wrong).  But we get the added benefit of learning lots of skills in order to make the drawings. We learned a good deal of the dimensioning techniques that we’ll for the whole year; last year we didn’t get to those until way later. Once they got drawings coming off the printer, they started pulling out the tools. I trained students as we went on various hand tools and power tools. Then, I relied on my interns to help with getting students set up on the 3D printers. It was a good call to put the slicer software for each of the 3D printers on every computer. Ready to print? Get Autumn to help you set it up! Surprisingly, I had a student who already knew Adobe Illustrator basically teach himself how to run the laser cutter. All I had to do was give him the password! He’s already teaching other students how to run it as well. 🙂

In one section of the class, our art collaboration is also in full effect! We’ve had three meetings in the library where my engineering class meets with the 3D Visual Arts class and they were spaced out to be at different points in the process.  For the last meeting, my students had mostly finished their boxes and many had planned out the mechanisms as well.  The art students had their sculptures (or at least parts) done as well.  So they discussed connection details such as dowel diameter, glue or other connection methods, and movement of different pieces. This is the arts integration we were looking for!

This year’s HUNCH project is finally up and running as well. Our NASA mentor Bob Zeek (pictured below) visited to talk about this year’s projects as well as help fix our nice printer that is on loan from them. The students say they are still interested in working on the radiation jacket – which should be a good opportunity to learn about 3D printed textiles. But we also decided to look at the tool belt and the washing machine projects. All three will have at least 3 students working on them, so I’m excited to see what they can accomplish. I just to work on giving them more time in class to work on it. There’s always so much to do. 🙂


Engineering Design and Development:

One team in this class is really stepping up their game. With a little help from me, they have secured funding for their project from Chevron! The team plans to create an automated method for planting grass in marshlands to help prevent coastal erosion. The only problem is that Chevron needs the project completed by the end of December, so their timeline has been cut in half. But it’s a pretty amazing group of seniors and so I think they’ll be fine. I requested that a few members of other teams join up with them at least for now to help, including one who will keep them on schedule.

There are plenty of other great projects getting started, but I probably can’t fit them all in here so I’ll save that for another post. But I did want to write our mentor matching event which PLTW is helping us plan. Next week, we plan to have 10-20 engineers come in after school and they will meet with each of our EDD groups for about 5 min. They’ll rotate “speed dating” style and then at the end of the night, we can exchange info so for any teams that found a good connection with one of the engineers. I’m really excited about this event and I’ll have to write another post once it’s done to recap.

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