Day 100: Accelerating at a Constant Velocity

Friday, 29 January 2016


Student asked me today about how a net force causes an object to “accelerate at a constant velocity”. I asked them to explain what they meant and we arrived at the data table on the right. A classmate quickly edited the original kid’s words to ask about an object “accelerating at a constant rate”.



Day 99: FRC Business Team

Thursday, 28 January 2016


We have a big deadline for the robotics team in a week: submitting for the Chairman’s Award. Today, we met with two outside mentors to outline the activities we’ve done the past year that are award-worthy and outline the essay itself.

The essay’s going to be drafted during a work session on Saturday.

Day 98: Assuming Prior Knowledge

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


I’m amazed at how quickly we could get to free body diagrams when I assume the kids remembered something of their physical science class last year. We’re already talking about the motion-related implication of balanced forces.

Today was the first day of 2nd semester for 2/3 of the classes I teach. Above is from one of them. I asked the kids to also list out all the types of forces they knew about, to tell me what they remembered of Newton’s Laws of Motion, and to roll a bowling ball across the tile foyer of our science building (all to prove we have few Jedi among us who can move the ball after it leaves their hands).

Day 97: Easing Into 2nd Semester

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

In other news, I kicked off spring semester with two games: Extreme Rock, Paper, Scissors just for fun and Paper Airplanes to disguise the assigned seating process. Paper Airplanes isn’t at all a grouping game, so I put a tiny, inconspicuous colored dot on each paper. Five colors for five tables. Kids got random sheets of paper, played Paper Airplanes and afterwards, I told them to locate the color and group up. Once they find their table group, they pick which table they sit at.

After, we rolled a bowling ball across the tile foyer trying to change its path after the ball left our hands. You know, “an object in motion…” Only one kid in class could do it, so we decided he’s a Jedi. Yes, we’re starting the study of forces.

Day 96: Making Way for Snow

Friday, 22 January 2016


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About the post’s title: A coming winter storm caused our school day to be cut short by 2.5 hours. Atlanta has a bad history with ice and highways, so I’m glad the governor asked us to all be home by 3pm today, even though it’s only now (5:30pm) starting to precipitate solid stuff.

The last day of JanTerm is the saddest day of JanTerm. We finished building lamps and Alien Projectors, presented the results, and held a “we loved having you in the class” feelings fest farewell. Above is one of my top 3 favorite lamps from the class. These kids found a giant toy C-130 plane at the thrift shop and converted it into an LED lamp.

Below is the circuit I helped kids solder for their alien projectors. If I were going to do this project again, I’d solder two LEDs in parallel so it’d be twice as bright. I’d also like to get some time on the school’s laser cutter for more interesting cutouts.


Big shoutout to the students of Making & DIY Culture as well as my colleague, Robin-Lynn Clemmons. This class was a blast to be a part of. Monday’s an inservice day for us to get grades in order then it’s on to second semester on Tuesday.

Day 95: Making a World

Thursday, 21 January 2016


We had a last minute opportunity to visit the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) for their Designers, Makers, Users: 3D Printing the Future exhibit. This post’s title is a reference to something important we learned: 3D printing is moving its beyond rapid prototyping roots. For instance, we learned that 3D printed structures can become parts of buildings.

I enjoyed learning about Easton LaChappelle from Colorado, a 19 year-old who’s designing 3D printable prosthetic hands, seeing Amsterdam’s 3D printed Canal House, and seeing a prototype of the Pancakebot.

Earlier in the day, we visited our Lower School to learn from the Design Thinking teacher, Marlene Getzendanner.


She showed us her cardboard shelving, her favorite maker tools, and a few projects our lower school classmates have done recently.


Above are Marlene’s favorite maker tools used in her Design Thinking class. Clockwise from top:

  • ergonomic hammer with a shorter handle for smaller kids,
  • safety glasses,
  • Japanese saw which has a flexible blade and cuts on the pull stroke,
  • ergonomic drill,
  • cardboard cutting knife,
  • trauma shears which are great for cutting large sheets of cardboard,
  • bar clamps

Above left: We got to play with Little Bits circuits. This was probably the hit of our visit.

Above right: the guts of a greeting card made with LEDs and copper tape.

Marlene is extremely resourceful for her classes. After she sang the praises of dollar stores and thrift shops, the kids were hooked. One project she told us about is taking apart a dollar store fan for its battery compartment and motor.

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She uses the components to build circuit blocks to teach the kids. This Instructable describes a similar project. I think I’ll do this next year with my physics students.

Day 94: Making Lamps

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


We spent a chunk of time today working on our lamps. Above is a floor lamp design that incorporates all sorts of childhood memories. Below, another student’s lamp made from an old miniature skateboard:

Below, a student works on her lamp’s base.


In the last part of the day, we began the Alien Projector Project. I worked with half of the class on soldering the LED, resistor, switch, and a battery holder, which looked like this:

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Side note: if you’re teaching a maker class, buy twice as many batteries as you think you’ll need. 9V and 2032 coin cells are fast becoming the biggest expense for our course.