# Tag Archives: projects

## Engineering Symposium & Showcase

Hi friends, our engineering seniors are wrapping up their capstone course by developing prototypes and presentations of their new inventions and innovations on products they’ve been developing this year. Consider donating \$20 or whatever you can to help make our EDD Symposium & Innovation Showcase a success.

Filed under engineering, teaching

## Roots of Unity Final Projects

These are the results created last November for the art/math integration project described here.

By the way, happy pi week everyone!

Pi Week

Filed under math, teaching

## Art Integration: Roots of Unity & String Art

I talked with an art teacher this afternoon about ways to integrate art and math into a project. She had some great ideas, plus we came up with more ideas in the course of our discussion, many of which I plan to try for Algebra 2 or Precalculus (both which I teach this year, fall and spring respectively). Geeking out while discussing the intersection of math and art reminded me of this awesome collaboration and its result from a few years ago!

Our first idea (in terms of implementing soon) was some colorful string art crossed with a discussion of the roots of unity, since my students are (today) using and graphing complex numbers for the first time. Math teachers, art teachers, and any interested others, check out this rough draft of the project and let me know any thoughts and advice:

Roots of Unity Project

Colorful “string” art on the 17 th roots of unity

Filed under math, teaching

## Teamwork: The POE House

This was an assignment I just wrote for a course I’m taking: to describe a day in my classroom from a journalistic third-person perspective. I figured I’d post it here as well. This is a slightly-fictionalized version of what occurred in my Principles of Engineering class on and around March 25th, 2014.

POE House Lighting

Upon walking into Nick Yates’s engineering classroom at Patterson High School in east Baltimore, the first thing one notices is students gathered together working on a project at the center of the room. Walking closer, the project reveals itself to be a large structure, roughly eight cubic feet, which the students explain is a model house. Each wall has a different truss design, built out of coffee stirrers that form triangles that fit together into a square wall, two feet on a side. The students are collaborating in teams, each team responsible today for lighting up a wall of the house.

The students are a diverse group. Six countries of origin are represented here in this one room: United States, Nepal, Mexico, Congo, Nigeria, and China. Among students born in the US, the majority are black, but some are white and some are Latino. Boys outnumber the girls in this engineering class, as they do in the engineering field, but the girls tell of after-school mentoring programs and field trips that have helped encourage them to stick with their engineering classes and to pursue a STEM career.

As one boy positions a light emitting diode (LED) on the wall, his partner pulls off electrical tape and hands it to him to secure it in position. Another partner reads off of a circuit diagram in her engineering notebook, where they have designed the electrical circuit, instructing her teammates how to connect the wires in between LEDs. And the fourth team member is using alligator clips to join three solar panels together to make this wall’s lights powered by environmentally sustainable source.

Filed under engineering, teaching

## White House Science Fair

Lunch at the White House. Image © Iragena Serge Bangamwabo

As I mentioned in my last post, five of our students were invited to the White House Science Fair.

Here are a few news articles about them:

In front of their display board, inside the White House. Image © Iragena Serge Bangamwabo

Filed under engineering, teaching

## 3D Printing Update

### Finally Finished!

Wow, it took me almost two months to build, but I finally completed building my 3D printer from PrintrBot! Two weeks ago, I put the finishing touches on it by calibrating the motors and attempting to level everything out. [The reason I’m not writing until now is because we’ve been focused like a laser for the last two weeks on working toward our PLTW program’s 5-year re-certification, which we achieved on Friday.]

3D Printer, complete

Along the way, I had to troubleshoot various problems (most of my own making):

• not seeing an asymmetric hole pattern until it was too late
• one misaligned hole
• limit switch wire accidentally torn off
• putting the wrong gear where a pulley-belt system should go
• motors moving in the wrong direction
• a pulley-belt system that was slipping over the motor axle and not moving the extruder along the x-axis the way it should
• incorrectly feeding the plastic material into the extruder

To solve these problems, I used my own engineering knowledge accumulated over the last six years, another teacher’s expertise and tools, and PrintrBot’s online videos and help fora. As mentioned before, I feel that having made these (and many smaller) mistakes and learning how to fix them has really given me a better understanding of the gears, pulleys, bearings, ball screws, nuts/bolts, switches, motors, and wiring that go into making my 3D printer. I also think I have a more concrete understanding of how 3D printing works, and hopefully will be able to fix my printer if it were to break or need improvements.

3D Printer close-up

### My First Print

I took (PrintrBot founder) Brook Drumm’s recommendation for my first print, the “Mr. Jaws” shark figure.

The program that runs the printer, Pronterface, estimated that it would take 45 minutes to complete the shark.

My computer screen, showing Pronterface with machine controls, shark figure, & program

On my first try, I had trouble getting the ABS plastic to stick to the printbed, so I increased the bed’s temperature. Here’s some filament that extruded but did not contribute to the shark design:

ABS Plastic, extruded

After a few more minutes of heating up, this time it worked!

Here is the first-layer outline of the shark:

Outline done!

Here you can see that it is starting to fill in the outlines:

And here it is after completing approximately three layers (one filling in the shape up and down, the next left and right, and so on):

I figured I would have some time to grade papers while waiting for the print to finish, but instead I was mesmerized by the printing.

Starting to get some depth to it

It was also cool to see that the program works using the same G&M codes that I teach my manufacturing engineering students to operate the CNC mill:

The G&M code program that will control the 3D printer and make a shark

It built up slowly, layer by layer.

Almost done!

In thirty minutes, the shark was finished.

The Completed Mr. Jaws

You can see some errors, like the strands between fin and tail where the filament turned a corner but the corner didn’t stick. And you can see the granularity of some of the layers is not as fine as on a more expensive 3D printer. But, all in all, for something that cost only a few hundred dollars, and that I built myself, I’m very proud of what it did!

Shark Attack!

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Filed under engineering, teaching

## Factory System

This year I wanted to challenge myself and my students by undertaking possibly the most ambitious project I have ever taught and they have ever done.

In previous years the final Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) project had been handshaking between the robot arm and the CNC mill. Last year we got bogged down in building the little Lynx robots, which took three weeks out of our curriculum, and so we didn’t get to any final culminating project. The CIM final project in the curriculum has changed and is now a factory system on a small scale.

Having small classes this year, and having the equipment of a large robotic arm (which is no longer required by PLTW but was when I started teaching six years ago), I figured we might as well do our factory system on a large scale!

Factory System Setup

So I set the task for my students of recreating a factory inside the classroom–tying together all the topics they have learned about in CIM into one project that integrates computers into every aspect of the manufacturing process, from start to finish, in a multi-machine factory setting. They had to pick and design a product that we were capable of manufacturing in my lab, go through the CAD-CAM-CNC process to model and machine the product, then set up a closed-loop feedback system (i.e. handshaking) between the robotic arm and the CNC mill so the entire factory system could operate seamlessly with the robot placing the raw material into the mill and retrieving it after the mill was finished. We were on our way to mass production!

Unfortunately, we bit off a little more than we could chew / we took a step longer than our legs. In large part due to student absences, neither class was able to complete all the objectives outlined above. However, they still did some pretty cool stuff.

One class picked a key chain as their product, shown here with a machine toolpath around it. They planned later to inscribe ‘Patterson High School’ on the key chain.

Keychain with Toolpath

The other class planned to manufacture an iPhone cover:

Phone Cover 3D Model

Due to the deadline fast approaching, along with some ill-timed software glitches, the second group decided that they would not be able to create the toolpath for the phone cover, but they did want to finish setting up and programming the rest of the factory system. So they recycled one of their earlier CNC milling programs that would just carve out initials, and got the robot and mill to handshake successfully, manufacturing a block with initials instead of the phone cover. Check out their video at the link below:

http://www.schooltube.com/video/ef054cce27ab4abbbe1f/Demonstration%20of%20Factory%20Cell

Though we didn’t make it all the way there, I am very proud of what my students accomplished, and happy that we tried this ambitious project!

Filed under engineering, teaching

## Recycling Center Project

A model recycling center, fully automated according to students’ program.

[Not my main post tonight, but I wanted to break the blog silence and post these videos here, since I’m so proud of what my students accomplished! This is mostly just copied & pasted from an email I sent a month ago to a bunch of teachers & administrators at my school:]

Take a look at the videos linked below, about 2 minutes each. These are ninth graders, who have successfully built and written a computer program to control a model recycling center! The recycling centers automatically sort marbles in the same way actual recycling centers sort aluminum from glass from plastic. I am very proud of my students, and impressed with their results at synthesizing design, construction, wiring, and their knowledge of computer logic & programming (they’ve gone further with this project than past classes have).
One really cool piece is that the students in the first and third video took the initiative to learn a totally new set of equipment and programming language on their own. I tried to learn with them, but I had no prior experience or expertise with the robotics/automation kits they were using (called VEX), nor with the RobotC programming language that controls that equipment.
[I’m getting training in VEX and RobotC today and tomorrow, which is why I thought to post this now.]

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Filed under engineering, teaching

## Phi Project

So, as I explained yesterday, I decided to create a project centered around golden ratio, phi (φ) ≈ 1.6180339887, and the associated Fibonacci sequence 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,…. My classroom has computers, so I had students go back and forth between watching parts of Vi Hart’s videos (123) on the subject, and doing or reflecting on something mathematical, artistic, or biological.

Here is my project:

I think it’s a little bit lighter weight than some of my other projects. But it does connect to our work with quadratic equations (which we are just wrapping up). And it gives my students a chance not just to see math in the world, but also to think about why our world is mathematical.

The students seem to enjoy working on the project so far. Either that or they just liked the pineapple we ate (after, of course, counting the spirals on it!).

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Filed under math, teaching

## Trip to BGE

Yesterday we took a tour of Baltimore Gas & Electric‘s Spring Gardens facility in South Baltimore.

We heard about the environmental protection efforts BGE has been implementing at that site. We learned about the history of BGE, back almost 200 years to its beginnings as a gas light company. We got to listen in on calls being handled by customer service agents (!). And then we discussed and toured their field of 572 solar panels.

Solar Panel Array at BGE Spring Gardens

We talked about how the solar panels worked, how much energy they generated, how it was turned into electricity used by the other buildings there, and how it was helping the environment.

This was awesome because our tenth grade students (the target audience of this trip) had just been learning about energy, power, and specifically renewable energy sources. They had recently built cars powered by solar panels, and also had created alternative-energy-fueled model power plants that distributed energy through circuits to model homes and businesses. I love the chance to make connections, both between classes and from class to the outside world.