Design Lab – Four Months In

iMake iLearn

One of the greatest things about our school and state community is the generosity that I have found when I write grants.  Our PTO has contributed to so much of the technology that we have at our school and they have been no different in their support of our Design Lab.  In addition to the PTO, WEMTA awarded our Design Lab a PET grant.  Now it is time to spend the money.

Part of the challenge of purchasing for a Design Lab is knowing what will work with students and not investing too much money in something that will not allow learners to take the materials in diverse directions.

Month 1 – December 2013
We started with the MakerBot 3D printer but since no one knew how to use it, it was not what started this journey.  Rather it was the one classroom edition that I could afford for Minecraft EDU and one license of Minecraft.  It started with $59 ($41 for the classroom edition and $18 for the license).  I did not have the money to buy multiple licenses unless I could prove that this would be a good option for our school and students.  I visited Fractal and watched Heather use Minecraft EDU with younger students.  Heather shared with me so many important settings as well as things to be aware of when using Minecraft EDU with students.  The hour that I watched, I learned so much about how to use both the server but also the program.  I spent a good amount of time researching (here are some of my resources) only to realize that I just needed to jump in.
Materials – Minecraft EDU

Month 2 – January 2014
I wanted to see what would happen and after reading Invent to Learn, I realized that I needed to start in after-school but I didn’t want students who aren’t able to participate in after-school to not have the opportunity too.  So I looked at what time our computer lab was not being used and opened our Design Lab on three days a week during our lunch recess as our after-school offerings for the month were all ready set.

I quickly learned that many of our students loved Minecraft but were doing it on the iPad interface which required relearning how to move and navigate on the desktop.  Also there were many students who had never entered the Minecraft world rather they had heard their friends talking about it and wanted to learn.  I spent the month of January watching students.  Okay I could tell them how to get into Minecraft EDU, direct connect to the server on my laptop, and basic controls like WASD and the space bar.  But I really didn’t know much and it was overwhelming to be the oldest non-expert in the room.  It became easier to say to students that I didn’t know something and they needed to ask each other but at first it was a really uncomfortable for me.

Meanwhile I was teaching myself about 3D printing.  I found that I really needed to reach out to other people because I could read a book but that wasn’t going to be enough.  I needed to tap into those people in my community who already had the expertise.  I was lucky enough to connect with Badger Bots who helped connect me with Radiant Fabrication.
Materials – MakerBot Replicator 2 (Donor’s Choose), Minecraft EDU (one license and classroom edition), Gamestar Mechanic ($2 per student), (free)

Month 3 – February 2014
The second month of the Design Lab brought more learning and more financial support.  First I realized that it was important to offer the Design Lab three times a week as well as two days after-school.  iDesign is the after-school 3D design and printing offering while iCreate was a combination of Gamestar, and Minecraft EDU.  Our school district gave our lab $250 which allowed me to purchase additional PLA filament for the 3D printer, a Makey Makey (which stayed in the box because I was overwhelmed with Minecraft and 3D printing), several sets of legos to do physical 3D designs, and clay.

The second month also brought challenges.  With indoor recess, my plan of showcasing the 3D printer while also offering Minecraft EDU could not happen.  The other challenge with the 3D printer was that very little of value prints in 30 minutes or less.  So I realized that I needed to find a different way to share 3D printing with our students.  February was a month of trying different things and watching many of them fail but learning from them.
Materials – MakerBot Replicator 2 (Donor’s Choose), Minecraft EDU (one license and classroom edition), Gamestar Mechanic ($2 per student), (free), legos, clay, PLA filament, one Makey Makey

Month 4 – March 2014
March was the month where all of the learning and connections seemed to come together in a very harmonious way.  In March, we realized that we needed to have one day after-school dedicated to Minecraft so we now moved towards having iDesign, iCreate, and Minecraft EDU as after-school choices.  First I was fortunate enough to have a colleague connect me with a student who wanted to design different scenarios for Minecraft EDU.  Max gave me the opportunity to see what could be done without actually having to invest the time that I did not have.  Check out the blog post on Max, my personal lifesaver.  My other wonderful connection came in the form of Nathan from Radiant Fabrication who presented on the first after-school date for iDesign and introduced our students to 3D printing and his software Li which uses an interface very similar to Minecraft.  In iCreate we focused on Gamestar Mechanic,, and Scratch.

Our Design Lab also received multiple sources of funds to expand our materials.  Through the challenge of having 17 students complete the course, we received $1000 in Donor’s Choose credits which were used to purchase more PLA filament, a Drawdio, a Spinbot, some LEDs, a Makedo kit, and 3 Chromebooks.  We also received a $300 funded project through Donor’s Choose and the LilySarahGrace Fund for more legos, knex, and art materials.  In addition our PTO generously donated over $1000 to purchase a storage cabinet, additional Minecraft licenses as we now know that we can successfully use this software with students and more materials.  Lastly our Design Lab received additional funds through the WEMTA PET grant.
Materials – MakerBot Replicator 2 (Donor’s Choose), Minecraft EDU (35 license and classroom edition), Gamestar Mechanic ($2 per student), (free), legos, clay, PLA filament, six Makey Makeys, Raspberry Pi, Drawdio, Spinbot, Makedo kits, LEDS, batteries

Stay posted for where these new materials will take our learning.  Our students are very fortunate to have a community who is supporting our Design Lab (Makerspace).


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One Comment;

  1. Peg Hartwig said:

    Awesome persistence and ingenuity Kari! Your students and school are so fortunate to have your creativity and determination pushing the cutting edge of problem solving, spacial reasoning, mathematical application and engineering techniques! Thanks for sharing!

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