Entries Categorized as 'Technology'

Preparing Students for a Technological Future

January 21, 2018

I’m currently preparing a proposal to create a laboratory of digital fabrication machines–a CNC, a laser, and a vinyl cutter–and one of the questions I’m answering is about how the proposed project would prepare students for a technology-rich future. What you see below is my first response to this prompt. It’s a bit longer than I have space for in the proposal, and probably a bit too philosophical, but before I cut it down I wanted to post this draft because it does a reasonable job of encapsulating my philosophy when it comes to teaching technology:

Preparation for a technology rich future is less about preparing for specific technologies and more about getting students to have a growth mindset with respect to technology. We are living in a truly wonderful moment in history. Technological tools are rapidly expanding what we as individuals can accomplish. They are allowing us to see farther (think about remote sensing like lidar and tomography), collate more information (especially with more and more data becoming publicly available), and create things that push the limits of our imaginations. Indeed, to paraphrase a former student, we are already living in the future.

To prepare students to live and thrive in this ever-evolving present we need to demystify technology and give students the intellectual tools to deal with the rapid change. We can start by letting them peek into the black boxes that our technological devices are rapidly becoming.

We request electronics stations and tool kits not just to build things, but to be able to take them apart and look inside. Students greatly enjoy dissassembling and reassambling computers, for example, which provides younger students a good conceptual understanding of how most modern devices work. This foundation helps when they start building circuits of their own and realize what they really want to do is to control them–making lights blink and turning motors for example–and this is when they will start working with Raspberry Pi computers, Arduino microcontrollers and programming.

As students start to build (and even before really), they naturally start thinking about design. We all have an affinity for the aesthetic. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see a laser in action, you’ll remember your sense of fascination the first time you saw someone’s design emerging from the raw material right before your eyes. Thus we get into graphic design, computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) and the digital fabrication machines we propose.

By the time they’re done with this curriculum, we intend that students will have developed an intimate familiarity with the technological world–including the ability to create and design their own, which prepares them for the technological future.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2018. Preparing Students for a Technological Future, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Handwritten Notes are Better

April 18, 2016

A good NPR article based on a 2014 paper that finds that students who hand-write their notes have to think more about what they choose to write and so remember better than students who just transcribe lectures on their computers.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2016. Handwritten Notes are Better, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

DIY Plastic Recycling Workshop

April 14, 2016

Thanks to Natasha for sending me this link. Precious plastic shares the technology to build your own modular plastics recycling workshop.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2016. DIY Plastic Recycling Workshop, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Devices

November 14, 2014

I tend to let my students have a lot of freedom to use their myriad technological devices as they will. Just as long as they use them responsibly (i.e. for academics during class time). What’s most interesting these days is seeing how they combine the various electronics.

Working with pen, paper, tablet and laptop.

Working with pen, paper, tablet and laptop.

This Chemistry student is referring to her textbook on the iPad, while she creates a presentation on her laptop. Yet pen and paper are still integral parts of the process.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2014. Devices, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

3d Printing at School

July 23, 2014

The  RepRap 3D printer.

The RepRap 3D printer.

One of the key ideas behind the design of the RepRap 3D printer we just built is that you should be able to print as many of the components as possible. So you can use your 3D printer to build other 3D printers. As a consequence, the printer does not come as a nice little box. It looks a bit jury-rigged. Multicolored coils of wire snake everywhere; circuit boards and integrated chips are exposed; nuts, bolts and stainless steel rods are accessible for easy adjustment; and the plastic–printed–components are still rough from the printer. It is all function, no aesthetics. All of which make it a wonderful teaching tool.

The three students who built it got a crash course in robotic assembly. They learnt how to wire a power source, strip and solder wires, and construct the motor-controlled bed and extruder. They also learned how to use constructive solid geometry (using OpenSCAD) to create 3d shapes–I required them to design and print their own models before I would let them download object files from the internet.

On the down side, though they did have to plug a RAMPS motor shield, stepper-driver chips, and connecting wires into the Arduino microcontroller, we did not have much time to go into the detail of what it all was about. Also, we only edited an existing configuration file when we tried to calibrate the machine, so they did not learn how the programming works. Having to use the Arduino did inspire me to get one, and I was quite impressed with their starter kit, so I’m working on a “Microcontrollers for Beginners” type class or elective that I can offer over the next school year.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2014. 3d Printing at School, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Arduino for Beginners

July 22, 2014

Arduino UNO connected to a breadboard from the starter kit.

Arduino UNO connected to a breadboard from the starter kit.

I’ve been avoiding working with the Arduino microcontrollers because I’d prefer to be able to program in Python with the Raspberry Pi (for example). However, since the 3d printer we just built this summer uses an Arduino for a brain, I broke down and picked up the Arduino Starter Kit (via Adafruit).

The Arduino Projects Book is an excellent resource for the beginner.

The Arduino Projects Book is an excellent resource for the beginner.

What I liked most about the Starter Kit most is the Arduino Projects Book that comes with it. It’s a wonderful introduction to circuits, electronics, circuit diagrams, and microcontrollers at the beginners level. If I offer an Arduino elective, I’ll use it as a textbook. Indeed, I’ll probably use bits of it as a reference when I teach circuits in middle school and Advanced Physics.

As for the programming, the basics, at least, are pretty straightforward. I got a blinking LED controlled by a switch input up an running pretty quickly. The code requires two loops, one to set up the inputs and the output, and a loop for the program to follow. The code below has a blinking light that’s controlled via pin 4, but changes to a solid light when the switch is pressed (the input for the switch is pin 2). The wiring for the circuit is shown in the picture at the top of the page.

blink_circuit

int switchOn = 0;

void setup(){
  pinMode(2, INPUT);
  pinMode(4, OUTPUT);
}

void loop(){
  switchOn = digitalRead(2);
  
  if (switchOn == HIGH) {
    digitalWrite(4, HIGH);
  } else {
    digitalWrite(4, LOW);
    delay(500);
    digitalWrite(4, HIGH);
    delay(200); 
  }
  
}

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2014. Arduino for Beginners, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Building a Guitar

June 9, 2014

Guitar bodies.

Guitar bodies.

This week I’m learning how to build an electric guitar–from scratch (or almost). Tom Singer, a professor in design and manufacturing at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, is the lead on an NSF funded project to bring guitar building into schools.

I may have a tin ear when it comes to music, but there is quite the interest in guitar playing at the Fulton School at the moment–all the way from the elementary kids to the high schoolers–so I thought it would be a good catch-the-imagination mechanism for use in math and science.

Bodies

A guitar body, ready to become MY guitar.

A guitar body, ready to become MY guitar.

First we got to choose a guitar body. The guitarbuilding team had a fair collection of guitar shapes for the group in the workshop to choose from. The shapes are cut from 1.75 inch thick woo. To get the elegant layered patterns you see above, they laminate about half a dozen different types of wood. This may make for beautiful guitars, but the different densities and hardnesses of the wood have to be considered when working with them. The darker colored woods in the guitar body above were much harder to shave and sand than the lighter colored material.

Note to self: Indeed, if I remember to get hold of some scrap pieces of the different woods, I can probably make up a nice density measuring project. Indeed, it would be nice to have students graph the relationship between density and hardness. Wood hardness is measured on the Janka scale. I suspect there is a positive relationship, but I’d like to see if we could determine the shape of the curve.

Not all of the guitar bodies are beautiful laminates, however. Some, of a single type of wood, are the best candidates for painting. Others are hollowed out, and can be played acoustically as well as plugged in.

Neck and Fretboard

Today I learned what a fretboard is. Apparently it’s a separate piece with the gradational markings that’s attached to the neck.

Bodies, fretboards and necks.

Bodies, fretboards and necks.

The necks were all of maple, if I remember correctly, but the fretboards were made of different types of wood. Each was a single piece of wood, but the wood’s hardness and affects the “brightness” of the sound produced by the guitar.

So now it’s time to sculpt and sand the body, and put all the pieces together.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2014. Building a Guitar, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Volumes of Rotation: The Disk Method: 3d with Javascript Three.js

March 3, 2014

Finally, relatively easy interactive 3d on the web. You can rotate and zoom into the scene. (Although it may not yet be compatible with all browsers it does work with Firefox at least).

This method uses the three.js Javascript library. Here I use it to show the volume of a rotated surface using the disk method. It’s almost identical to my calculus student’s project, except here I’m finding the volume between x=1 and x=3, using disks that are 0.5 units in height (Δx).

Since the volume of cylinder is:

V_{cylinder} = \pi r^2 h

where r is the radius of the cylinder.

We’re finding the volume created by a function that’s rotated around the x-axis. Using the function:

y = -\frac{x^2}{4}+4

The radius of each cylinder is the value of the function for that x value, so you could write the radius as:

R(x) = -\frac{x^2}{4}+4

Therefore the volume of each disk is:

V_{disk} = \pi R(x)^2 \Delta x

There are four disks and we use the function value at the far end of the disk to draw the disk so the total volume is:

V = \pi R(1.5)^2 \Delta x + \pi R(2.0)^2 \Delta x + \pi R(2.5)^2 \Delta x + \pi R(3.0)^2 \Delta x

Factoring out the π and the Δx gives:

V = \pi \Delta x \left(R(1.5)^2 +  R(2.0)^2 + R(2.5)^2  +  R(3.0)^2 \right)

Since Δx = 0.5, a = 1.0, and b = 3.0, we can define the number of disks as n = 4 then we can rewrite using summation formula:

V = \pi \Delta x \sum\limits_{i=1}^n R(1.0+i \Delta x)^2

reverting back to a and b gives the general equation:

V = \pi \Delta x \sum\limits_{i=1}^n R(a+i \Delta x)^2

where:
n = \frac{b-a}{\Delta x}

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2014. Volumes of Rotation: The Disk Method: 3d with Javascript Three.js, Retrieved April 21st, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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