Problem Solving in the Makerspace

The best thing about my library Makerspace is how student projects form and problems get solved.  At library night this week, I was showing a group of students and their parents the Sphero robot.  Our talented custodian, Patrick, and his budding artist daughter inspired me to suggest that it would be great if we could make a carriage for Sphero that would include a pen holder.  Then, we could program Sphero to draw something on poster board.

Patrick sketched out a working model for the Sphero carriage, and I shared it with two fifth grade teams of 3D designers.  They haven't been through all the Tinkercad tutorials, but they need to work on a real project. They were excited and a bit anxious about starting the project.

I explained that they needed to calculate the diameter of Sphero, so that they would know how big to make the hole in the carriage.  James said, "It needs to be a little bigger than Sphero, or it won't spin or move."  Absolutely, right!  I showed them how to use a tape measure to find the circumference.  Then, we looked up the formula for calculating the diameter of a sphere when you know the circumference.  Because math is my weakest subject, I suggested they check the formula with Mr. Brandon, our math teacher.  The truth is, I felt confident that the formula was correct, but I like suggesting that they verify information with a second, reliable source.  And, I like having them discuss their projects with other teachers.

Upon returning to the library, the boys quickly did the calculations and converted it to millimeters.  Then, they set to work on the design.  When I came back a few minutes later to check on them, they had something like this:

They had used the torus thin because it already had a hole in the center.  I asked them how they were going to determine how big the hole in the center is since the measurements are for the entire shape.  Silence.  I said, "Maybe you should replace it with the cylinder shape. Then, you can drill a hole the size you need."  More silence.  
Then, Logan said, "Hey, James, why don't we just grab the sphere and make it the size we need.  Then we can stretch the torus until the sphere fits inside it with a little room to spare."  Yep, I'm getting back out of the way.  They obviously only needed me to ask the question.  They were more than capable of figuring out a much more elegant solution than I.

That's Makerspace learning.  The inspiration for our projects comes from our needs, the mentoring and collaborating come from our entire school staff (and they don't have to be in the library at the time - Patrick was there two nights before and the other involved a brief in-school field trip to the math teacher's classroom), and the solutions to problems come from questioning and taking time to think about it.


Post a Comment