Day 79 – Collaborative Inquiry


Engineering – Today I had a district Collaborative Inquiry day with some other STEM teachers. We talked and shared several thoughts and ideas. One of the more valuable parts of the day was when we discussed each of our program’s Mission Statements.  A Mission Statement is the driving force behind the curriculum, learning objectives, assessments and performances in your educational program.  Surprisingly, what we came up with in our Mission Statements starts to look a lot like Core Competencies in the new BC Curriculum.

Day 70 – Onshape

Engineering Physics – I had students sign up for as this is the program that I would prefer that they use this year. Today is our last class for the year but once kids got started on onshape, they were very engaged.

Why choose onshape?

A little bit of history on me… I was a mechanical engineer for 15 years and did a lot of 3D modeling. I was first introduced to Pro Engineer in 1994. Pro/E ran on $15,000 unix stations and the software was $11,000. We also used AutoCAD on our desktop PC. A few years later I was using Solidworks on the PC. Solidworks had a typical windows UI and a $4000 license, and was a huge improvement for users imo.

Years later I wanted to do some 3D modeling at home. Solidworks was selling a $100 educator license but the license expires after 1 year, so that was too expensive. Pro/E had its educator software for $100 with no expiry date, so I purchased. It worked ok, but I was shocked at how “unix like” it still was. I think this was around 2010.

In 2014 I took another look at 3D modeling software and found out that Autodesk was giving free licenses to educators for its Inventor Pro software. I installed it and was blown away. It seemed like it was pretty much a copy of Solidworks and it was free. Fantastique! The only downside was its huge hard drive space needed – something like 30 GB. I guess I could get it down by uninstalling certain features. But HD space is a bit of an issue these days now that my notebooks have smaller SSD drives.

This past year I started reading about AutoDesk Fusion 360, which is a cloud based solid modeling package. It is based off of Inventor, it’s free, and it has pretty much all of the features I need without taking up HD space. Doing some searches then led me to Onshape. Onshape is similar to Fusion 360, and it was created by the folks who made Solidworks. I checked it out and liked it even more. So Onshape it is!

There a many other 3D modeling programs out there, some are surface modelers (Sketch Up) and some are solid modelers. I would stay away from surface modelers especially if you are going to do 3D printing. Some of these packages are a lot simpler than Onshape but I’m not sure they are any easier to use. At the end of the day, you have to: sketch on a plane, extrude your sketch, do more sketches and do more extrusions and cuts. So I’m only going to explicitly teach Onshape but of course I will help students if they want to try some other software (at their own peril).

Day 64 – Arduino Sketches

Engineering Physics – While some students finished their timer sketches last week, many are still working on theirs. However, most students are very close to finishing. I’m asking that students put comments in their code. There are two schools of thought on commenting code: comments should explain what you’re doing; comments should explain why you are doing what you’re doing.

For this project I’m asking students to comment using the latter scheme. I don’t need to know what the if statement is doing, I want the student to clearly explain why they are using it. I’ll go through the programs and give feedback on this.

Day 57 – Working on the 3D Printer

Math 8 – I kept working in the Printrbot Simple 3D printers today. It’s been hard finding the time to get them working. I had to replace one y-axis that was bent. Once I had done this, I realized that the extruder fan on the other printer had also been broken. It is difficult to find time to work on them, with all of the other tasks I have to do.

In the meantime, I have modeled a Greenland paddle in Onshape. The model has 4 variables that the students will have to measure and scale, in order to have a scaled model of a paddle. From there, the students will print out their paddle.


Day 56 – Improving the Timer

Engineering Physics – This cart launcher timer project has been really good. All students are learning a ton from it, working hard, and are engaged. Some students are really taking off with it.

One group had finished the basic task early, so they added a machine learning algorithm to their timer. They added a switch that allows the user to pass the flag/hand/obstacle over the photoresistor. From this pass they do an analogRead and determine how much light is being picked up by the photoresistor. They then use this for the rest of their timer code.

Day 45 – 3D Printers Unpacked

Math – Today I unpacked the two 3D Printers that arrived. I ordered 2 refurbished “Simple” printers from Printrbot. I’m not entirely sure when I will get time to set them up though. I think the fume hood will be a great place for them, as the exhaust can easily handle any smells and the sash window can help block noise.

Unfortunately it looks like one of the printer’s extruders is at an angle. I don’t know if this causes problems or not, so I will try to get a hold of Printrbot and see what they have to say.

Day 44 – Arduino

Engineering Physics – Students started using Arduinos today. There was some puzzlement and headscratching, but also some very pleased kids. One student had the biggest smile I think I’ve ever seen on the student. She was so proud and happy to create a circuit where LED’s flashed on and off. I think it was the idea that they accomplished something concrete yet totally foreign to them. That “Holy sh%t, I actually did it!” kind of feeling.

Day 42 – Arduino Enthusiasm


Engineering Physics – We finally had a bit of luck today and most of the computers logged in fairly quickly. Students got to make their first Arduino sketch and circuit. The main goal was to choose an appropriate sized resistor to match an LED, build the circuit with a breadboard, and make the LED blink. Some groups were quicker than others and they started to develop their own more complicated circuits involving multiple LEDs.

The students were pretty pumped and many asked me if we could work on the Arduinos again next day. The plan is for them to build a timing system using photoresistors, so yes, we’ll be using the arduinos.




T-041928444353 - WIN_20161104_110704.JPG


In Physics 11, the students started off with a Plickers kinematics question. I chose a question that would likely lead the students to use d=vot + 1/2at^2.  The wrong answers included not squaring the time, and not considering that there was acceleration (using d=vt instead).  I then challenged students to create fully annotated graphs from a different problem.  We did a gallery walk with the whiteboards and I wrote down properties of the graphs that we agreed were good to include.