Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Making Music

This week our hands-on journey was focused on sound. So we made a few musical instruments.

The first was a Straw Oboe. The children were given straws, scissors and a quick demonstration on the shape they would need to cut at the end of their straw. It took some assistance but it wasn't long before we heard the first HOOONK! and "I did it!". Shortly after that the room was buzzing.
We experimented with the length and even used larger diameter straws to compare the change in sound. The children were provided with various craft materials and we once again fired up the trusty hot glue guns. They were encouraged to both add their own touch and extend the design of their instruments. Some added cups to the end to amplify the sound even more. By the end of the activity everyone had a unique, fun instrument that they could not put down.

The next instrument we explored was the Glove-A-Phone.
Once again the children were given the raw materials and an example.

After some taping and cutting everyone began trying to play their new instrument. Getting the glove stretched out just right over the paper tubes was a bit difficult for some but once they got the hang of it they could not put them down. These made a much lower, and louder sound than the Oboes so the children were really able to notice the different sounds produced by both designs. The fact that the glove vibrations on the top of the tube in the Glove-A-Phone can actually be observed compared to the Oboe, where the vibrations where occurring inside the mouth, allowed the children to connect the concept that the vibrations are what generate the sound. However the glove vibrates so fast it was hard for the children to see. So we had them feel the top to sense the vibrations. Again we encouraged them to decorate and add on to the deign of their instruments. Some children came up with the idea of gluing or taping one of the craft materials to the top of them membrane to help make the vibrations visible. However they quickly realized that whatever they added dampened the vibrations and the instrument became harder to operate.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


We asked the children to draw a rocket. From their drawings we pointed out similarities between their drawings and discussed why most rockets have these characteristics.

We then asked them to decorate and assemble a three dimensional rocket puzzle that we had cut out on our laser cutter. The rocket has a hole in the center which was designed to fit a film canister for a similar activity we have done before. However this time we decided to try using the rocket at the end of a stomp rocket launcher. This is basically a 2 litter bottle attached to one end of  a PVC tube. The other end is open and facing toward the sky. We put the rocket at the end, and had the children jump on the bottle to launch their rockets.

We then extended the activity by constructing a compressed air rocket launcher. The children were able to see the difference in launch height between stomping 2 liters of air and releasing about 10 compressions of a bicycle pump (~50 psi) into the back of their rockets. Once we had thoroughly explored the launching of the cardboard rockets we moved on to a discussion about weight and created paper rockets to launch on our rocket launcher. What a blast!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Maker Camp Swag

It's like Christmas in July around here. We just received a collection of swag for being a Maker Camp Affiliate! I think we are the only ones in Miami!

Thanks Maker Camp for the great stuff and wonderful projects!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Toothbrush Activity

The children were presented with a vibrating toothbrush.
We asked them what they thought made the toothbrush vibrate, and invited them to take the toothbrushes apart to find out. They found the motor and battery inside the toothbrush, as well as some plastic and metallic pieces. We then provided them with electrical wire, alligator clips, and tape. They began experimenting with the vibrating motors and taping them to different objects.
The next day the children were provided with cups and markers so that they could assemble their own draw bot with the motors and batteries they had removed from the toothbrushes. They had a great time experimenting how adjusting the position of the markers, motor, and battery would have an effect on the motion of the bot and the patterns it drew.
On the final day of the activity we added some additional arts and craft materials that they are used to working with. The children came up with some great works including a tickle machine, an airplane, and a snake.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chair Design Activity

Our class had a limited amount of chairs. Since it was the summer we were able to borrow a few chairs from some of our other classrooms. However, we were still borrowing chairs which meant when another class needed them we would be short again. So we came up with the idea of having the children design and build the chairs for the Studio.
We modified the Five to Thirty Minute Chair from AtFAB. We first scaled the chair size so that it would be appropriate for our children. We then added a few customizable features. First we added handles with holes of various geometric shapes. We then added a few additional choices for the geometry of the arch which creates the chair legs.
When the children came in to the Studio they were faced with a problem. There were not enough chairs for them to sit on. We asked them if they thought we could make our own chairs. This lead to a discussion about the various parts of a chair that we would need (4 legs, 1 seat, 1 seat back). We had precut the parts of a scaled down cardboard version of the chair designs on our laser cutter, with more than enough of each piece so that every child could design their own unique chair.
After each child designed their own chair, and created a cardboard model, they worked in groups of four or five to design a chair for the class. We had a group discussion to determine how much larger the wooden pieces had to be. After using the cardboard chair models to compare with one of the chairs we were borrowing from the other classrooms, we determined that three of the small cardboard chairs equaled one of the larger chairs. This activity was great to demonstrate how non-standard units of measurement are also useful in everyday problem-solving. This meant we had to cut our pieces three times larger than the cardboard pieces. We also determined that cardboard may not be strong enough to cary our weight, and so we would need to make our pieces out of wood. We then used our Shopbot Desktop to cut out each of the pieces. The children had the opportunity to sand, assemble, and paint the chairs. Now the other classrooms want to borrow chairs from us.