Educational Design Project

In the Providence Engineering Academy, we emphasize the idea that technology ought never to be an end in itself. Technology for technology’s sake rings hollow, and as Christians we ought to see all things as being good and useful for God’s kingdom purposes. A very real question for us is this: how can we use engineering, design, and technology to love others? As engineers, are we perhaps able to serve others in ways that others cannot?

In answer to this question, the 9th/10th Grade Foundations of Engineering I class asked for and received requests from our school’s own teachers and staff. We asked them what they could use in their classrooms and offices that we could design and then 3D print. In the past, the students have produced models of ziggurats, pyramids, and Solomon’s temple. They have made gear ratio demonstrations, ten-sided dice, and computer monitor stands.
This year, the entries were just as exciting. We start with several geometric demonstrations for Mrs. Smelley, our 7th and 8th Grade mathematics teacher, designed by Ava and Peter. Ava created some simple trapezoid area demonstrations, as well as a cubic volume demonstration. Peter built a folding box that opens up to show how a 2D net is created from a 3D shape. Mrs. Smelley was delighted, telling the students “you have really supplied the tools for our class.”
Mrs. Smelley gratefully receives the cubic volume project from Ava 
Peter’s folding box design: click here to view the online version

Next up was Sam, with his large model of a cell for Mr. Alker’s middle school biology class. Sam created each piece as separate, so students can pull it apart, and really “feel” what they have seen in the textbook.
Sam looks on as Mr. Alker identifies the various bits and pieces

Todd produced a somewhat unique request: an anti-theft device! Mr. Hurt finds that his classroom calculators tend to go “missing”, and so he is embarking on a social experiment. Will fastening a distinctive 3D printed science-themed design to the back of them change the outcome? Only time will tell. At the very least we appreciate this practical use of the scientific method.
Todd’s design features a striking gold-on-black circuit board pattern
Next in line is Caleb, who designed something along more structural lines: a replacement door handle for a cabinet in our science and engineering lab. This project was a good lesson in meeting external constraints; it had to be strong enough, match up with the existing screw holes, and allow for screws to actually take hold of it. Caleb also added some extra pizzazz.
The new door handle, with Providence logo, in place and ready to go!

Madison designed some calendar labels for Mrs. Penton, enabling her to easily highlight different events as the year rolls by. The labels are removable and have pre-printed words on them for common activities and events.
Mrs. Penton shows off her new designs!

Ben also went the structural route by creating some shelving brackets for Mr. Meadth. Why go store-bought when you can have custom-made? Mr. Meadth greatly appreciated Ben’s creativity, as he created dozens of “bubbles” and carefully placed holes to match up with the existing bolt locations.
Ben’s brackets support a display shelf for the Calculus class

Pedro helped complete a design that was begun last year by 11th and 12th Graders. The idea was to build a column compression demonstration, showing how compressed columns form a variety of buckling modes, depending on end fixity conditions. Pedro adroitly designed a sliding attachment, which keeps the end of the column from rotating while allowing one-dimensional translation. This will see use next year in classes!
The column testing device is finally
complete, thanks to Pedro

Alena chose to work on the Engineering Academy keychains for next year. We have a tradition of producing simple keychains for everyone in both classes, and Alena is working on something that echoes next year’s themes of robotics and structural engineering.

A miniature wrench, courtesy of Alena

And finally, Josh designed a caddy for Ms. Svoboda in middle school. Ms. Svoboda teaches between different classrooms, and this caddy allows her to quickly bring some essential items for her afternoon class. In this case, Josh worked to supplement an existing file holder with customized attachments. Ms. Svoboda was delighted with the results!
Have caddy, will travel!

As a final word, Mr. Meadth and Claire (our 11th Grade T.A.) also worked to produce some pieces for the Providence Preschool. Our new director, Cheri Diaz, wanted some “natural” items, so we printed a starfish, a seashell, a honeycomb, and some ice cubes (all but the ice cubes were found online on Thingiverse). We hope the children enjoy playing with them!

Providence Engineering Summer Camp: Robot City

What do you get when you put one teacher, three 3D printers, four high school assistants, sixteen kids, three hundred multicolored LEDs, sixteen tiny robots, and 64 square feet of plywood into two rooms for five days?!

Answer: the First Ever Providence Engineering Summer Camp!

Day 1–If You Build It, They Will Come
Pardoning the Field of Dreams misquote, Day 1 was a foray into the world of architecture and design. The upper elementary students broke into four teams, and designed their cityscape. With only a few constraints in place, they freely designed bridges, hotels, apartment complexes, playgrounds, and the mysterious “Geico district.” We’re still not sure what the market is for robot insurance.

Alena and team search architectural
magazines for inspiration

The first few buildings emerge on Day 1

Sturdy apartment complexes and hotels begin to fill the landscape

Day 2–Light It Up
After a brief lesson in electronics (diodes, conductors and resistors, oh my!), the students set about electrifying their buildings. Silver foil ran this way and that, transporting those much-needed electrons hither and yon. The prize for this day had to go to Tys’ group, with their carefully designed master control panel complete with disco dimmers.

Robot City and Britt’s Bridge come to life!
One participant’s entrepreneurial skills come to light 
Tys overseeing his team’s very
formidable end of town

Day 3–Design and Print
Arguably, they should be called 4D printers (since they operate in both space and time), but whichever side you take in this controversy, you have to agree they are a lot of fun. Students learned the fundamentals of computer-aided design (CAD), and then produced their various artifacts: signs, statues, elevators, desks, and… an artifact. The New Matter MOD-t printers ran hot for the remaining days, with many students producing two or more different designs.

An small sample of the dozens of printed designs generated by
the camp participants
Students sit with Alena, eagerly watching their creations emerge
layer by layer
A tiny blue fountain sits proudly on a street corner

Day 4–Rise of the Robots
If all that wasn’t enough already, each student was given their own tiny programmable robot. The Ozobot packs a whole lot into one cubic inch, with students writing code for following lines, flashing lights, and dance routines. The robots were programmed in two different ways: with colored racetrack lines, and then alternatively with a block-based in-browser coding language.

These colored trails give the robot a path to follow and instructions
along the way
Lots of practice with the tiny bots
The block-based coding system is a snap!
Many participants created special
mazes and challenges

Day 5–Do Over!
The week finished with a chance to go back to anything and everything! LEGO Mindstorms was used to power an elevator and merry-go-round, more CAD pieces were printed, the Geico district was finally lit up in a convincing fashion, and the robots ran amok. (In the best kind of way!)

The Geico District–now a blazing panoply of light!

Six robots come out for a dance-off!
Jake adds the finishing touches to our
once-humble board–now transformed!
We’ll finish with a huge thank you to our marvelous high school assistants, taken from the ranks of our own Engineering Academy; Tys, Jake, Alena, and Samy all did a fantastic job, and we hope they get some good rest this summer.

Upcoming Event: MS Final Challenge!

In the Providence Middle School, fourteen 7th and 8th Graders are working busily on their capstone project for the semester: the Intro to Engineering Final Challenge! Every semester, the students in this elective are given a game-style challenge to complete, which involves designing, building, and programming a robot using LEGO Mindstorms EV3 sets.

This semester’s challenge is being played out on a large elevated plywood platform, 8 ft by 8 ft. Mr Meadth spent a happy few hours putting this together in the science lab.

Each team of two students must create a robot that can sweep the platform clear of various pieces of coloured “debris”; imagine a small robot whose task is to permanently keep a rooftop helipad clear of windblown trash. Two robots are running in each round simultaneously, and whoever pushes off the most debris wins.
Special note: the pieces of “debris” we are using are the game pieces designed by Eva last year for her high school Educational Design project! Naturally, they are printed on our mod-T printers, which are still running strong (and now only $299 on their website!).
There are significant challenges associated with this project. How do you keep the robot from falling off the edge of the platform? How do you actually have the robot find the scattered debris? Does it run a blind search pattern, or does it try to use sensors to actively search? What kind of locomotive means does it use? Tracks or wheels or something else? What if it bumps into another robot?

Let’s introduce our competitors this semester:

Isabela and Lily with their wheeled wonder–note the absence of rubber tires
on the front wheels to allow sideways slippage when turning

Christine and Sofi with their light and fast Pretzel Bot

James and Dylan with an imposing bulldozer–note the ultrasonic sensor on the
front to look for debris

Zach and Alan also went with a tracked design, and a large superstructure on
top for style points!

Ma.kaha and Cameron put their colour sensor way out in front to detect the edge
of the table–not falling off the table is critical to success!

Asher and Sam have an armoured design that looks just plain scary

Masato and Isaiah did some late redesign work to try to bring down their weight–
the robot with a lower weight gets the advantage of being placed first
The students will be presenting their completed designs to the rest of the class this Friday. The actual competition will take place in the Boys & Girls Club gymnasium on Monday and Tuesday at 1:00 during regular class time. Parents and friends are welcome, and it promises to be a lot of high energy fun!

Educational Design Project: Part III

Summer update time! Take a break from all that relaxing and read on…

Today marks an important milestone: the Providence Engineering Academy’s Educational Design Project finally had all student designs approved by their clients! Mrs McLemore in the 1st Grade was able to confirm that the latest iteration of Isabelle’s pencil clip was in fact suitable for her class. We did feature Isabelle’s Mark 7 in the last update on this project. Mrs McLemore tested Mark 9 today, which had a slight modification by Mr Meadth, and mass printing has already begun.

Isabelle’s Mark 9, final and approved!

Before school ended, we had some other significant projects finish up as well. Jake took a break from building guitars to turn out a delightful middle school gear demonstration. This demonstration will show the middle school engineering elective in a very tactile way just how torque and rotational speed are traded off against each other; you can have one or the other but you can’t max out both at the same time. It should also be noted that Jake’s design was completely A-OK from when he first submitted it back in late March… it just took until May to coax such a complex shape out of our large Leapfrog printer. The science lab was littered with the debris of many failed attempts, as Mr Hurt will testify.

Jake serving up a pair of mounted meshing
gears, in a 1:3 ratio

Colby’s ionic lattice underwent some key design changes–which is all part of the lessons learned. Chief among them was swapping out spherical atoms for slightly boxier ones (it’s hard to print a perfect sphere on a flat platform). His connecting “bonds” also became completely separate in and of themselves, which also enabled us to control colors separately. In the end, Colby’s design is an eye-catching work of art, fitting no fewer than 81 individual pieces into a large crystalline cube. Mr Meadth’s addition of a simple base puts the whole thing front and centre in the Chemistry classroom, tottering on the precipitous edge of Mr Hurt’s bookcase.

Mr Hurt receives Colby’s design with a restrained show of indifference

Mounted on its end, representing a metallic lattice to all who will take notice

Josh’s design took home the prize of “largest single printed piece of plastic”, putting an Egyptian pyramid in juxtaposition with a Mesopotamian ziggurat. This hands-on manipulative is now happily abiding in Mrs Kleen’s 6th Grade social studies collection. Note how the pyramid is in two parts, to show a representation of the tunnels and chambers within.

Pyramid (gold) vs ziggurat (brown), by Josh

The pyramid pulls apart to show a small network of tunnels and chambers

While Sarah Jane already finalized her design for the Engineering Academy USB drives back in March, it was not until just recently that the designs were printed in their final colors and had the drives inserted in place. These are worth seeing.

32 GB of goodness!

Engineering Academy students can use these to help carry around their
oh-so-important computer files–in style

And finally, some news from the Future Engineers “Star Trek Replicator” competition. Three of our students entered into this competition as an alternative to the Educational Design Project. The task was to create a 3D-printable object that was food-related (but not edible… apparently that point had to be clarified).
We are very happy to say that out of scores of entrants across the nation, Tys was selected to be a top-ten semifinalist in his age division! Tys’ MCAPP was designed to allow planting and composting in a single hexagonal pot, which can then be easily tessellated for maximum efficiency in storage. The judges liked his work, and so do we! The low-resolution image is here below, but you can see the original here, and even download Tys’ model for your own 3D printer (you have one, right?).
What does MCAPP stand for, you say?  Martian Compost
and Planter Pot
Thus concludes the various projects submitted by our Engineering Academy students. We’ll finish with one more photo from the Providence 3rd Grade, taken upon receiving their class set of ten-sided dice.

More exciting things to come in the new school year!

Midde School Final Challenge Complete!

After weeks of hard work designing, building, and programming a Mars rover, four middle school teams headed out to the gym to put it all to the test. These robots were created entirely from scratch–no instructions, no plans, just the student teams and their own wits! The goal was to create a remote-controlled robot that could collect four 3D printed “Mars rocks” as quickly as possible, using whatever means necessary.

Team 1 (Sam, Cole, Nik, and Pedro) went for an asymmetrical design, driven by two strong rubber wheels in the back. An arm with a claw lowered down on one side to scoop up the rocks, bringing them up and over to drop into a large hopper, with more than enough capacity for all four rocks.

Team 1 presents their design to the class

Team 3 (Conner, Brennan, Isaac, and Tessa) decided to maximize speed and agility above all else. They gave their robot a very simple platform on the front, with a swinging arm to contain a single rock at a time. This meant that they would have to exit and re-enter the circle each time to extract their rocks.

Team 3 shows their simple but fast design

Team 4 (David, Samy, and Belen) went for a longer model with more than enough internal capacity for four rocks. Completely unique to the competition, they designed a “paddle wheel” on the front to sweep the rocks right into the belly of the robot. This all made for more difficult turning, but an efficient collection method.

Team 4 shows the longest design in the competition

Lastly, Team 26 (Todd, Ashlynne, and Deacon) designed a big, bulky robot with both caterpillar tracks and rubber wheels. Team 26 was the only team to employ two computers onboard, to account for their large number of motors. A robot arm reached over the front of the robot to close onto the rocks, before lifting them up into the hopper behind.

Team 26 shows the class their hybrid machine

After a day of presenting and time trials, the students played it out in the gym, with parents and fellow students cheering on. Each team scored at least one victory against someone else, although by the end of the first day, it was clear that Team 3 had an obvious speed advantage. With each round of play, they perfected their technique to get faster and faster!

Mr. Meadth and the crowd look on as Team 26 positions for another run;
Team 4 paddles its way forward unhindered

Brennan and Conner from Team 3 close in on another rock; Todd and Deacon
from Team 26 try to co-ordinate their efforts

Samy from Team 4 takes a turn at the controls while David
and Belen look on

On the second day of competition, the students knew it was time for the eliminations. Team 26 and Team 4 had given the shakiest performances up to this point, although both had won a victory against each other. Fighting for the best of three saw a victory in 1:03 for Team 4, then a victory in 1:15 for Team 26. With scores tied, Team 4 pushed through in their fastest performance yet, with an astounding 0:54. Team 26 eliminated!

Samy, holding three, anxiously waits for the fourth rock to
be collected by David
Ashlynne, having positioned Team 26’s robot, looks on as Deacon steers it
toward the goal

In the next elimination round, the bulkier Team 1 faced off against the more agile Team 3. In a quick series of best of three, Team 3 established dominance, putting their fastest time on the board of four rocks in 0:30. Team 1 put in a valiant effort, but could not keep up and was eliminated.

Team 1 scoops up their second rock in the elimination round
Conner from Team 3 positions the robot as Brennan gets ready to make a run for
the pink rock

The very long Team 4 and the very quick Team 3 went through to the final round, for another best of three. Tensions were high, and Team 4 started off strong. Team 3 went straight into their typical repertoire: run in, grab, get out, repeat. Like a well-oiled machine, Team 3 took home a victory in 0:50. In the second of three, Team 4 came close to victory, but Team 3 once again won with 1:12–notabley, not as fast as Team 4’s best time. However, a third round showed that, without a doubt, Team 3 deserved the grand prize!

Team 4 (left) and Team 3 fly into action in the final round
Already holding two, Team 4 (left) narrowly misses their next red rock, while
Team 3 closes in on the teal one

The winning students were awarded with gift cards and one of the rocks they had fought so hard to collect. Smiles all round, and we’ll see what the Final Challenge had to hold in store next year!

Mr. Meadth congratulates Tessa, Conner, Brennan, and Isaac for a job well done
All the students with their robots at the end of the tournament

Educational Design Project: Part II

Back in March, we described how the students had recently submitted their Educational Design Projects. These student designs were in response to a range of briefs submitted by various Providence teachers, from Bible class to Chemistry to Social Studies to Geometry. We already mentioned Alec’s cone/cylinder and pyramid/box volume demonstration, Eva’s LEGO robot game piece (we call them “rocks” now instead of “things”!), and Sarah Jane’s promotional USB drive. It’s now time for an update on the other student projects!

Firstly, we received our shipment from New Matter: three 3D printers and hundreds of dollars of printing expendables. This was won in a grant, with Providence being one of the hundred applicants selected. The students eagerly unboxed the printers and helped set them up, and they have been running hot ever since!

The Engineering Academy students, proudly gathered around the new shipment

Josh shows one of the new Mod-t printers from New Matter,
along with hundreds of dollars of consumable supplies

On to the projects!

Firstly, Jenna was tasked with designing a custom-made stand for Mr. Meadth’s secondary computer monitor. She measured the necessary dimensions, and came up with an idea to make anyone happy: a giant mechanical bug… with a smiley face!

Jenna with the completed Bug Monitor Stand; this was
printed in seven different pieces and assembled, adding
to the complexity of the design

The second version of the stand fit perfectly, and is proudly in operation!

Next up was Victor, a 9th Grader who responded to Mr. Beers’ request for a model of Solomon’s Temple. Mr. Beers wants people to clearly see the temple divisions, with the interior and courtyard. Victor’s design includes a removable roof, and Mr. Beers was very happy to see it.

Victor’s model of Solomon’s Temple, according to the Biblical dimensions

Mr. Beers gladly received Victor’s model!

Isabelle in the 11th Grade has been working for a long time on a design for a pencil holder that clips to the edge of a table. Mrs. McLemore asked for an entire set for her class, and Isabelle quickly found that this design depended on making tiny adjustments, in the order of 0.1 mm (0.004 inches). She has submitted seven iterations so far, and we think we are ready for a mass production run! Mrs. McLemore is currently “road-testing” the prototype with her students.

Isabelle’s seventh iteration of her pencil clip, shown in its printing orientation
The new Mod-t is the perfect option for rapidly producing smaller items such as these

While we already featured Alec in the previous blog post for this project, Alec was actually given two smaller tasks. After designing and delivering the cone/cylinder and pyramid/box, he went on to create a ten-sided die for Mrs. Hammer’s third grade. Mrs. Hammer has received 22 of the dice (we also couldn’t resist printing one giant one!), and will be giving Alec feedback shortly.

Alec with his swarm of ten-sided dice

Still to feature before the end of this semester:

  • Jake with his middle school engineering gear ratio demonstration
  • Colby and his ionic lattice for Mr. Hurt’s Chemistry class
  • Josh comparing an Egyptian pyramid with a Mesopotamian ziggurat for Mrs. Kleen
  • The entries from the NASA “Star Trek Replicator” competition
As always, stay posted!