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 online-convert.com 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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy Hour of Code Week

Hour of Code week starts today!

In addition to the free one hour tutorials on the website. We have a few passive unplugged activities such as binary code jewelry and "my robot friend":


Along with iPads loaded with a whole folder of coding apps to try.
My favorites are:
Scratch Jr.
Daisy the Dinosaur

We also left Lego WeDo kits at the front desk for kids to try and we'll have a special demo from the high school robotics club with Lego Mindstorms on Thursday.

Our new Sphero robot will be debuting this week. I'll bring him out during our regular Tinkering Tuesday session and after school for kids to try. He is connected to one of our iPads. My favorite app so far is Tickle.   It has a Scratch like block interface which requires a bit more thought to get him around than just driving him back and forth with a controller.  For quick fun demonstration try, Draw & Drive. You literally draw something on the iPad screen and Sphero will replicate the line.  Among the other apps I've tried for Sphero, I found the original Sphero app not very intuitive and the Zombie game was too hard to keep Sphero in line with the camera.  Sphero comes with ramps to practice driving but I'm hoping to build him an obstacle course this week. You can use the Sphero cam app to capture the action on your iPad.

Sphero Stunts from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Circulating Science Toys

Circulating toys can be challenging. How many parts is too many? What to do about replacements? What about propriety software?  I would not recommend kits like Lego Robotics WeDo or Mindstorms to go out of the building. First, the programming software is proprietary and second having all the parts is important to each of the pre-designed constructions. Sparkfun Inventor's Kit, an Arduino beginner's package, is also something I wouldn't circulate. The parts are very small (less than a penny in size), including 2 different color coded resistors that need up close examination to determine which is which. That being said, there are plenty of small reusable kits that can circulate without hassle to any departments.

As I write this, we have just bought Sphero, an already built "ball" robot that focuses on coding through free apps as our newest circulated STEM toy. We already have two successful STEM kits that circulate for 2 weeks and are holdable by patrons with a valid Duxbury library card: littleBits and Makey Makeys. They are placed in a highly traffic area of the children's room (new chapter books) that is easily seen from the desk. All the items fit in Tupperware bins with lots of labels: price for replacement parts inside the box cover and choking hazard warning outside the box (if necessary) with checkout reminders.  Adult circulation has many hobby "kits" called toolboxes like ukulele and bird watching already. We mimicked the labeling and call number structure structure they have established but our checkouts are shorter. They can also be searched as "toolboxes" through our digital catalog with MARC records.

When composing the kit, we take the time to set out every item and take a photo of all of the contents. This helps both tech services in setting up the kit and circulation upon each check in.  To promote video game design, I added a "Learn to Program with Scratch" book ($34.95) for extension activities in addition to the purchased Makey Makey kit ($50). For the littleBits toolbox, I decided upon the smallest kit we had which included 10 bits ($89) and purchased Lego adapters ($10) as an extension activity. Kids can use their Legos from home to build their inventions. I'm not worried about broken bits since I can purchase them separately through the site. So far only the vibrating motor has broken and I just took another vibrating motor from an extra kit we had without charging the patron. I haven't given up on the vibrating motor yet either, it may just need to be soldered together. 

It is important to market these items. If they are sitting in a corner, not too many people are willing to open boxes to see what is inside. At the beginning of the school year, I emailed teachers, school librarian and local troops of scouts to let them know that these are available.  I also set up displays like the Makey Makey Floor Piano with the thought being it would encourage students to make their own at home.  The toolbox was nestled beside the display and went out the same day the piano was constructed with a few inquiries to place holds. The Makey Makey kit has circulated 13 times since February and the littleBits has circulated 10 times.

Other possible kits on the horizon:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Importance of Documentation

I just read about cognitive load theory, developed by John Sweller, a professor at New South Wales Australia.  It's the notion that people can only hold seven pieces of information in their heads at one time.

According to SLJ's "The Cognitive Connection," May 2015, recent research claims that we might be holding less, maybe 2 or 4 things (pg. 25).  With that in mind, I recently tried to recreate a "talking skull" with the Sparkfun Arduino kit that I made last Halloween (with hands on help from our local maker at the time). It was much easier said than done.

I thought I had taken detailed pictures of the breadboard layout but upon recreation, I was flummoxed. I completely forgot how to do this! I should have taken the shots from above and clearly labeled the wires. I also should have taken a photo of the entire thing. I had a few white wires, one from the PR motion sensor, another from the servo. Which was which?

So I shot a video, surely I shot up close on the Arduino itself for the skull! NOPE!

Arduino Halloween from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

After all that I realized that I had written down better details for the blog post I did last Halloween or I would have been in trouble for sure!

When I was finished with the bread boarding, I uploaded my saved code in the Arduino program and it is saying SD Fat does not name a type. I have no idea where to go from here because my actual code knowledge is minimal.  I'm still trying to google the answer.  My point is with maker projects, especially in our age of multi tasking, the brain can only hold so much. It is important to take detailed notes, photos and video. That way, if you don't touch the project for a year, you have an easy jumping off point. Now if you have a cadre of 10 or 12 tweens surrounding you, that may be easier said than done, but it's important to take the time after and add tips for making the next project smoother. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First test of Strawbees

My Strawbees came into the mail today! How exciting! I ordered the 368 piece kit for $50.

I opened the box to my only complaint about the item. It contained sheets of the connectors. I had to hand pull off every single piece with a kit of 368 pieces. It made me wish I had a volunteer handy. Make sure you have a hole punch because the middle circles of each piece all need to be taken out too.

All the pieces were separated into small Tupperware containers for later use and I got to work.

Engineering attempt #1
Like most maker space tinkering activities, there are going to be those students who don't know where to start (neither did I honestly). You can build ANYTHING. That's alot of possibilities! So I thought, why not a helicopter so I have something that moves? My first attempt right out of the box without instructions was less than stellar. So I consulted the internet and used this lampshade strawbee tutorial to begin with a cube. My favorite part of the tutorial was they laid the cube out on the ground first. If you were working with younger kids, tracing this outline would be much more approachable to start. 

Laying it out on the floor helps connect the pieces
Another important factor would be introducing the kids to all the different connection options to test which is the right one for your structure. This would help with some examples. What would be the right one for a propeller? How would you build a triangle?

The propeller in my first design wouldn't stand up so I evenly added circles to try to make it sturdier. When that failed, I cut the straw in half to balance the weight.  These are all good thinking aloud examples to act out. When that didn't work I concluded that I was using two different straw types with size and width so perhaps the bottom wasn't sturdy enough.

To turn my cube into the helicopter, it required a one connector, two connector, circle and 3 way connector at each of the 4 corners of the cube. The package comes with yellow and white connectors, it doesn't matter which color.  The top of the copter required a 5 connector piece and a one connector piece.

Engineering attempt #2
Like most STEM open ended toys, there are so many ways to get the same results. If I was going to host a program around these, I'd have everyone group build a helicopter starting with the standard cube, then invite them to build individual helicopters to see how they would design it differently. That way it's still tinkering but I provided some light guidance towards their path.

I don't think 4 year olds would master this product without help. It does take some force to put straws in the middle circle (depending on size of the straw) and to lock some of the strawbee parts together.

This has great potential to add to a makerspace cart in your library for drop in programming. Just beware of choking hazards and be prepared for missing pieces ending up in the vacuum. 

For a long term investment, you can also buy the accu-cut to make your own pieces, that way kids could take them home.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Makey Makey Floor Piano

If you are looking for a short, low cost project to do with your Makey Makeys, this one is sure to be a big hit. It's a great small group project as well as an eye catching interactive display in some noisy area of the library (as long as you can keep library staff sane). This was made as part of our Tinkering Tuesdays lab. We had low tech cardboard construction, 3D printing, and the Makey floor piano going on simultaneously. It took us about 1.5 hours with 3 teens helping.

Materials List:
Aluminum Tape $12
Duct Tape (any color) $2
Makey Makey $50
CAT cable (there's one lying around your library trust me) or just use regular wire
Wire strippers
12 x 12 x 1.5 in puzzle piece exercise mat $12
white 6 x 8 tarp (but could be smaller) $12
Computer with internet running Scratch

This video shows a demonstration with step by step picture instructions and a more detailed video explanation. I got the idea from two sites that I used for consult: Ed Tech Junkies & Make It At Your Library.  BIG THANK YOU!

Makey Makey Floor Piano from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Your BARE feet or hands must be touching both layers of the aluminum tape to connect the notes so make sure you give a good amount of border between each layer.  Hitting the center of the keys works best. It can be anything conductive really to complete the circuit not just body parts. We used a screw driver to play each note too.

The best part of this project was since the ground wires were built in there was no need for the person touching the notes to hold onto a separate ground wire while playing. This is why there are two aluminum tape layers with a duct tape (non conductive) layer in the middle.