Saturday, December 03, 2022

Sierpinski Pyramid Lamp

I love my Sierpinski Pyramid lamp! This is a combination of Fractal maths + 3D printing + Circuit Playground Express and the result is beautiful!

The original Sierpinski pyramid print design by ricktu is here: Fractal Pyramid with Continuous Cross-section

Then Chaz493 thought of turning into a lamp using transparent filament and a base here: Fractal Pyramid Lamp and Base

After I printed the base and pyramid I thought of lighting it up by inserting a couple of CPX's (Circuit Playground Express) coded for light patterns in the base cavity. This worked a treat.

Related: Sierpinski Pyramid

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

free speech

Strange times: when the world's wealthiest person risks his fortune for free speech and the main stream media in combination with the pro censorship Tech Giants (Apple and co.) do everything they can to tear him down.

Follow: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1597404771618430976

Friday, October 14, 2022

3D print display

Prusa, good!
Lizards
Dog, with supports then after their removal
Masks
Sierpinski pyramids

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Kartiya are like Toyotas

If you are wondering why the Australian aboriginal situation never seems to improve then read Kim Mahood's amazingly brilliant and satirical essay from 2012, Kartiya are like Toyotas

kartiya: (western Katherine Region) white person
Extract (one of the serious bits, there are other wickedly funny bits):
The contradiction at the heart of the story is that for the quality of desert Aboriginal lives to improve in the terms demanded by humanitarian standards – in health, education, housing and the like – the people themselves must become more like us, and to become more like us requires them to relinquish the identity from which their resilience and sense of self is drawn. Without their Aboriginal identity they are reduced to society's dross: the poorest, the least employable, the shortest lived, the least literate, the substance abusers and losers and wife bashers. And one of the most powerful ways in which they keep hold of that identity is by defining it against white people.

Among the older people, holding onto traditional culture is the force in which they believe, but the young are like the young in every culture. They don't listen to us, the old people complain, while the young people move in flocks, plugged into iPods and clutching mobile phones, trying whatever drug is available, dreaming of becoming rock stars and film stars and sports stars, using sex as an antidote to boredom. The cultural structures are still there, in skin names, family relationships, identification with country. But they are loosening all the time, as the fine tough threads of high knowledge are wearing out, leaving behind a shadow knowledge that carries the fear of punishment without the protocols and understanding with which to manage it.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sierpinski Pyramid

This began with the aim of making 3D printing an enrichment to the maths curriculum.

While searching I came across this article, 3D printed maths art: 10+ examples. Their number one example was the Sierpinski Pyramid, so lets run with that.

You can find it on thingiverse, Sierpinski pyramid. The animated gif shows how it is made:
The Summary at thingiverse says:

It has the astonishing property that the horizontal cross sections are simply connected and change continuously with height, so can be printed perfectly with spiral mode (or single-walled without infill).

This fractal is half of the octahedron flake (or Sierpinski octahedron). Every triangular face is a Sierpinski triangle, and the base of the pyramid is (approximately) a space-filling curve called the SierpiƄski curve. Figures like the Vicsek fractal also exist in this model.

I must admit that I didn’t understand “spiral mode” and went ahead just by setting infill to 0%. Fortunately, this worked well. Later on I went back and looked up “spiral mode” and I now understand it.

The image at the start shows the 3 different sized pyramids I made on my Prusa MINI+. The small version took roughly 1 hour; the medium version roughly 5 hours; and the large version required 29 hours!!

Here are some progress images of the larger version print:
Further Sierpinski Pyramid possibilities (thingiverse remixes):

Fractal Pyramid Lamp and Base I really loved the look of the fractal pyramid and wanted to turn it into a lamp so i designed a base for it that will house a led strip and print the pyramid with transparent filament to turn it into a lamp. I imagine a glow in the dark filament would work pretty well too. Color of the base is whatever you choose, I recommend using some variation of Silk filament for its reflective properties.

How was the Sierpinski Pyramid made?

Years ago I learnt recursion from Brian Harvey's Logo books. Here is a link to a recursive 2D Sierpinski triangle on the Snap site. Brian is one of the Snap developers.
I just did a simpler one myself (here), without colour or pen size variation. Here's the code:
The making of the 3D version is not explained on thingiverse. The best link I've found so far for the 3D making is this article / poster, Visualizing Fractals Using 3D Printing

Some Further research:
Wolfram language: Sierpinski Mesh

Math Art: Search in thingiverse for the label “math art” (793 things) or “mathematical art” (143 things) and you’ll find lots of possibilities.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Inevitable: Introduction

Kelly, Kevin. The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will Shape our Future (2017)
"... the computer age did not really start until ... computers merged with the telephone. Stand alone computers were inadequate ...

There is a bias in the nature of technology that tilts it in certain directions and not others ... The roots of the digital world are anchored in the physical needs and natural tendencies of bits, information and networks ... Their inevitability stems from their basic physics"

KK initially found computers boring. This changed for him when they became connected and a gigantic world opened up at the other end of the phone line.

Initially, I didn't see the point of computers either. But this changed for me after I read Mindstorms by Seymour Papert. His idea was that a programming language, logo (a simplied version of Lisp), could be used to make maths far more interesting. Turtle geomety. This did arise from the natural tendency of bits, their ability to render variations in geometrical graphics far more quickly than by pencil. This happened before networks so I disagree with KK on that point.

He means inevitable in the sense that new technologies will inevitably create certain things although their form may vary. Some form of internet was inevitable (since humans in general want to communicate) but the exact form of an internet (a network of networks) is not inevitable (public, private, national differences exist, certain things are censored by some countries etc.)

Massive copying is here to to stay. Massive tracking and total surveillance is here to stay. ... We can't stop artificial intelligence and robots ...

Of course, he argues for regulation throughout the book. More on "total surveillance" in Ch 10 Tracking, with reference to Ed Snowden.

"All is flux. Nothing is finished ... This never ending change is the pivotal axis of the modern world.... Our greatest invention in the past 200 years was not a particular gadget or tool but the invention of the scientific process itself ... the process generated a million new products over the centuries ... processes trump products
My only caveat here is that KK talks about the "scientific process" without acknowledging that there is no real agreement about what that really is. eg. refer Andrew Pickering's "The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency & Science", one of many books that interrogates the scientific method.
We are moving away from a world of fixed nouns and towards a world of fluid verbs ... I've waded through the myriad technological forces erupting into the present and I've sorted their change into 12 verbs, such as accessing, tracking, and sharing. To be more accurate, these are not just verbs but present participles, the grammatical form that conveys continuous action.

I think this approach is magnificent. The theme of the book is continuous flux and he discusses the particular technologies in the framework of these action verbs. This is much more interesting than just describing the technologies.

"... digital technologies (computers, internet, apps) favour cheap ubiquitous duplication ... (this) bias is independent of nationality, economic momentum, or human desire, and it steers the technology towards social ubiquity ..."
I looked up the meaning of social ubiquity: presence everywhere or in many places especially simultaneously : omnipresence

Friday, June 24, 2022

Eric Topol: don't relax the fight against COVID

‘Living with Covid’ should be countered by containing the virus once and for all (August 15, 2022)

Why Doctors Should Organise (August 5, 2019)

Operation Nasal Vaccine—Lightning speed to counter COVID-19 (July 21, 2022)

The pandemic and the boiling frog story (July 19, 2022)
If we turn to the boiling frog apologue “The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.” No, we’re not going to get cooked and deaths won’t rise anywhere near the 4,000+ per day levels we have previously seen. But we’re not adequately perceiving the threats that the evolving virus is presenting to us: its fitness is gradually getting enhanced and this is happening at the same time as a constant building of our immunity wall.

BA.5, Chapter 2 (July 11, 2022)
Yes, I called it the worst variant we have seen so far, which The Washington Post editorial board picked up on (and checked with multiple peers before publishing) because of its severity of immune evasion and transmissibility compared with any prior SARS-CoV-2 variant. Not because it causes worse illness, which is still unclear ...

The BA.5 story (June 28, 2022)
My recent posts about our Covid capitulation and the risk of reinfection have tried to hammer home the imperative of next-generation vaccines (pan-coronaviruses, as described above, and nasal) but the frustration keeps mounting as we now confront unsatisfactory deliberations on variant chasing. Meanwhile, new versions of the virus (think: the time it took from Omicron BA.1 to get to BA.5) are accelerating and we’re not done yet, by any stretch. It’s frankly sickening to watch this virus continue to outrun us, knowing we are so damn capable of getting ahead of it.

A reinfection red flag (June 22, 2022)
New COVID Omicron variants BA.4/5 are both escaping vaccines and more infectious. Those who become reinfected display significantly worse medical outcomes on a range of measures (all-cause mortality, cardiovascular, and lung adverse outcomes, 3-fold risk of hospitalization and others). All purpose variant proof vaccines are not being developed aggressively.

A turning point in cancer (June 11, 2022)
Later

The bright side of the Covid pandemic (May 31, 2022)
The sheer breadth of disorders with a potential new, fresh approach, many of which have heretofore had no means of therapy or prevention, is staggering. We’ll look back at the pandemic someday as an extraordinary renaissance in biomedicine, giving rise to a validated pluripotent platform with seemingly unlimited refinements and applications.

The Covid Capitulation (May 16, 2022)
we have a highly unfavorable picture of: (1) accelerated evolution of the virus; (2) increased immune escape of new variants; (2) progressively higher transmissibility and infectiousness; (4) substantially less protection from transmission by vaccines and boosters; (5) some reduction on vaccine/booster protection against hospitalization and death; (6) high vulnerability from infection-acquired immunity only; and (7) likelihood of more noxious new variants in the months ahead

Climbing the ladder of infectiousness (May 5, 2022)
We will certainly get through the BA.2.12.1 challenge, but what’s to come? To debunk the myth, it is not true that variants will get less virulent over time—their evolution is unpredictable, as we have already seen. The problem that lies ahead is the many paths by which yet another noxious variant can show up. To anticipate this next Greek letter variant, we need broad neutralizing antibodies, vaccines that are protective across the beta-coronavirus or sarbecovirus family, and multiple effective medications beyond Paxlovid.

The priority and support for far better vaccines that would be variant-proof has not taken hold. Here is the current list with only a few in development that have reached clinical trials; there is nothing like the Operation Warp Speed accelerated, dedicated initiative that helped make the initial vaccines a major success.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

an innovative 21st C maker ed pathway (part two)

PART TWO: EXEMPLARY SAMPLE SUBJECTS

Part two outlines a variety of engaging subjects that could deliver different aspects of the 21st C maker ed pathway.

The 3 game changers are block coding, physical computing (eg. the micro:bit) and the fab lab or maker space. I agree with this insight which comes from Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager in their book "Invent to Learn". I argue that to have a genuine 21st C education your school has to understand and grasp these game changers firmly and run with them.

I describe below possible courses which constitute school curriculum reform informed by these game changers. Some could be taught as standalone subjects, others could become part of a curriculum integration endeavour, combining various existing subjects. These curriculum offerings can be classified or parsed in various ways. Some of them are:
  • which traditional subjects are integrated (computational thinking invades all subjects)
  • by appropriate year levels
  • appeal to girls (who have missed out in the past)
  • appeal to groups of special interest (indigenous, the disadvantaged)

I have avoided putting lots of links in the main text. Look to the extended reference section at the end for some additional information and links to original sources.

1) Scratch Story Telling (suitable for year 5,6 and 7 mainstream classes)
Scratch multimedia coding is for telling stories in an interesting and entertaining way. I have developed several iterations of an 18 lesson course I teach to Year 7s. Initially the stories are guided with such titles as “The Cat Walks”, “Letter Magic” and “Weird Animals”. Once students have a handle on the basics of Scratch I set them a CyberSafety project which they design themselves to tell a story about on line bullying and what to do about it.

2) ArtBotics (suitable for year 7s Mainstream and Bridging students)

I put a proposal to my school for a new course, called Artbotics, a portmanteau of Art and Robotics. The course application was successful. Gender balance is important so the outcomes do not reflect “toys for the boys”. The art and craft components of the projects should have appropriate weight. Artbotics rather than robotics. Build provocative, tangible sculptures with robotic actuation and sensing

The original “Artbotics” idea came from the PhD thesis of Jennifer Cross.

In one version of this course I use materials developed by Rob Morrill for the Circuit Playground Express (CPX). Rob's course contains 12 guided projects. I have made several of these with Bridging Year 7 students successfully (Light Box, Balance Board, Helmet, Fabric Friend, Gondola and Light Bot) and use them for demos when explaining the benefits of the CPX.

3) Makey Makey musical instruments (suitable for Primary or Middle School students; I have used this activity with indigenous students at Polly Farmer successfully)

Makey Makey can be used to replace the keyboard with other objects such as fruit or alfoil. In conjunction with Scratch students can make a banana piano, cardboard guitar, tin drum or an egg container organ. These activities are very engaging.

You can do a lot more with Makey Makey. See the links in the reference section to Makey Makey and also the books by Josh Burker.

4) Turtle Art (suitable for Middle School students)

Students like this arty version of logo a lot! So far I have used this in two ways:
(a) Bottom up – draw a square, then work out how to draw various regular polygons, then explain how the colours work etc
(b) Top down. Give students the code of an attractive finished product. Copy the code to make it. Students love doing this because the final products are so attractive. The cards I use come from a link to a pdf from an article by Gary Stager "Turtle Art Software".

5) Build a 3D printer (suitable for after school elective activity for year 7-12)

After some research I bought an Original Prusa i3 MK3S+ 3D printer. There are thousands of 3D printing companies out there. My first consideration was the open hardware / open software criterion. Prusa is part of the RepRap project (humanity's first general purpose self replicating machine) so they went onto my short list. Then Prusa has excellent reviews so I was sold.

Through talking to teachers who use 3D printers I became aware of their main limitation for school use. They are slow. Even a simple print takes about 20 minutes so with the setup and remove the print time added on you will only see one student print their design in a normal lesson.

So, I floated the idea of families buying a kit, students assembling them at school and the family keeping the printer. Everyone I mentioned this to almost immediately said “great idea”. So we sent the invitation out to the school community and so far eight families have come on board.

The advantage of this plan is we get 3D printers into the school community without having to worry about the slowness problem. And to build a 3D printer is a huge step towards understanding how they work.

6) Tape Blocks (suitable for students with severe disabilities)

I have used these with a Year 7 Down Syndrome girl and she could build and decorate a circuit and explain how it worked.

Tape blocks can be used to make compelling characters and can be integrated with the micro:bit. See the reference section for more detail. They have been developed by Dr Kirsten Ellis.

7) Android phone App Development with MIT App Inventor
(not trialled in a classroom yet since my school has a ban on smart phones; suitable for capable middle school or senior students)

I’ve written several apps for my phone with this block coding language. These include apps you can draw with (Digital Doodle), a game (Pong), a quiz and music (xylophone). I then wrote a more ambitious app to help users pronounce Arrernte words, the local language here in Alice Springs (Mparntwe). I took this last program to the Alice Springs Language Centre where it was well received but sadly nothing further developed.

8) Culturally Situated Design Tools (suitable for indigenous themes; developed by Ron Eglash et al and used extensively with minorities in the USA)

This site starts with artistic themes, most of them of indigenous origin, and then develops computer algorithms to develop them on the screen. Snap! is often used here. In some cases the art is then converted from digital form to physical form, for example, by etching with a laser cutter

Many cultural designs show how math and computing ideas are embedded in indigenous traditions, graffiti art, and other surprising sources. These “heritage algorithms” can help students learn STEM principles as they simulate the original artefacts, and develop their own creations.

In this spirit I started from Papunya Tula art work, developed exemplars in Snap and theorised the process. See my Dotted Circles exemplar in the reference sections

9) Stitching the Loop (suitable for Middle and Senior school)

Students explore electronic textiles (e-textiles): articles of clothing, accessories, or home furnishings with embedded electronic and computational elements. It meets design, hands on and curriculum integration criteria. I have added some additional useful information in the reference section. For more information watch the video first and then follow the links.

This course developed by "Exploring Computer Science" is fully downloadable under a Creative Commons license.

Whittlesea Tech courses

I have no direct involvement in the courses below but from reading their descriptions they connect directly to the concepts I am promoting: engaging, real life application, integrated curriculum, links to industries outside of school.

The Banyule Nillumbik and Whittlesea Tech Schools are a part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to equip Victoria’s young people with quality skills that industry needs and the knowledge to build careers and create jobs. The aim of Tech Schools is to develop and run specialist STEM programs and activities that help prepare local students for the changing nature of work. Tech Schools are not schools in the traditional sense, but high-tech learning centres. The Government has invested $128 million to establish 10 Tech Schools across the state in 2017 and 2018.
10) Steampunk Gears and Cogs

The objective of this program is to engage students in collaborative design and construction of props and costumes for an imaginary Steampunk-themed film titled Gears & Cogs…
... students will understand the key characteristics of the Steampunk aesthetic, explore the role of props and costumes in film and set design, and their importance for character development.

Students will be introduced to a range of prototyping technologies and techniques such as digital sketching, digital drawing for laser cutting, microcomputers and coding, carboard prototyping and wearable technology. The program concludes with students pitching their design solution to a wider audience and receiving valuable feedback on their product and process.

Note: The online resources for this program are freely available to all teachers via the Victorian Department of Education and Training portal, Fuse (link to teacher booklet, 48pp)

11) The Epping Lab (suitable young people aged 10 to 18 who identify as being on the autism spectrum and enjoy working with computers)

Participants are paired with mentors who have technical expertise in a mutual interest, such as programming, 3D modelling, digital design and gaming. At each weekly two-hour session, mentors work with attendees to develop their social, personal and technology skills. These sessions take an unstructured approach so every session can be different. We want participants to undertake activities because it interests them, not because they have to. The Lab is designed to be a supportive place to visit, hang out and learn whilst having fun.

12) Smart Cities

This multi-level Internet of Things (IoT) Design Course is in collaboration with the City of Whittlesea council and will show students how to build sensors that will make cities both smart and eco-sensitive.

The course focuses on learning how to use a tiny computer called the Raspberry Pi to display sensor data on a web server that the students build and code at home. Students will build and program their own sensor for their backyard and finally help to deploy real-world sensors using The Things Network (TTN) to help solve problems such as flooding, water for River Red Gum tree health, local food production, stormwater pollution and smart rainwater tanks.

13) AutoCrops In partnership with Ecosystem by Farmwall

This innovative company have developed an urban farming solution for the home, allowing users to grow healthy microgreen crops in a fun and convenient way. Students will learn about zero waste growing, aquaponic and hydroponic care, using manufacturing techniques to develop prototypes that automate parts of the Farmwall Home system.

I have included additional information about Farmwall in the reference section

REFERENCE WITH SOME SELECTED ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
App Inventor
Those new to MIT App Inventor can have a simple first app up and running in less than 30 minutes. And what's more, our blocks-based tool facilitates the creation of complex, high-impact apps in significantly less time than traditional programming environments. The MIT App Inventor project seeks to democratize software development by empowering all people, especially young people, to move from technology consumption to technology creation
Burker, Josh. The Invent to Learn Guide to Fun: Classroom Technology Projects (2015)
Burker, Josh. The Invent to Learn Guide to MORE Fun: Classroom Technology Projects (2018)
Cross, Jennifer. Creative Robotic Systems for Talent-Based Learning (2017)
Culturally Situated Design Tools
Kerr, Bill. Dotted circles exemplars
Kerr, Bill. Organising a 3D printer building activity

Farmwall
Year 9 & 10 school program: 40 lesson course
Farmwall shop

Makey Makey
Check out the engaging, incredibly fun Makey Makey promotional video
The Makey Makey site has a page for educators (8 lessons)

Martinez, Sylvia and Stager, Gary. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom. 2nd Edition (2019)
Morrill, Rob. Maker Course for the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express
Prusa 3D printers
Stager, Gary. 20 Things to do with a Computer: Future Visions of Education Inspired by Seymour Papert & Cynthia Solomon's Seminal Work (2021)
Stager, Gary. Turtle Art Software

Stitching the Loop
Course developers include Jane Margolis who has written a book about why disadvantaged groups don’t get access to computer skills (Stuck in the Shallow End) and Yasmin Kafai who has co-authored a book about why children need to learn programming (Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming)
Video: Stitching the Loop
Introducing: E-Textiles – Exploring Computer Science
E-Textiles Curriculum & Projects – Exploring Computer Science

Whittlesea Tech School Programs

Friday, May 06, 2022

an innovative 21stC maker ed pathway (part one)

PART ONE: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Part One paints a brief historical overview of the development of the new maker education over the past 50 years.

Maker Ed 21stC: Although making is older than the wheel, the 21st C version combines something old (making) with something relatively new, digital technology. This combination opens up a broad range of new fruitful educational pathways.

50 year history: This new version of education (Maker Ed) recently celebrated its 50th birthday with the publication of a new book edited by Gary Stager (20 Things to do with a Computer: Future Visions ...) with contributions from roughly 50 authors from multiple countries.

The founding initiators were Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon with their prescient 1972 article (see reference section). The ideas and practice are not new. But, as so often happens, due to declining costs of the technology, these ideas are now far more accessible. (Footnote: see Blikstein’s 5 reasons for this trend)

Bits and Atoms: Both software (then called logo) and hardware (the floor turtle) were there from the beginning. There has been a massive proliferation in both software and hardware since.

The original floor turtle (1969)


Coding: The original logo software has been through several iterations. The current most popular version is Scratch 3. The Scratch website kicked off in 2007. Today, with more than 43 million registered users, Scratch is now the world's largest creative coding community for children.

Block coding: Scratch has popularised block coding. Sadly, it seems that many teachers and education administrators still don’t understand the significance of block coding. Many still believe that coding is difficult and hence mainly for geeks. But the proven reality is that block coding makes it accessible to 99% of students. It is easy to build an engaging project in 10 minutes.

Year 7s can make the cat walk in 10 minutes


Microcontrollers: Although arduino has been around since 2005 the advent of the micro:bit (2014) and Circuit Playground Express (2017) marked a further advance due to the relative ease of block coding and controls on the board itself (buttons, touch, accelerometer). From early 2016, up to one million micro:bits were distributed to Year 7 students (or equivalent, aged 11-12), non-formal education settings and libraries across the UK in a project led by BBC Education

The micro:bit


Proliferation of block coding: In conjunction with the micro:bit Microsoft developed MakeCode, another block code variant.

Hardware: After the floor turtle, Seymour Papert then collaborated with the LEGO company to produce computer controlled robotics (LEGO TC Logo, 1985). Since then the floodgates have opened. There are so many computer controlled kits on the market now that it is hard to keep track and teacher’s do need guidance to evaluate the educational pros and cons: Makey Makey, Arduino, Little Bits, Ozobot, Micro:bit, Chibi Chip, Circuit Playground Express, Lilypad, Bee-Bot, Dash and Dot, Sphero, Edison, Drones – add or choose your favourite

By the way, with Scratch 3 a lot of hardware can be connected and controlled (Makey Makey, the micro:bit, LEGO Mindstorms EV3)

Fab Lab: Neil Gershenfeld (MIT) created a new course in 2003 called “How to Make Almost Anything” and found people queuing to take it. Since then Fab Labs have been growing exponentially around the world! Yes, exponentially! Fab stands for Fabrication or Fabulous, take your pick. The five machines found in a Fab Lab are the 3D printer, the laser cutter, CNC machine, Digital Embroidery machine and the Vinyl cutter. The ability to make almost anything potentially alters the relationship between consumers and producers.

A Fab Lab


Note that the most popular machine in a Fab Lab is not the 3D printer but the laser cutter, due partly to the quick production times

Maker Movement: The modern Maker Movement was created around 2005. The movement has a regular magazine (“Make”) and holds regular Maker Faires (“The Greatest Show-and-Tell on Earth”). In his chronology Dale Dougherty lists some of the many companies, websites and technologies that have grown up around this movement: Spark Fun, Arduino, Instructables, Adafruit, RepRap Darwin 3D printer, DIY Drones and many more.

Fab Learn Lab: Paulo Blikstein developed the Fab Learn Lab for schools (2008). A Fab Learn lab has the same machines as a Fab Lab but in the desktop variety. If schools value an activity then they build a space for it: Science labs, PE spaces, computer labs etc. A Fab Learn lab doesn’t have to have all the capabilities of a full Fab Lab, but needs to have enough to put students onto that pathway.

Part Two will focus on new courses that emerge from 21st C Maker Education environments.
Part Three will delve into the optimal teaching methodologies to deliver these programmes.


Footnote: According to Blikstein (2018), the interest in the creation, dissemination, and popularization of makerspaces can be attributed to five trends:
  1. the greater social acceptance of ideas and principles of progressive education;
  2. countries’ interest in establishing a base for an innovative economy;
  3. the growth of public awareness, in addition to the popularity of computer programming combined with the creation and production of artifacts;
  4. the sharp reduction in the cost of digital information and communication technologies (DICT), as well as digital fabrication technologies (DFT)
  5. the development of tools that are more powerful and easier for students to use, along with studies and publications in academic research focused on the effect and impact of these new technologies on learning
REFERENCE
Blikstein, Paulo. Digital Fabrication and ‘Making’ in Education: The Democratization of Invention (2013)
Blikstein P. (2018). Maker Movement in Education: History and Prospects. In: de Vries M. (Ed.) Handbook of Technology Education. Springer International Handbooks of Education. Springer, Cham. Gershenfeld, Neil; Gershenfeld, Alan; Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld. Designing Reality: How to Survive and Thrive in the Third Digital Revolution (2017)
Dougherty, Dale. Free to Make: How the Maker Movement is Changing our Schools, Our Jobs, and our Minds (2016)
Make Magazine
Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. Harvester Press, 1980.
Papert, Seymour & Solomon, Cynthia. Twenty Things to do with a Computer (1972)
Stager, Gary (Editor). 20 Things to do with a Computer: Future Visions of Education Inspired by Seymour Papert & Cynthia Solomon's Seminal Work (2021)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Whittlesea Tech School



I don't know this school from the inside but have looked at their programs and see them as exemplary. Different educational pathways are always possible so it's important to identify those who get it right. For that reason I want to spell out some of their programs on my blog in some detail.



Whittlesea Tech School Programs
Note: This school is not a one off but part of a well thought out initiative by the Victorian government. See notes at the end for proof of this.

STUDENT PROGRAMS

AutoCrops
In partnership with Ecosystem by Farmwall
This innovative company have developed an urban farming solution for the home, allowing users to grow healthy microgreen crops in a fun and convenient way. Students will learn about zero waste growing, aquaponic and hydroponic care, using manufacturing techniques to develop prototypes that automate parts of the Farmwall Home system.

Steampunk Gears and Cogs
The objective of this program is to engage students in collaborative design and construction of props and costumes for an imaginary Steampunk-themed film titled Gears & Cogs…
... students will understand the key characteristics of the Steampunk aesthetic, explore the role of props and costumes in film and set design, and their importance for character development.

Students will be introduced to a range of prototyping technologies and techniques such as digital sketching, digital drawing for laser cutting, microcomputers and coding, carboard prototyping and wearable technology. The program concludes with students pitching their design solution to a wider audience and receiving valuable feedback on their product and process.

Note: The online resources for this program are freely available to all teachers via the Victorian Department of Education and Training portal, Fuse (link to teacher booklet, 48pp)
Tech Skill Ups:
Tech would be dependent on the availability at the host school. However, at the Tech School, we offered 3D modelling (TinkerCAD), digital design (Adobe Illustrator CC) and coding with microcontrollers (micro:bit) as well as low-tech options.

The Epping Lab
The Lab is a technology club for young people aged 10 to 18 who identify as being on the autism spectrum and enjoy working with computers. Participants are paired with mentors who have technical expertise in a mutual interest, such as programming, 3D modelling, digital design and gaming. At each weekly two-hour session, mentors work with attendees to develop their social, personal and technology skills. These sessions take an unstructured approach so every session can be different. We want participants to undertake activities because it interests them, not because they have to. The Lab is designed to be a supportive place to visit, hang out and learn whilst having fun.

Design Club
An introductory workshop series using industry-standard design software, Adobe Illustrator. Over six weeks, participants will be introduced to a different topic and tools each week, including basic drawing, tracing perspective, gradient and collage.

STEAMengine
Wednesdays 3:30-6 pm, Weeks 1-10 of Terms 1-4 (except Weeks 1 and 2 of Term 1)
STEAMengine is our makerspace for secondary school students, teachers, and community members to undertake self-directed learning in line with their own technology interests. During this designated weekly time slot, attendees have access to the advanced manufacturing equipment and resources available at the Tech School. With the guidance of Tech School staff and qualified makerspace members, anyone can learn to use the tools they require for their own personal projects.

The main objective of the sessions is for people to follow their own interests and as such, no specific program content is provided. However, for those new to making and tinkering with tech, we run a 1-hour introductory session that focuses on a different piece of tech each week.

At no fee, these times are also available for small businesses to come in and use the Tech School facilities to test their new ideas, prototype their new products, or consult with Tech School staff about manufacturing processes. Places are limited so make sure to register!

Smart Cities
In collaboration with the City of Whittlesea Council
Who: Years 7-12 from Banyule Nillumbik and Whittlesea Local Government Areas
When: Tuesdays 4-5:30 pm; Weeks 3-10 of Terms 1-4
Where: Online
This multi-level Internet of Things (IoT) Design Course is in collaboration with the City of Whittlesea council and will show students how to build sensors that will make cities both smart and eco-sensitive.

The course focuses on learning how to use a tiny computer called the Raspberry Pi to display sensor data on a web server that the students build and code at home. Students will build and program their own sensor for their backyard and finally help to deploy real-world sensors using The Things Network (TTN) to help solve problems such as flooding, water for River Red Gum tree health, local food production, stormwater pollution and smart rainwater tanks.

STEM Arcade
Term: 1-4
Program Type: Remote Learning Program (Design Challenge)
Duration: Approx. 10 hours
Year Level: 7-12

Learning through gaming or play can be a powerful method for understanding difficult concepts. In this design challenge, students will create an arcade game that demonstrates a STEM principle for a younger audience. Students will program custom games, design unique controllers and build cabinets that create an engaging experience for primary school students.

During this program, students unpack STEM concepts and consider the importance of good scientific literacy. Students will also investigate the expansion of the video game industry and its STEM careers. Class discussions and participation in learning activities will provide insight into the fundamentals of good game design – game loops, core mechanics, immersion, challenge and interaction.​ Students will then have the opportunity to create their own prototypes using a range of emerging technologies, including programming using MakeCode Arcade, 3D modelling, microcontrollers and digital design. 

Note: Although this program is a remote offering, partner school teachers have the option to book their class into our Online Tech Skill-Up sessions that are facilitated by Tech School staff. Get in touch for more information.

6 programs for teachers
TECH SKILL UPS (90 minutes)
Game Design
Microsoft MakeCode Arcade

Intro to coding and microcontrollers
Microbit

Intermediate programming and microcontrollers
The Grove Inventor Extension Kit comes packed with four additional inputs (gesture, ultrasonic and light sensors as well as a potentiometer) and four additional output methods (speaker, 4 digit display, LED light strip and single LED module) plus an extension board to dock the micro:bit and open up additional pins for all these new gadgets!

Introduction to App Design
MIT App Inventor

Introduction to 3D modelling
TinkerCAD

Digital Product Design
Adobe Illustrator

Related: 21st Century Curriculum Combine my 13 curriculum innovation ideas with those above and how many do you get altogether? I haven't done that sum yet.

Whittlesea Tech is part of the Melbourne Polytechnic cluster. As is Banyule Nillumbik Tech, which has similar programs. They both use the facilities of the STEAMengine Fab Lab.

Whittlesea Tech Facebook
Whittlesea Tech twitter
Whittlesea Tech Instagram

I also notice links to other Tech schools which appear to have similar programs:
Geelong Tech School
Casey Tech School

UPDATE 10th May 2022:
Section 1, pp. 4-19 of this teacher booklet is an invaluable overview of the vision, rationale, curriculum design and program suite offered at Banyule Nillumbik and Whittlesea Tech Schools. They are not schools in the traditional sense but offer a range of services to schools in northern Melbourne.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

activity or CV update

This is an update of my maker ed or constructionist activities since I’ve arrived in Alice Springs over four years ago (and some earlier activities too). I developed this while upgrading my CV. If you want to read one of the articles labelled blog then either search this site or follow the link at the bottom of the page.

2022
  • bought and demonstrated the 3Doodler pen to staff at my school
  • developed new Scratch cloning and list processing activities for a year 8 Digital Technology class
  • 3D printed some Halloween masks requested by indigenous Bridging students
  • one of our teams won the rebooted Alice Springs RoboCup competition (LEGO robotics). I wrote an article for the school newsletter about this.
  • visited and had discussions with expert Digital Technology teachers in Melbourne (Veena Nair, Carlin Greaves)
  • have been teaching myself Spike LEGO in preparation for use with a Year 8 Digital Technology class
  • wrote Innovation meets resistance: the war between ancients and moderns (blog)
  • participated in LEGO EV3 workshops (Alice Springs RoboCup preparation LEGO group)
  • two articles were published in the schools newsletter about the 3D printer build activity (both initiated and one written by me)
  • led 3D printer building and development Ex Activity
  • wrote Own your own factory, that makes more factories (3D print philosophy statement, blog)
  • developed Snap course for year 8 Dig Tech class
  • participated in the Snap online forum
2021
  • my article, The Wider Walls was published in 20 Things to do with a Computer: Future Visions of Education Inspired by Seymour Papert & Cynthia Solomon's Seminal Work (2021) edited by Gary Stager
  • initiated and developed a 3D printer build course (families buy kits and students build the printers at school)
  • researched 3D printers – found and talked to expert teachers (Veena Nair, Kirsten Hebden) and decided on (a) best buy (b) how to make it work in a school
  • wrote The 3 game changers: high level overview of the possibilities (blog)
  • wrote 21st C curriculum, a description of 13 possible emergent subjects (blog)
  • wrote Thoughts on reading Paulo Blikstein, the founder of the Fab Learn school movement (blog)
  • pursued a Community Fab Lab initiative by approaching a variety of people in Alice Springs to discuss the concept
  • used Turtle Art, browser variation with a Year 7 Bridging maths class
  • developed a musical glove for the Circuit Playground Express
  • wrote Maker space and middle school curriculum reform, the vision, the possibilities, outcomes and required equipment (blog)
  • ran a Circuit Playground Express robotics course for Bridging students (based on Rob Morrill’s course which I found on the web)
  • ran sessions about Makey makey with Scratch to develop musical instruments at Polly Farmer
  • wrote don’t separate the what from the how (blog): documented Mitch Resnick’s insights into the criteria to use in teaching digital technology
2020:
  • used Leah Buechley’s Lilypad Arduino Sew Electric Kit to design and make a monster who sings and twinkles when you squeeze its paws
  • completed a variety of Circuit Playground Express tutorials and developed worksheets (about the pins, neopixel strips, sensors, examples, projects and games)
  • developed activities to show that the Circuit Playground Express is a viable curriculum alternative to the microbit
  • further upgraded my year 7 Scratch course so that each introductory project is a mini story
  • bought the Adeept sensor kit for the microbit and completed their 34 tutorials in both MakeCode and Python
  • developed Course outlines in 2 new areas: artbotics and digital wearables
  • initiated discussion with Performing Arts faculty about the potential for digital enhancement using microcontrollers (wearables) – not successful
  • received an Innovation Award from my school
  • received a $15,000 budget to help develop an innovative course (Artbotics) at my school
  • presented ideas for a new course in Artbotics to school leadership
  • ran sessions in microbits for indigenous students at Polly Farmer
  • organised Tape Blocks sessions for a Downs Syndrome student to help her understand electrical circuits
  • outlined how 75% of the maths curriculum could be taught using Scratch, SNAP and Excel
  • ran a Round Square Scratch coding competition for Year 7s
2019
  • developed the 3 game changers idea through reading books Stager / Martinez and the three Gershenfelds.
  • wrote a course based on ACARA Digital Technologies criteria. For these lesson I’ve focused on computer coding using Scratch 3 and the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide (Scratch 3.0) developed by The Creative Computing Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • developed a set of indigenous icons suitable for use in Scratch and have used these successfully in class.
  • purchased a Chibitronics Love to Code kit which uses electronic circuits on paper in a storybook format.
  • continued my research by reading online PhD theses by Tom Lauwers, Debra Bernstein and Jennifer Cross available through the Bird Brain Technologies Research page
  • wrote Culturally Situated Design Tools: Dotted Circles Exemplar (this blog contained some original theory as well as examples!)

2018
  • completed two courses run by the Computer Science Education Research Group at The School of Computer Science, The University of Adelaide (CSER MOOCs). These were:
    • CSER F-6 Digital Technologies: Foundations course
    • Years 7 & 8 Digital Technologies: Next Steps Making Apps course
  • the latter course utilised MIT App Inventor and using this program I wrote several apps for my Android phone
  • published one of my apps online (“Arrernte Language”) which improves the learning of an indigenous language (Arrernte) and could be easily modified for any other language.
  • wrote and published “The teaching of coding” (2,100 words) which outlines a creative and productive way to teach coding.
  • explored the Collabrify suite developed by Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris, with a view to improving collaboration between students
  • purchased a Tello drone and explored its functions
  • read “Internet on the Outstation” by Ellie Rennie and co about the still unsolved problems of providing Internet to very remote locations in Australia. Followed up later by talking to Ellie Rennie in Melbourne
  • explored the possibility of using RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education & Learning) to solve the problem of poor Internet access to very remote Australians. It's a portable plug-and-play server which stores educational websites and makes that content available over any local (offline) wireless connection
  • wrote a preliminary course outline for the microbit
  • ran micro:bit workshops for IndigiMOB in three Alice Springs town camps and at the Polly Farmer after school program at Centralian Middle School
  • explored micro:bit extensions into electronics with the Kitronik and Monk Makes kits.
EARLIER YEARS

In 2008-09 I designed courses for students to evaluate the software on the One Laptop Per Child project and published the results on the web.

I was a leading member of the Computer Game Design, Programming, Multimedia and Mathematics cluster (2005-07) which won funding from the Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics (ASISTM) Project. I was recognised as a CEGSA (Computing Education Group of South Australia) Leading Light (acknowledging contributions to ICT in Education) in both 2006 and 2007. I have presented papers to teachers at state and national conferences about Logo philosophy and related issues: game making, Seymour Papert's constructionism and Alan Kay's educational philosophy

I am an advocate and active user of Open Source software since it is free and often great software. I note the potential of indigenous language dictionaries being incorporated into Libre Office.

I have a long term ongoing interest in the issue of affordable / cheap, reliable computing hardware. I was an active participant in the OLPC (one laptop per child) project and pursue an interest in Raspberry Pi and tablets.

RELATED
My "big picture" publications about the 3 game changers of 21st Century learning

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

40 shapes challenge sheet

I've made the sheet available as a pdf here
This is a great challenge for any version of logo (Scratch, Snap! etc.). Snap is better since you can make blocks to avoid screen clutter.

This comes from Barry Newell's book "Turtle Confusion: Logo Puzzles and Riddles" (1988). It can be used as a series of challenges. Depending on the class I've usually found that some scaffolding for some of the shapes is required for some students.

I have developed other worksheets which either
  •  provide scaffold or tips for some of the shapes, eg. with shapes 6 and 7 it is best if the turtle starts and finishes in the centre; then a genuine shape 38 is not too hard (there are 36 vertices in shape 38)
  • enrichment, eg. develop block code with variables for shapes 1, 2 and 5 (rather fiddly for shapes 3 and 4 so I left them out for this part)

My "big picture" publications about the 3 game changers of 21st Century learning

These are my more substantial, big picture, publications, gathered in one place (there are many other more detailed descriptions of particular apps or hardware toys I have made not listed here):

Whittlesea Tech School (April 2022)

innovation meets resistance: the war between ancients and moderns (April 2022)

Own your own factory, that makes more factories (March 2022)

Organising a 3D printer building activity (January 2022)

the 3 game changers: high level overview of the possibilities (September 2021)

21st Century Curriculum (September 2021)

Thoughts on reading Paulo Blikstein, the founder of the Fab Learn Schools Movement (August 2021)

dotted circles revisited (July 2021)

The Wider Walls in a book commemorating the 50th anniversary of the seminal paper by Cynthia Solomon and Seymour Papert, “Twenty Things to Do with a Computer.” (April 2021)

Your town need a community Fab Lab (July 2021)

Maker Space and Middle School Curriculum Reform (June 2021)

don't separate the what from the how (January 2021)

Culturally Situated Design Tools: Dotted Circles Exemplar (December 2019)

The three game changers and disadvantaged youth (Nov 2019): presented to and discussed with Leon Tripp, Regional Youth Programs Coordinator, Southern Region, Department of the Chief Minister and Cabinet

integrating the digital technology curriculum with indigenous knowledge systems (October 2019)

how to evaluate construction kits: ten design principles (July 2019)

my evolving mangle -> ethnocomputing (July 2019)

Digital Innovation in Secondary Schools (July 2019) Submission to The Education and Health Standing Committee (a committee of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly) inquiry into Digital Innovation in Secondary Education

The teaching of coding (Jan 2019)

an old quote from Hal Abelson (December 2018)

technology as trickster, revisited (April 2018)

why software might be superior knowledge (April 2018)

Monday, April 11, 2022

Nested sprites in Snap!

There is a Swimmer in Snap Examples which features 13 sprites attached to each other but I wanted a simpler example to teach to new Snap learners.

Read page 10 of the Snap! Manual for an overview of Sprite Nesting: Anchor and Parts:
Sometimes it’s desirable to make a sort of “super-sprite” composed of pieces that can move together but can also be separately articulated

I asked in the Snap Forum and cymplecy made a few suggestions: a car spinning its wheels, a Ferris wheel or a face blinking its eyes or moving its mouth.

CAR SPINNING ITS WHEELS

car_spin_wheels

Cymplecy observed that it's easier to do this in Snap! than Scratch.

Set the car pivot point half way between the 2 wheels and horizontal with the centres of the wheels. Otherwise, the wheels will spin out when you bounce off the wall.

I made the wheel by duplicating the car and rubbing out everything except one wheel. Set the pivot point of the wheels in the centre of the wheel, of course.

I reset the spin direction of the wheels to correlate with the car direction. It also works fine if you change the size of the car.

FERRIS WHEEL

ferris_wheel

If teaching this to beginners I'd give them the wheel and carriage to start with and teach the sprite nesting technique. The parts have a synchronous / dangling flag. The dangling option works well here, as the wheel rotates.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Scratch chimney smoke clones

I got this idea from a project by njasia (How to Clone) on the Scratch site. The main changes I made were using a timer to vary the wind.
My chimney smoke clone project is here

The smoke particles were made with a ball filled with a black colour

The size and brightness of those particles was set to realistic values
Smoke clones were created
A wind variable was made and the value randomised every 3 seconds by resetting the timer every 4 seconds
Realistic smoke effects were achieved by increasing y (to make it rise) and adding the changing wind to another random x (to achieve some spread of smoke). When the smoke clones touched the top edge they were destroyed
This could be varied to make fireworks, snow or mouse trails, not to mention games. as suggested in the Scratch wiki here

Update (15/4/22): Animating a visual poem by Joan Brossa with Scratch
A how to article with a link to a great project. This one is more work because you need images of the whole alphabet.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

innovation meets resistance: the war between ancients and moderns

Innovation meets resistance. Let’s assume that there is an innovation or a raft of innovations that would significantly enhance a community or education system. But the bearer discovers that they can’t get them implemented. What are the factors at play preventing this happening?

  1. Those in power (ie. those with more opportunity and influence) don’t fully understand the innovation or it’s importance (and are reluctant to admit this). Although there is often some understanding in my honest opinion it is usually shallow, not deep. Innovation is often complex and requires deep understanding of a variety of factors. If you don’t understand it then how can you really help to implement it?
  2. There might be some partial understanding but a lack of will or energy to solve all the problems that will arise in implementing the innovation. Innovation does require energy, determination and ability to solve problems. Innovation is usually not easy.
  3. Innovation often requires special infrastructure, organisational factors and new technology, which in turn require money. If these are not put in place then the chances of success are significantly reduced. New ideas will not succeed by magic, their implementation requires careful planning and foresight.

All three are required for innovation to be successful. If understanding of any one of the three is shallow then success will be less likely than it could be.

I have been trying to introduce a variety of innovations into Alice Springs: block coding (Snap as well as Scratch), app inventor, the Fab Lab, microcontrollers, Maker Education, 3D printers. The focus here is on what Stager and Martinez have called the 3 game changers. One goal here is to bring education into the 21st Century. Although I have had a little success it is frustrating how slowly things are progressing.

What is happening here? That is what I am trying to understand. Australian education is a huge, centralised system (eg. ACARA). This system is so preoccupied with reproducing itself that it doesn't seem able to recognise or evaluate a good innovation. The responses I get vary from being ignored completely or someone might initially show interest but then forget about it (and then change their story) or if I press I might get some comical bureauspeak in reply. What I have learnt is that it is really, really hard to introduce a good innovation. See the quote from the article below, about the war between the ancients and moderns:
It's been proven time and again that any institution that makes it the responsibility of the general manager to be in charge of both the ongoing business and the innovative efforts for creating tomorrow's new and different business usually ends without significant innovation
REFERENCE
MINE
the 3 game changers: high level overview
21st Century Curriculum
maker space and middle school curriculum reform
your town needs a community Fab lab
Organising a 3D printer activity
Scratch course new upgrade
the teaching of coding
OTHER
Martinez, Sylvia and Stager, Gary. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom. 2nd Edition (2019)
Ridley, Matt How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom (2020)
Why Real Innovation Is Always Met With Fierce Resistance … and What To Do About It
extract from the last one:

Today, many universities and colleges are entering the field of web-based degree granting and certification programs. The savvy schools such as Cornell and Penn State have created completely separate, autonomous units to deliver, market and grow online training. Others are following their example.

If this isn't done, it's almost guaranteed that "a war of the ancients against the moderns" will erupt and threaten the internal upstart web-based learning organization–and deprive it of the resources needed to innovate successfully.

To repeat: It's been proven time and again that any institution that makes it the responsibility of the general manager to be in charge of both the ongoing business and the innovative efforts for creating tomorrow's new and different business usually ends without significant innovation.

And the traditional blame game inevitably occurs. Everyone becomes frustrated, demoralized and (many times) embittered.