The final motion circuit.

May 22, 2015

Circuits and Movement | 3D Printing in the Classroom

The motion circuit group had a challenging time getting their project to work. That happens sometimes. A combination between group dynamics and Murphy’s Law seem to be major road blocks to some projects. The first challenge this group faced was selecting the materials and making a plan. They quickly chose to take apart an old VCR because it had some interesting gears and motors, but they did not have a plan on how to make it work.

Students take apart a VCR to use the gears and motors.

Students take apart a VCR to use the gears and motors.

After spending much time taking apart the VCR they tried to reconstruct where the gears went.  They realized, through much frustration, that this was much more difficult than they thought. They were getting nowhere and the frustration was mounting. There’s a scene in Disney’s Big Hero 6 where the main character is stuck on how to create a project to get into “Nerd School”. His older brother turns him upside down and says, “Shake things up! Use that big brain of yours to think your way out! Look for a new angle.” That is exactly what this group needed.

After a brainstorming session they decided to switch

Students are learning how gears work together.

Students are learning how gears work together.

 

gears (figuratively and literally) and use our class LEGOs instead. The parts were easier to work with and some of the members of the group had a lot of experience with LEGOs. I thought they would be on their way and no trouble after this.

I was wrong. They made good progress but still had too many gears, didn’t know where or how to mount the motor, and they couldn’t figure out how to keep the axles in place. This group really received a good lesson on design thinking. One of the reasons I like teaching like this is because it forces kids to pay attention to the details in an authentic way. They are not reading about it, or looking at a diagram about it. They have a real problem that requires them to think it through and try different things, and really understand how it works in order to achieve their goal.

The final motion circuit.

The final motion circuit.

I like to be as “hands-off” as possible on these projects, but when the frustration gets too high and a group needs to push through I will sit with them and ask a lot of questions like, “What are the problems with your design?”, “Which one should we focus on?”, “How do you think we can fix that problem?”, “What are some resources we can use?”. Sometimes I ask more direct questions, “Have you thought about using this material?”. This group just needed to be asked the right questions, and be introduced to the right materials. They swapped many of their gears with rubber tires, which are easier to work with. Then they figured out how to keep their axles from falling out by using a LEGO piece to hold the back in place. Once they glued down their motor they were in business.

They put it together tested it many times, then handed it over to the wiring team to put it all together. In the end, perseverance and hard work got the job done.

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