Sunday, July 23, 2023

scaffold for the Turtle Art Tiles Project

I've developed a sequence to help students towards interesting designs for their Turtle Art Tiles Project. This turned out to be a combination of some shapes from Barry Newell's old booklet and some others I discerned from the images in the Project itself. The idea is to start students on simple shapes and then show them hints to some pathways to more complex shapes.
Newell, Barry. Turtle Confusion (1988)
Stager, Gary & Martinez, Sylvia. Turtle Art Tiles Project Guide (adapted from the original Josh Burker article)

Friday, July 21, 2023

ELECFREAKS Nezha kit workshop

What appeals to me about this kit:
  • It’s much cheaper than the established kits (Spike LEGO costs $670 AUD, Nezha kit costs $212 AUD when you include a micro:bit)
  • They have setup a wiki with 72 build cases so you are never going to run out of things to build
  • Design for Designers principle: Some, actually quite a few kits are too finished and polished. But with the Nezha kit you can design a wide variety of interesting things, it is not finished or limited to a narrow range of functions
  • Their wiki takes you through the building and coding step by step.
  • Like other LEGO kits it simplifies the building process because all the things you need to build with come with the kit (although this is both a positive and a downside when you think about it, long story)
There are some problems with the Nezha kit too:
  • The LEGO build diagrams in the wiki are too small IMO, although usually very helpful, they are sometimes difficult to decipher clearly. I suppose a good side of this is that you sometimes have to think carefully when building, not just blindly follow. But experience shows that some students become frustrated and spit the dummy
  • It doesn’t come with a compartmentalised case so you need to find an old LEGO case or some such to organise the pieces
  • Tight fits, I needed pliers to remove some parts when unpacking (can be an issue with all LEGO)
update 7/8/2023 more problem issues:
When you look more closely at the Nezha's 72 cases you realise that quite a few can't be made without purchasing additional sensors from ELECFREAKS

For these cases (29 Dazzling Car, 33 Colour Controlled Lights 35 Colour Recognition Car) you need both the colour sensor and the rainbow LED ring, which don't come with the Nezha kit. For these cases (64 The Intelligent Forklift, 66 The Voice Controlled Car) you need a speech recognition sensor.

There are other cases like this that require other sensors as well.

My reaction has been to buy more sensors namely colour, LED rainbow, OLED display, gesture, speech recogniton. I've also bought another Nezha expansion board so I can build two projects at once and a laser and 8x16 matrix. My new purchases came to $117 USD. This still puts the combined price of the Nezha kit (plus my extensions) below that of a Spike LEGO kit.

Goal: To make an Obstacle Avoidance Car
Materials: Nezha ELECFREAKS kit + micro:bit
One good place to start is Case 12: Obstacle Avoidance Car
Online instructions: here
This LEGO build has 18 steps. It is a good one to start with because the LEGO build is not too hard and the finished car interacts with the user in an interesting way.
Learning: Building with LEGO, Ultrasonic sensor for obstacle detection, MakeCode coding, micro:bit experience
Nezha Inventors Kit (described and sold here)
Wiki section for the Nezha kit: the 76 cases are displayed here

Some other things I have built with the Nezha kit:
Case 8: Speed adjustable fan
LEGO build: 12 steps
Adjust the speed of the fan with the potentiometer

Case 11: Line Tracking Car
LEGO build 21 steps
The car follows a black line

Now for a more difficult build for advanced students who are prepared to problem solve and persist:
Case 1: The Mechanical Shrimp online instructions
This LEGO build has 33 steps and some of them are tricky, especially given the small diagrams.
The mechanical shrimp moves forward and waves the princers, it will change direction if there are obstacles being detected.
Learning: Building with LEGO, Ultrasonic sensor for direction change, Servo controls the pincers, MakeCode coding, microbit experience

Case 41: The Forklift, online instructions
This LEGO build has 53 steps. I made a few mistakes along the way and had to do some rebuilding.

There is an error in the suggested code on the site. The A button code lifts the fork but doesn't return it to the ground. The B button code works as it should.
Case 44: Tight rope walker, online instructions

I wanted to build this one because it was different. This LEGO build has 57 steps. I had to do some pulling apart and rebuilding at the end to fit in the rubber band.
The code on the site doesn't work very well. The walker goes too fast and only forward. I improved the code. My code makes the walker move backwards and forwards at a suitable pace.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

art shaped: Darrell Wakelam workshop

Goal: Make a mouse from an egg carton
Materials: egg box, cocktail sticks, buttons or tin foil, googly eyes, scissors, sharp pencil(!),Tacky glue
Step by step:
Scroll down for the mouse build instructions, it’s the third one down
Or, download the PDF (50 makes)

As with all making you will hit a few frustrating obstacles on the way. That’s why makers become resourceful and resilient learners. I found I needed a sharp pencil to help punch holes for the cocktail sticks which form the whiskers.

Darrell Wakelam is a very creative, smart and generous man. He has the open source spirit. Even though he makes so many resources available for free online I had to buy his book because creative, smart and generous people ought to be supported and promoted.

Buy the book!
Download the PDF (50 makes)
Watch his YouTube channel 46 videos
Follow on twitter!

So far I have made just three of the designs suggested by Darrell Wakelam.
A mouse from an egg container (see above)

A chameleon from a paper plate
A fish from pasta

These are just a few of the up to a hundred different design ideas he has from recycled materials. I plan to do more.

It’s fairly straightforward, ie. open to nearly all, because many of his designs are on his site for free. You will need a few materials and then follow his step by step instructions

Each activity requires some sort of specialist although easily available materials as well as the materials common to most projects. You could group them into these type categories:
paper plate – chameleon, puffin, caterpillar, baby shark
egg carton – mouse, monkey, chick, easter bunny
toilet roll – pirate ship, rocket ship, icecream, seahorse, heads, bird, flytrap
plastic milk carton – clown, elephant, warrior
just cardboard – castle, owl, sticky fish, starfish

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

makey makey guitar workshop

Goal: Make a musical instrument using Makey Makey and Scratch
For fun introduction: variety of fruit
For simple guitar: Makey Makey, cardboard, duct or masking tape, scissors, alfoil, silver coins, Computer, Internet, Scratch site access
For other instruments: copper tape, other materials depending on the instrument
1) Make a cardboard guitar
2) Attach 6 coins, label them music notes C D E F G A
3) Alfoil on the neck of the guitar
4) Hook up to the makey makey
Makey key to note connection:
left arrow = C note, up arrow = D, down arrow=E right arrow =F, space bar=G, w key =A
5) Scratch page: makey_guitar

Play a tune
C C G G A A G (rest)
Twinkle twinkle little star
F F E E D D C (rest)
How I wonder where you are
G G F F E E D (rest)
Up above the world so high
G G F F E E D (rest)
Like a diamond in the sky ...

Burker, Josh Invent to Learn Guide to Fun (2015), pp. 53-64
Josh shows how do makey makey versions of a piano, guitar, trumpet, drums, trombone and unusual instruments

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

working with acrylics

This follows on from my earlier posts about the Turtle Art tiles project and working with clay. Since I don't have an art background I needed to look up guidelines and then try them out in practice.
  • high quality acrylics look much better than the kids version; even so these ones I bought from Mad Harry’s seem quite good to me
  • Paper plate for a pallete works fine
  • Plastic kitchen place mat from Woolies 
  • Don’t let the paint dry. If you are interrupted, then cover with gladwrap
  • Wash out your brushes in a glass of water and dry with a paper towel to change colours
  • Gently paper towel brushes at end to keep the bristles shaped, stray brush hairs are bothersome
  • Blend colours, eg. I blended green and white for the border colour
  • I still haven’t bought glaze but plan to do so soon

working with clay
turtle art tiles project

Sunday, July 16, 2023

working with clay

Here are my notes on working with clay to make the Turtle Art designed - 3D printed impression shown above. See the link at the bottom for the back story. My first template was 7.5mm high. I experimented by reducing the height to 2mm so as to reduce printing time. I'm happy with 2mm but you need a pair of pliers to remove the template from the clay.
  • air drying clay – wrap in gladwrap after using and place into an air tight container
  • Plastic mat - bought at Woolies after failing to find wax (water resistant) paper
  • 3D printed template – to make an impression in the clay, 90mm x 90mm x 2mm high
  • square perimeter template to neatly cut out around the clay 95mm x 95mm x 10mm
  • rolling pin – bought at Coles – I try to roll the clay to 6mm thickness – what I’m missing is a couple of wooden guides at the side 6mm thick, see the pic from the Turtle Art Tiles Project Guide ->
  • Sharp knives – I used the smaller one to cut the clay packet and the larger one to trim the edges after I had applied the square perimeter template
  • Pliers – I needed these to remove the 3D printed template from the clay after I had made the impression
  • Tweezers – I used these to tidy up some raised sections of clay after I had made the impression
  • Water – I didn’t use water this time but handy if you have to join sections of clay together. But since our clay work is so simple – just roll a slab of clay to 6mm thickness it normally won’t be needed – if you have to join separate bits of clay just roll them together vigorously and then flatten it out with hand and rolling pin
  • Scraper – I used this to remove the clay from the mat after I had made the impression
Related: Turtle Art Tiles Project

Monday, July 10, 2023

turtle art tiles project

Do you want to make this? Looks interesting!
Pics from Turtle Art Tiles Project Guide

I’ve been in possession and an admirer of Josh Burker’s Invent to Learn Guide to Fun book for a while now. My interest was further piqued when Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager made an online offer of a version of his “Turtle Art Tiles” Project. Then, recently, I was given the opportunity to teach a Year 8 “Inventiveness” class at my school. So, I thought this would be an ideal project for this class.

This project involves some significant transformations from bits to atoms: from Turtle Art, to Tinkercad to 3D prints and then to a painted clay product. I’ve previously had some experience in the first three but working with clay is something new for me.

First up, you make a design in Turtle Art. I didn’t copy either guide here but decided to make a well known tessellation that I had done before:

Through Turtle Art you can then save as an SVG and from there import it into Tinkercad. Once there I used the ruler to resize the shape to 90x90x7.5 mm. Then export the file from Tinkercad as an STL and import it into PrusaSlicer.

Next 3D print the shape and use the print to imprint the clay and, finally, paint the clay:

OK that’s one down and I can probably do better next time, especially with the clay and paint section.

I will now write in more detail about bringing this activity into my Year 8 "Inventiveness" class, which is due to start in a couple of weeks.

I can anticipate issues that will arise. It’s a large (22) mixed ability class. Some of the students will be enthused and eat it up, others will struggle with the complexity of it … coding, variables, file management, the transformations, messy clay and other technical / personal / attitudinal issues I can’t even imagine yet.

Economics: Currently my school is cash strapped. There is no shortage of computers or internet but for the clay steps to happen probably I will have to buy the materials myself. Partly because of that I’m thinking about alternative pathways. But I have other reasons too.

Bottlenecks: I’ll be taking my own Prusa 3D printers to school for students to use. I own 4, two MINI+’s and two MK3S+’s. But four is not enough given that 3D printers are slow. So, at this stage of the process I’ll need to create larger groups, perhaps size 4, and students will decide on which print will go ahead.

Pathways for all: This project is really interesting but I wouldn’t describe it as easy. It fits more into the “hard fun” category first described by Seymour Papert and further pursued by Burker et al. Also, Paulo Blickstein & Marcelo Worsley warn us that most children are not hackers and good teachers should provide alternative pathways, something to suit all. It’s good to challenge students to leave their comfort zone but if we make it too hard then some are likely to shut down. This leads on to the next points.


Turtle Art Colouring in: The patterns can be coloured in at the Turtle Art stage using the start fill and end fill blocks. There is room for artistic expression here.

This colouring has been done by Turtle Art

Shape making: Barry Newell has written a lovely book called “Turtle Confusion” which contains 40 shapes that gradually increase in complexity. Shape 1 is a square. From shape 16 on the shapes become combinations of earlier shapes. This sheet provides different levels of complexity and in that way suits a mixed ability class. I’m in the process of developing a new sheet based partly on Barry’s 40 shapes and partly on some of the shapes shown in the picture above, taken from the Turtle Art Tiles Project Guide.

Shape 32 from Barry Newell's sheet is composed from lines, squares and an octogon.
My refactored Barry Newell sheet showing pathways between shapes

Group work: Students should sometimes work individually (eg. when learning Turtle Art initially), sometimes in groups of two (eg. when working on more complex shapes) and sometimes in larger groups (eg. when working with the 3D printer and clay).

Open Source: At some stage I should make the Turtle Art work that the more capable students have produced available to all. Otherwise some of the less capable students won’t end up with a good design to go to the next stage.

Paper and pencil work from 3D printed templates: Instead of the clay step some students might opt for a paper and coloured pencil alternative. That is, using a modified 3D print to trace the pattern onto paper and then creatively colouring it in. For those who choose this path it would be better if their 3D print had narrow walls, which are set at the Turtle Art step (default pensize is 4, reset to 1). So there needs to be planning ahead for this option.

Actually, this is an old one I did use cardboard templates (hexagon, square, triangle)

Necklace option: I could offer students the choice of making a 3D printed necklace, rather than a clay tile finished product. This is described in Josh’s “More Fun” book using Beetle Blocks software (pp. 86-88) but that could be adapted easily to Turtle Art software.

Here are 3 random sized outputs of a rotated heptagon necklace in the slicer and after printing.

All of this strikes me as a pretty reasonable outline for my Inventiveness class – motivating, multifaceted learning and a safety net for challenged students. In the process I’ve revisited some of my established skills and learnt some new ones too.

Blickstein, Paulo and Worsley, Marcelo. Children Are Not Hackers (2016)
Burker, Josh Invent to Learn Guide to Fun (2015), pp. 107-113
Burker, Josh Invent to Learn Guide to MORE Fun (2018), pp. 86-88
Newell, Barry. Turtle Confusion (1988)
Stager, Gary & Martinez, Sylvia. Turtle Art Tiles Project Guide (adapted from the original Josh Burker article)

Turtle Art

Saturday, July 08, 2023

100 words for CAIN

My 100 word introduction to the new Central Australian Innovation Network (CAIN):

21stC maker education should include the 3 game changers: block coding, microcontrollers and at least some 5 types of machines found in a Fabrication Lab (Vinyl cutter, 3D Printer, Laser cutter, CNC machine & Digital Embroidery machine). Then we can move towards making almost anything, transforming consumers into producers.

One thing I have made using these technologies is a Sierpinski pyramid lamp. This involves maths (the fractal Sierpinski pyramid), 3D printing using transparent fiament and the Circuit Playground Express which is coded to light up the pyramid.

The possibilities are endless

- Bill Kerr

Sierpinski Pyramid Lamp
Sierpinski Pyramid