Thursday, May 17, 2018

Students write about their designs for the new Lab

Supporter of All Ideas
Samantha Felder, Renee Dibbini, Elizabeth Elcik
They've published an Instructable, so you can make one too!
In the beginning of April, the much anticipated SHS Design lab finally opened.  However,
the Design and Build class quickly encountered inconveniences with the new space, one of
them being no real way to hold or use the huge poster boards.  These 8 ft by 4 ft poster
boards serve to facilitate the design-thinking process by providing students with a large
and temporary space to jot down ideas on post its to work through a problem.  In order
to use the boards, students needed to prop the boards up against the wall, but this
method was not ideal. Specifically, the board was not secure and was easily
knocked over, the bottom of the board was subject to damage due to the constant
agitation from the floor, and there was no way to use the board without a wall.  
We took on this challenge and got to work by brainstorming ideas for a solution.

The first obstacle we encountered was simply defining the problem.  Neither
Ms. Yokana nor Mr. McDonald really knew what they wanted, so it was difficult
for us to design a solution.  Originally, we (us, Ms. Yokana, and Mr. McDonald)
focused on a secure way to attach the boards to the wall. To start, we asked students
in our class if they would prefer a horizontal or vertical board.  Most said
they would like a horizontal board because it allowed for more board space to
be utilized. Our first ideas included hooks, magnets, clips, and even magnetic clips!

After many failed prototypes and ideas based on the premise that the board should
be horizontal, we ultimately chose to make the board vertical after students in other
classes had success using them this way.  We re-assessed the problem with a vertical
solution in mind, and began by using the wall for support. By testing various angles
of inclination, we found that the optimal angle from the horizontal was 80º. This
information led us to our first vertical prototype which focused on protecting the
bottom of the board while also keeping it sturdy at an ideal angle.

We asked Ms. Yokana and Mr. McDonald for feedback, and they suggested that we
find a way to make the board free-standing.  Prototype 5, while it did hold the board up,
did not really seem like something worth using. Ms. Yokana then showed us images of
supports for large poster boards that she saw at IDEO headquarters.  
Using this idea as inspiration, we spent time brainstorming ideas for free-standing
boards and decided to talk to Mr. Prendergast, a physics teacher at SHS, to further
understand possible solutions. He advised us not to focus on the calculations, but to
use trial and error to create a prototype.  Below is where our thoughts led us:

In the end, we decided to create a large scale easel to hold up the foam board
at the ideal angle of 80º.

-By having the easel 4 ft tall and in the shape of a triangle, the back of the board
is well supported, allowing a user to apply pressure when we write on it.

-We created a lip at the bottom of the board to hold the board above the ground
and prevent damage from the floor.

Duct tape:
-We used duct tape to create a hinge that allowed the back stand to move
back and forth.

-In order to maintain the ideal angle while allowing the device to be
collapsible at the same time, we tied a string from the body of the easel to the stand.

-In order to make sure that the easel did not slip when we applied pressure to the
board, we applied a layer of hot glue to the bottom of the board to serve as a grip.

Final Template:

So far, we have used “The Supporter of All Ideas” various times since it was
constructed, and it has been successful!
In order to further develop this idea, we plan on discovering a way to allow the
easel to hold the foam board horizontally and vertically.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

SHS Students Hack Toys

Before winter break, students in Physical Computing/Wearables donated several boxes of toys to IAHD in Westchester. The donated toys were ordinary, remote controlled toys that the students had "hacked" adapting them for people with disabilities. They also made big accessible buttons to go along with the toys, making it easy for people with disabilities to push the buttons and control the toys.

Two of the students had previously attended a toy hacking workshop at Adaptive Design Association, in New York City, along with Ms Yokana, to learn from the toy hacking experts at DIYability. There they learned the specifics behind taking apart the toys, identifying the switches and figuring out where to solder the leads to the new switches. Students learned that an adaptive toy, one made specifically for those with disabilities, can cost hundreds of dollars more than a regular toy. They also learned to make simple, big switches from cardboard, tape and aluminum foil. After spending a Sunday morning at ADA, they were all excited to teach their classmates and hack more toys.

The speech pathologists at IAHD worked with Ms Yokana to identify toys their patients would enjoy. Then, SHS students went to work. Pulling apart the remote controlled toys, they soldered wires to the solder pads of the existing buttons, which they soldered to switch jacks. By soldering the switch jack onto the solder pads of the existing switch, they were adding a second switch to the circuit. This second switch could be attached to an accessibility button, which students had made. Students finished up there soldering and fitted the toys back together.

On the last day before winter break, the speech pathologists from IAHD came to accept the toys bringing with them one of the residents from their group home. The joy was evident the moment Rima saw the toys! She played with all of them and immediately picked her favorite: the bubble blower. Our students were excited to see how happy the toys made Rima. In one student's words, "It was so easy for us to do and it brought her so much joy!" They also all agreed that it was a great way to learn more about circuitry and electronics.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Introduction to Engineering End of Year Reflections from Students

We asked our students at the end of the second semester to respond to several questions.
1. What is the most important skill, attitude or mindset that you have gained through this class?

"Problem solving skills, creativity... Being able to analyze a problem and solve it using a creative design process and paying attention to detail."

"I have really learned to problem solve. When I encounter a problem, I no longer give up."

"Curiosity. I have learned to look at things from multiple perspectives."

"The most important skills I learned in this class was how to problem solve and how to work with others."

"Problem solving. Figuring out multiple solutions. Applying the skills I learned into new challenges."

"The greatest skill I walk away with is the ability to work with members of a group and brainstorm ideas."

"The greatest attitude I walk away with is that it is fine if something doesn't work on the first try."

"I can get kind of impatient at times. It frustrates me when things don't work. Through this class, I have learned to pursue a problem and feel less frustrated when it doesn't work the first time."

"How to approach a problem, brainstorm properly and different problem solving methods."

"Teamwork is very important!"

"I tend to get set on my original idea. This class has taught me how to adjust that idea and how to come up with different approaches to the same problem."

"The greatest mindset (I gained) was to be open-minded and creative."

"I think the greatest thing I learned from this class is that it might be hard but don't stop trying. That's the only way you can really fail."

"Being open-minded to new ideas and possibilities. The ability to create prototypes and ideas without fear of failure; to learn from mistakes and to improve on them."

"The greatest thing I leave this class with is being able to fail and not get frustrated or give up. I have learned that failing is okay and actually good."

"Leaving this class I've learned to be innovative and optimistic... I've learned that there is always a solution even if I'm not able to see it yet. This innovative and optimistic spirit has helped me in other classes."

"Never give up."

"I learned persistence and patience."

2. What advice would you give to future students?"

"I would advise future students to take this class for the sake of learning..."

"Keep an open mind and try new things. It's ok if you don't understand everything at the beginning."

"Even if you think you don't like engineering, put time and effort into the class. I promise you will love it!"

"Be open to learning..."

"Maintain a positive attitude and don't be afraid to try and possibly fail at new things."

"Don't be afraid to fail. It's possibly the best part."

"Be prepared to be really interested and fail and come back from it."

"Step out of your comfort zone as quickly as possible."

"This could be one of the most useful things you learn in high school. Even if you're uncomfortable with some of the things you're doing, don't be afraid to mess up. If you're like me and thought you hated technology, you could completely change your mind. Have an open mind and really try."

"Don't get angry at yourself if you fail or make mistakes. Be patient."

"Don't try to rush. The lure of completing a project can overwhelm sometimes, but a well done project is a lot more rewarding. Also, try to figure out answers for yourself."

"Be ready to think critically and creatively!"

"Be persistent... don't give up. Find another way around the problem. Think outside the box!"

"Come to this class with an open mind; really do each activity for enjoyment and to learn, instead of just meeting the requirements."

The temporary Lab in action:
Three D printed Fidget Toy
Three D printed Fidget Toy
Brainstorming with post its!

Mousetrap Cars teach students mechanical advantage

The final project of the semester in Introduction to Engineering asked groups of students to create a car, powered by a mousetrap, that would travel the farthest distance. Groups were given a kit of parts and asked to brainstorm ways to build a car using only these materials. After students discussed and drew out their ideas, they began the build using the both hand and power tools. Students learned to safely cut wheels out of MDF with the band saw and sand with the belt sander. When each group finished their first car, they did three test runs to see whose went the farthest. We then examined the winning car and noticed what made it different from some of the other less successful designs. Students were able to understand the variables involved in the designs and the concept of mechanical advantage. Finally, students were allowed to rebuild their car with this new knowledge and retest it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Empathy Exercises Created by Students for Students

In our Design and Fabrication class, students from City 2.0 became the teachers. City students wanted to create authentic hands-on experiences for other students that would foster empathy. Working with an SHS student who has rheumatoid arthritis, they created several empathy experiences that would simulate some of the symptoms of the disease. There were three different stations for students, who put on devices that limited their movement and then performed everyday tasks like picking something up off the floor of the room. Students then had the opportunity to interview the student with arthritis to ask more specific questions about her experiences. They brainstormed potential solutions to some of the problems she faces in her everyday life.

Watch some of the videos on You Tube:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Engineering and Arduinos

Intro to Engineering has been exploring Arduinos and learning about electrical engineering through this process. Students are programming the microcontrollers so they can eventually build digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control objects in the physical world. Along the way, they are learning about circuits and electricity.