Monday, October 26, 2015


This school year has been incredibly busy so far. I can't believe its almost November already. In the past two months, we have essentially built our new "makerspace" and I have been busy learning all of our new toys (Orion Delta CNC 3D Printer, Roland Stika vinyl cutter,  Little Bits, Arduinos, etc) and finding ways to incorporate them in a challenging (yet fun) manner into our new program.

Students assembling our new standing desks (this is a makerspace, after all)
Most of our efforts in Digital Media Design (DMD) - we're working on a new name for this course as it doesn't quite fit what is now taking place in the room - have been focused on robotics. Namely, EV3 Mindstorms robotics. This is now my 3rd year working with this platform and I absolutely love it. I have worked with VEX, Fischertechnik and Tetrix robotics kits and while they all have their merits, I feel that LEGO EV3 is superior, due to ease of use, flexibility, robust design, and endless possibilities for application across disciplines and for scaling.

Our latest projects in DMD involve students working in design teams (usually 2-3 people) to take on design challenges or "briefs." I have included a video below that quickly showcases a couple that have been very successful: the ARTBot and Robo-Dragsters.

The ARTbots are tasked with creating abstract art (in the vein of Jackson Pollock). They must raise and lower a drawing implement (or two) using a mechanism of the designers' choosing. Some utilized levers, some utilized rack and pinions, for example. They must also use sensors to avoid collision with the frame and operate autonomously. The requires students knowing how to program using loops and sensors to accomplish the task.

Lastly, our Robo-Dragsters challenge design teams to leverage gear ratio to make their bots the fastest. Teams experiment with different combinations of gears to find the right balance of speed and torque. Rather than have the bots operate autonomously, students control their dragsters via smartphone using the EV3 Mindstorms App, which is free. We then have a showdown in the hallway, which we all love. Design teams compete in heats to win the Spartan Summer Nationals (Nitro burning funny cars this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!!). The next time I run this challenge, students will be required to have their dragsters run autonomously, using sensors to both avoid collision and measure overall speed.

Check out the video below to get a better idea:

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