Monday, April 25, 2016

What to Do With Discarded 3D Printer Filament?

Whenever we change reels on the Ultimaker 2 there is a good stretch of filament that is ribbed and must be discarded. My coworker Larissa made bracelets out of them! The clasp is printed in clear filament.


You can print these in bulk (10 minutes to print a single but you could print multiples at once) and focus a class just on making charms for them.

A note about charms: using jump rings makes the bracelet easier to wear with the charms as demonstrated with the octopus vs the Pokeball and dinosaur. Plus you don't have to worry about the size of the plastic printed ring in Tinkercad too much.  These are 9mm jump rings that come apart with simple pliers.  Of course by having them loose, they will all dangle to the bottom but some 3D printed beads/spacers and jump ring size experimentation will do the trick.  Although the PLA claims to be biodegradable who knows how long that would take. This is wonderful recycling project just in time for Earth Day. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Adventures in Green Screen

We have a rambunctious crowd of 5-7 graders for our Tinkering Tuesdays in March so we decided to do a month of movie making with our green screen. Using a green screen is really easy these days. We used iMovie and it was a simple click of a button to replace the screen behind the actors with an image found on the internet after everything had been filmed. Here is a very good tutorial. 

Some green screen tips:

1. Make sure green screen is ironed (or unwrinkled somehow and tight). We used binder clips to attach the green screen to our privacy sectional screen but it wasn't ideal. It may causes creases in the background. This was very noticeable during our black campfire scene.

2. Make sure no one wears green or blue or they will look ghostly (unless that is the look you are going for). Fun fact: Lego bases are the exact color of the green screen. She meant to do that.

3. Do not hit the green screen during filming or it will ripple (although it would make a cool ocean effect).
4.  Try to download images while filming. We had a scene where people were falling off a cliff and it was nice to know that it was on the left side of the screen.

5. Use high resolution images. If they aren't the right size, you can crop them in iMovie but pixels do matter. I always limit my image google search to large images only.

6. Tape off the carpet with a line so the kids know where "off screen" is.

Organizational tips:

We TRIED to get them to block out a story at least verbally before we did any scene but as you can probably tell it was basically improvised the whole way (with mixed results).

Rather than full costumes, we stuck to hats and other props we had lying around. We put those out before we even started to try to brainstorm some ideas.

It seemed like we kept to genre projects but it was hard to get agreement. Having short vignettes with a theme could be another solution.

They always wanted to finish the movie in our one hour program slot and not go back to it the next week (even if it didn't make sense!). Probably a generational thing.

The teen librarian and I did the editing and camera work since none of the kids wanted to but those were jobs we would have gladly given to any of them willing.

One of the girls had her violin handy and we used it for the western. I recorded it in iMovie microphone rather than Garage Band which was a mistake. When you put it in Garage Band I could have edited the sound volume without worrying about the actual dialogue. If you just use the microphone in iMovie, I couldn't separate the two.

Here is our best one "Sci-Fi" (IMO):

The Apocalypse from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Our first project:

Murder Mystery Short Movie from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Our homage to Clint Eastwood:

Wild West from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When Makerspace Projects Come to Fruition

I love stories of patrons or staff who use our equipment to make something truly creative and original. We had two of those instances this week:

Our first comes from our talented staff member, Karen, who runs a monthly knitting night at the library. She draws a big crowd as individuals work on solo projects, share their skills and troubleshoot with each other.  These knitting nights have brought out some spinners and loom enthusiasts that have shared their talent as well. Using these new skills, Karen made her own sweater.  It doesn't stop there though.

Over the past year we have increased our collection of unusual items for circulation to include a polymer clay kit which Karen used to make her own designer button for her creation. I told her she could have her own couture business! Read more about this and other projects on her knitting blog. 

The second project came from a pair of siblings who won 1st place in the Pembroke Science Fair with the 3D printing help from yours truly.  It started last Christmas while I was hosting 3D printed ornament classes. My goal was, after these classes, kids would come in on their own to 3D print. Well Kevin, one of my ornament students, did. He went on to make a model of the Empire State Building using tinkercad for a school project which drew lots of attention at school. For his science fair project, he presented on 3D printing and education. His goal was to teach his 5 year old brother how to make a keychain in tinkercad. It was a resounding success! Kevin also practiced the draw to 3D print method with the lighting bolts as well as learning about supports, printing time, and structural techniques by making a penguin and a doll all using our Ultimaker 2 Extended printer. I haven't taught a tinkercad class with as young as 5 but it proved with this next generation it is possible. I was certainly a proud librarian. It just reiterates that fact that libraries have a true impact in the community to help the curious pursue life long learning.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where do we put a 3D printer in the library?

Where do you put a printer? The best answer is somewhere that is in view when printing. We have 2 Ultimaker 2 printers. One Ultimaker 2 is in the Digital Media Lab in the Reference Department.  Most people do not see the printer there because it is tucked away in a corner but at the same time we don't have to worry about kids sticking their fingers in it or it getting bumped or jostled in the daily hustle and bustle of after school.  Although not directly seen from the service desk, it is still possible to swing by and check on a print or if it's not too loud to hear if something stops.

Another printer that I use more often is the Ultimaker 2 extended in our staff Resource Room where we hold many Tinkering Tuesday and 3D printing specific classes.   This is on the bottom floor where the printer is hidden behind a room divider.  We are a 3 floor building with the children's room located on the 2nd floor and the Reference/YA department located on the 3rd.  Sometimes when I don't get a chance to check on a print this is what happens. It was suppose to be a bus. Did you guess right? 3 hours of printing down the drain. 

In addition to just general mishaps,  my filament spools have been getting tangled which is something that could happen during long prints if the filament becomes loose when changing between reels.  I might not see this issue in time, leaving the printer to continue with the print but not having access to any filament, so it just prints NOTHING.  I fixed this problem by leaving the reels on the floor hooked up to a wooden block so the reels can fix themselves (I hope). Think like a paper towel holder. People online have designed 3D printed ways to solve the problem or using old lazy susans.  I LOVE THE INTERNET!

I finally installed a free app called Presence which turns any old iPhone or iPad into a remote camera that can be accessed through their website on any other device or computer.  All that is required is a reliable wireless network and a free account. If you leave it open it is a bit glitchy but it can be fixed by just reloading the webpage rather than having to leave the desk to go downstairs. It does save time when one is tied to the desk. My Fitbit is going to be quite sad with this development.

Wherever you decide to put your printer make sure it is well ventilated. An office, which is where our first printers started, is not a good idea especially if you are printing in ABS.  Having it out in the open on the floor or setting it up in a room that can have a window open during long prints is ideal. Even printing in PLA, which is what we do, does produce an odor which may or may not at this point be bad for you. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Preschool Lego Science

I just finished a 3 part stay alone series exploring basic science concepts with Legos for 45 minutes with 4 & 5 year olds.  Why Legos? Well, they are very popular from a marketing standpoint, they are plentiful at my library, and easy to clean. I have done a series of Preschool Science classes before so these were the same concepts just with Legos added.

We started each session with a picture of a Lego scientist and we talked about what they do and what body part they do it with.  Any tools that we were using for the program I introduced at this point and modeled what we were going to do with them.

Make Observations
Ask Questions
Use Tools

Week 1: Lego Volcanoes

Legos (could color match if you want for volcano colors)
Duplos  (always good to have depending on fine motor skills)
Baking Soda
Test tubes (but u could use cut water bottles or cups)-Lakeshore Learning Supplies
Plastic trays-Lakeshore

We used the book Volcanoes by Emily Green (c) 2007 as well as a 3 minute video from SciShow Kids.

We also did a short volcano song that I found on Hoopla from Madagascar 2 as a freeze song with scarves. When the music stopped we all had to jump up and erupt.

A few of the boys kept asking me "When are we GONNA BUILD?" So I'd keep the explanation part to 10-15 minutes tops. Plus, you need time to build.

Most kids really wanted to build with actual Legos but actually ended up using Duplos instead because the pieces were larger and less varied.  Each built their structure around the test tube.  One of the students even built a hospital for anyone injured during the volcano eruption. How cute is that?

The test tube contained 2 spoonfuls of baking soda which I let them measure.   Cups filled with vinegar were given to each student and they could use their droppers to add it to the test tube. Here is a short video. The looks on their faces are well worth the clean up.

One great thing about this project was it was a perfect opportunity to clean the Legos. They were disgusting! I just rinsed off the baking soda/vinegar mixture and they were good to go for next week. We left lots of things to dry as the sink was filled to the brim so make sure to have towels handy.

Week 2: Lego States of Matter

Lego minifigures
plastic trays
rubbing alcohol
warm water
Lakeshore trays (or large plates)

This week we talked about solids, liquids, and gasses using What is the World Made Of? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (c) 1998. Originally I wanted to talk about the Ice Mummy and excavation but I was afraid I'd give the kids nightmares.  The text was very long so I abridged it. My main vocab was matter, solid, liquid, and observation for the day.
Our hands on project was melting a Lego mini-figure from solid to liquid. I froze salad sized plastic bowls with water and Lego men. You have fill it half way freeze it, then fill it the rest of the way since the Lego men float. I placed some materials to test: salt, warm water, alcohol, sugar and we observed which table made their ice melt the fastest. We started with salt on one table, sugar on the other with little to no results. Then I gave one table warm water and another rubbing alcohol. Water was the definite winner. 

I saw an online post about using rubbing alcohol, dish detergent and water in a mix to defrost your windshield so we added rubbing alcohol as a last minute independent variable. Out of all the variables the kids concluded that warm water worked the best, followed by rubbing alcohol. We had plenty of time to independently build after this project so it could be easily done in a 30 minute time frame. 

Week 3: Lego Gravity

Legos and minifigures
Various things to drop

This week inspired by I Fall Down by Vicki Cobb, we talked about gravity and how it keeps us on the ground. The kids giggled when we talked about floating in the air without gravity and how would we run? sleep? get dressed? We weighed different objects with our Lakeshore scales and made predictions which one would fall first. Besides the feather (which had to do with wind resistance) all the items fell at the same time. Make sure to drop all the objects yourself. Having kids help might have changed the timing of the drop and skewed the results.
After the short 5-10 minute guessing game and intro, we started building items that we could race down the ramp or take to the zip-line. I think it might have been better to talk about Forces & Motion rather than Gravity since there were so many factors to a successful zip-line trip like the angle of my arm on the ladder, what material I used, how much each weighed, where I put the paperclip, etc. So although gravity sent them all to the ground, there were too many other factors to have a center focused question like does it matter how much the Lego construction weighed? Be prepared that kids might not want to destroy their creations on the zip-line or ramp.

What I tried to accomplish most out of these classes was to use the vocabulary of a scientist and modeling asking lots of questions and making predictions. You can pander to kids love of experimenting, natural curiosity, and Legos. Out of all the projects we did every time without fail the kids would ask if we were going to do volcanoes again. If I could keep one activity, I think that one would be the winner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More Practical 3D Printing Applications

I stumbled upon 2 websites this week that just amazed me. When any library thinks, "Well what can we actually use a 3D printer for?" These projects would be a great examples of realistic applications that have a direct impact on the community. For the most part I have been focusing on what are the patrons actually going to print on these machines rather than what can we as a library print on these machines? I always love when technology can actually make life better.

Dear Zoo

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Tactile Picture Books Project

Thanks to the University of Colorado Boulder we have multiple free thing-averse files that will print picture books that kids can feel along with the braille to read the book. I'm already thinking about putting these on the walls for a temporary display then setting up catalog records where patrons could check the books out once I bind them together.  Depending on how hard it is to make, maybe I could have a program where kids work together to make one using the draw-print method I previously blogged about.

3D Maps

Jacksonville Public Library has printed  a visual map to help blind patrons navigate their restroom facilities. Imagine doing that for the whole library? This would make a great Girl or Boy Scout final project. 

Today is a happy internet day :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Converting a drawn image to a 3D print

Just when I think it's time to cancel Facebook, I find an awesome group of librarians who have inspired me. The group is called Makerspaces and the Participatory Library.  I have always considered 3D printing to be something that students in upper elementary and beyond could bring their designs to fruition with the aid of Tinkercad but what about a 5 yr old?

In the Facebook group, I just saw this post that any black and white silhouette image could be flat printed on a 3D printer. The steps really are that easy. Now anyone who could hold a Sharpie could make something.  The mystery of how someone could easily draw curvy lines in Tinkercad has been solved! I had always imaged that they made it in AutoCAD and it was a very involved process.This is one problem with being self taught in things like this. Sometimes you learn the hard way before the easy way.

Step 1: Draw figure, try to smooth out the edges of the outline and take a picture. I free handed the drawing so it ended up on 2 small pieces of paper. I draw about as good as a 5 yr old so I was the perfect subject.  (It's a T-Rex just to clarify). I cleaned it up in Photoshop with a minor crop to take out the marble table around the edges. If any of the green table is left, Tinkercad will consider it another shape as shown by the line artifacts to the right of the T-Rex. 

 Step 2: Once those artifacts are removed, go to and convert the image file to SVG.

Step 3: Log in to Tinkercad and choose import from the gray right drop down menu. Resize to 20% with a desired thickness.  You will probably need to resize it even smaller with the side tools depending on the original file size of your original image. Go to Design, Download for 3D Printing and save as an STL when ready.

Step 4: Put STL file into desired 3D printer software (Cura in our case) and TADAH! In hindsight, I should have just added the ring using the Torus shape in Tinkercad just so I would have more of an exact measurement for adding the earring hardware. Here is a link to my updated design.

If you have read previous posts, you know I'm a big fan of 3D printing my own earrings.   This is my next print. 
Just make sure if it is this delicate you add a BRIM to your supports. My first print didn't adhere to the plate and I came down 20 minutes later to a gobbled mess.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

3D Printing Lego Heads

As an experiment, I tried to make my own 3D printed Lego head using Tinkercad and our Ultimaker 2 3D Printer.

You will need:
Testors Modeling Paint
EZ Digital Caliper (only if you don't use my measurements or want to teach the tool)
Pre-made Lego bodies to test
3D printer
With the digital caliper, I was able to get precise measurements using a pre-made Lego head and body.  You can introduce the students to using a caliper or you can skip this part since the measurements are already done. It wasn't exactly what the caliper measured of course because you have to leave a few .mm as wiggle room.

Here is my project to copy and tinker. The hole inside the orange cylinder is the one that needs to be exact. It is 5.5mm X 5.05mm. All other measurements and shapes can be played with to make huge "Bobble-head" like Lego heads. You can easily delete the hat and ears if you want a standard Lego head or get funkier.

After the meticulousness of painting such a small item as well as the nit-picky measurements, I'd advise middle-high school students for this project. Larger heads might lower the grade level.

The print is made all in one piece with the hat and ears not being removable. I used Testors modeling paint to customize which only required one coat and a sharpie for the facial features.

The print was only 18 minutes, no supports necessary. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cube 2 3D Printer Review

We have had the Cube 2 3D printers for over a year now and I think it's time to weigh in the pros and cons. For the record, we also have an Ultimaker 2 as my comparison for features. It does come with an extra price tag $ for those features but well worth the staff time I've saved. Most of our 3D printing programs with these Cube machines occur with first time users usually ages 10 and up.  Even if you don't have a Cube it is good to know the limits of any 3D printing machine before purchasing.

Cube Software....
is pretty easy to use. Unlike other printing software (Cura for Ultimaker*) I've used, there are limited options so it doesn't feel daunting to work with.  Is it solid or hollow? Supports yes or no? How large?  Cubify is an easy download off the website and you can download it to as many computers as you want.
Our workflow is we create an object in Tinkercad, save as an .STL file then convert into Cubify. Cubify saves the options from the previous time so be careful. I recommend always putting supports on work especially if it is a patron's first time printing.  Supports also add to the time it takes to print so bear in mind with Cubes the time it says it will finish is not always the case.

*Later editions of Cura, come with a simpler format by switching between expert and quickprint settings.

Due to the lack of advanced features, if a mistake is made in the .STL file there isn't much you can do to fix it within the Cube software. Make sure to save the original .STL to manipulate. Most kids don't have the file level with the work plate which may or may not be resolved with supports added. Cura allows you to separate parts of a print to save time.

Cube Itself...
is plug and play... when it works. We had a print started within 20 minutes of box unveiling. It has a low intimidation factor.  Cube comes with ready to print files on a flash drive. Plug it into the Cube and it will be good to go..mostly.
It's easy to travel with*  so bringing it to community events is nice as long as you have an electrical outlet.  Other printers don't recommend a lot of movement or jarring (plus they can be heavy).

You can get supplies from Staples. Glue is proprietary to prime the work plate and costs $8 each.

*During travel, the filament is going to break between the flimsy connection between the nozzle and the reel during movement.  It's not too bad to clear usually but something you have to check before starting a print.

When the printers started filament jamming, it's not an easy task to get it out.  When I talked to the company they gave us a long Powerpoint presentation (with good pictures) on how to clear a filament jam. It's a learning curve for a librarian without experience taking things apart. You need to get all the screws out, remembering where washers and spacers go, and remove important parts like the fan just to get to the jam. All 3D printers jam at some point, but this one is hard to get unjammed. It took us 1/2 hr every time to clear the jam and sometimes you can't even get to where the filament is jamming due to the way the nozzle is made. This is not ideal to do during a class so usually I'll just promise kids a week to pick up their projects. Videos (not from the company) online recommend unclogging with piano wire while the printer is on so at least it is heated up but the instructions don't mention that.

In direct comparison, the Ultimaker 2 has an easy system that clears clogs. This requires heating and cooling the nozzle using buttons on the Ultimaker. No take apart necessary! This has saves us hours of time devoted to taking apart the Cubes. 

If a print is starting to mess up due to not enough glue on the work plate or you forgot to check if the filament broke in the visible tube between the reel and the nozzle, you can't pause the print, you have to start completely over. This is another example where having a heated plate like in the Ultimaker works to your benefit.

This printer is not a workhorse meant for 10 hrs of printing daily nor does it accomplish fine details especially for very small items. This is what one YouTube reviewer called a "Soccer Mom's 3D Printer" so if people are trying to make prototypes for an invention or a 1 inch T-Rex earring this isn't the printer for them. It was happy to print flat items like key chains, flat earrings, or luggage tags for beginners to get build excitement and confidence with 3D printing.

Don't buy too much filament up front because it does get brittle over time and sometimes the filament breaks inside the reel and you have to take the reel apart to get to it...It's INFURIATING to get the clips off.....

When things did go wrong, I looked to the internet for help but not much luck. It was mostly people complaining about the printer!

Here are some of the variety of things we have printed with both the Cube and Ultimaker 2. I bet you can guess which ones are printed with each machine.  The Cube 2 won't print the new sized iPhone cases which I have heard is a big draw for those with 3D printers.

My advice if you are going with the Cube (especially if you get them for free) is to use it to get people interested and once they wear out, you can push for a better printer.  Keep in mind that they are closing their consumer division. There have been many times that I'm glad we had the Ultimaker as a backup so I could keep printing class items when the Cubes jam and I don't have time to fix them.

Although it may seem daunting at first, I'm really glad that we have 3D printers at our library.  It is an important piece to establishing us as a creative center for the community. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hour of Code Review

This year was our most successful Hour of Code yet (IMHO). We had lots going on and it was pretty noisy in the kids room. Hour of Code on the website was assigned for homework so I don't have accurate stats on that but I did try to keep track of the extension activities with pictures and video. So here is the reflection on the week after the previous blog post about setup:

As I have previously mentioned, every library has great services and events but how do we market them effectively? The most successful marketing strategy for us has been leaving demo projects out on the children's help desk. We had many conversations over the past week about Lego WeDo Robotics because the Ferris Wheel, which was built by a student during Tinkering Tuesdays, was on display for kids to ask about. As soon as we reeled them in, we could say, "If you have 30 minutes you can build one yourself today!"  Consequently, this also helped all the staff to learn how to do a quick programming demo in Lego Robotics (with a helpful tip sheet as an aid).

Our other big hit was Sphero, our robot ball, which sat on the desk with a big sign that read "Ask to try". I started everyone on the same beginning Sphero app, where the iPad becomes a joystick to drive him around, but, in the spirit of Hour of Code, the programming app Tickle would have been more of a learning experience. Although I was surprised at the students problem solving how to move him, make him jump, and knock over cups. It's all physics (just not coding!).  Kids had a tough time taking turns, so it needed to be monitored better. Sphero has only 1 hour of juice for every 3 hours charged so keep that in mind when programming.

Sphero from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Stuart, our Elf on the Shelf, helped out posing with our Legos, Sphero and doing his own Hour of Code. If I have to take a picture every day, why not combine the two?  It's amazing how many kids come up to the desk that normally don't to talk about where their elf was last night.  In consideration for the diverse population, you don't need to use the elf, any stuffed animal library mascot will do. The kids love hiding our two Kermits around the room.

The Duxbury High School Robotics Club took the time during their busy competition schedule to come over and teach Lego Mindstorms for an hour and a half. Unfortunately only 1 kid actually showed up for it. I have learned from previous program busking that wording is everything so I went around the room and said, "Who wants to see Lego robots battle?" rather than "Who wants to program robots?"  I had 7 more kids using this strategy. I could not believe the attention that a 5 and 6 year old had for the entire program. The results are clear in their voices. It was great not to have to worry about learning all the ins and outs of Mindstorms. Why not have the experts do it?

Lego Mindstorm Robot Battles from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Our unplugged ideas were not used for their intended projects. Many kids just used the beads and gimp to make their own designs for bracelets which still works but not what I had planned.

I can't go the whole Hour of Code review without mentioning the website, which is the focal point of the whole week. It had fun activities this year that really tapped into popular culture with Minecraft and Star Wars as the big names. I made my own Star Wars Game using Blockly. There's no way to win just keep collecting the pigs until you can't anymore. I think middle schoolers would love making games where no one wins. I am debating about doing the extension activities like Lego robotics and Sphero the week after Hour of Code since it technically doesn't fulfill the hour doing these extra library activities.