BLOGGERmine

Making in education: let’s call it Maker Literacy

Making in education: let’s call it Maker Literacy

I’ve heard of many projects where FabLabs, Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and 3D-print companies do workshops with kids, from making their own personalized objects to building their own 3D-printer.

Today I came across this article on Edutopia, in which Sylvia Martinez explains how the Maker Movement supports learning theories that have learning by doing at the core. At the beginning of her article she says something very interesting:

“I also think that “making” shouldn’t be just making anything. Schools have a tendency to cherry-pick the easiest parts of implementing complex ideas. When we talk about making in the classroom, we have to continually raise the bar and challenge ourselves to create an academically worthy process. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to add computational technology to the making.

A computer with appropriate software means that opportunities for design, simulation, precision, accuracy, measurement, feedback, sensors, data, and programming are not just possible, but greatly enhanced. Interaction between the digital and physical world adds a level of complexity that results in greater understanding of both.”

I especially like that last sentence. You can easily stitch a model together in Tinkercad, using basic building blocks, but making that into a physical object may result in something unprintable on your machine. You can be told that it will not print, but nothing beats the experience of seeing it go wrong for yourself.

To see how the Maker Movement already enters schools, Edutopia published this wonderful story, how a boy brought making into his own school:

This story reminds me very much of the stories my generation tell about the introduction of the personal computer in their schools (and homes for some of them). I was lucky to have a father who bought an Atari 800 XL when I was about 6. Even though I was too young at that time, a few years later I did learn to type in some lines in Basic, so at that time I learned how programming worked.

I remember we were very patient computer users back then. Waiting for half an hour to load a game from a tape-deck was normal. And don’t get me started about the amount of failed attempts of loading in the last few seconds. Today, we are patiently waiting hours for our 3D-printer to finish printing. And don’t get me started about the number of restarts, because the first few layers didn’t stick to the print-bed.

Bringing the low-cost digital machines and electronics to schools is key to have more kids exposed to how stuff works and gets created in the real world. Now that we can afford to bring this set of tools into schools, we should. Just as we needed to learn about computers and the internet, we now need to learn about making. It’s time to introduce, what I would call, Maker Literacy in schools.

0

VPRO’s Tegenlicht over De nieuwe makers

VPRO’s Tegenlicht over De nieuwe makers

Op 14 september zond Tegenlicht een hele interessante documentaire uit over de ‘Maker movement’, De nieuwe makers. Aan het woord komen onder andere Jeremy Rifkin, Chris Anderson en Neil Gershenfeld, drie mannen die deze wereld goed kennen en de blik vooruitwerpen op wat de beschikbaarheid en betaalbaarheid van digitale productiemiddelen, en het internet als versneller in de verspreiding, gaat betekenen voor onze maatschappij.

De regisseur van de documentaire, Martijn Kieft, stipt deze hoofdpunten aan als hij uitlegt waarom hij deze documentaire is gaan maken.

Om je een idee te geven hoe groots deze ‘Maker movement’ wordt ingeschat, dit zegt Rifkin halverwege de documentaire:

“We democratiseren informatie via internet. En nu democratiseren we de productie van goederen door productie met behulp van 3D-printers.” (24 min 25)

Dat is een groots vergezicht dat Rifkin schildert. Criticasters van dit soort toekomstscenario’s noemen vaak dat 3D-printers slechts lage kwaliteit plastic printen, maar ondertussen wordt er druk geëxperimenteerd met het printen met allerlei anderen materialen. De toekomst is in veel gevallen al hier en nu, ze zijn alleen niet altijd even bekend bij het grote publiek.

Bij Shapeways kun je inmiddels kiezen uit meer dan 45 verschillende materialen om je ontwerp in te laten printen. Kijk bijvoorbeeld ook naar een kunstenaarscollectief in Argentinie deze week met klei print, of hoe WASP de hoogte ingaat met klei (met als doel om uiteindelijk huizen te kunnen printen),  en naar DUS-architecten die in Amsterdam een grachtenpand bezig zijn te printen.  Wat gaat dat wel niet voor ons betekenen, als we straks ons eigen huis kunnen printen? Ik kan in ieder geval niet wachten tot het zover is.

Een ander mooi voorbeeld dat het productieproces gaat veranderen is het bericht van Ultimaker, één van de toonaangevende bedrijven wereldwijd die 3D-printers maken voor de consumentenmarkt, dat ik deze week voorbij zag komen. Ultimaker gaat een samenwerking aan met BHold, een bedrijf dat 3D geprinte objecten verkoopt. BHold gaat hardware beta-testen, een fenomeen dat in de software-wereld inmiddels volstrekt normaal is. Mensen die een 3D-printer bezitten kunnen beta-versies van hun producten downloaden van YouMagine en feedback geven aan BHold waarop zij het ontwerp kunnen verbeteren. De fabrikant die de eindgebruiker op een hele directe en open manier betrekt bij het ontwerpproces. Het is weer eens wat anders dan een focus groep bij elkaar brengen.

Door de beschikbaarheid tegen geringe kosten van digitale fabricatie, gaan we eigenlijk terug naar de periode voor de massaproductie. Joris Laarman noemt 3D-printen dan ook een ambacht:

“Het is niet een robot die het werk van mensen overneemt. Het is een andere manier van produceren die het waarschijnlijk efficiënt genoeg maakt om het ambacht juist weer terug te brengen in de maatschappij.” (25 min 40)

Neil Gershenfeld zegt:

“Als je kijkt naar leven in een afgelegen dorp waar alle ambachten en vaardigheden aanwezig waren en je produceerde wat je verbruikte. In zekere zin keren terug naar dat oude model, maar nu met alle mogelijkheden van deze tijd.” (45 min 00):

3D-printen als ambacht. Ik vind het een hele mooie verwoording en wil dat wel doortrekken naar alle machines en elektronica die gebruikt worden in bijvoorbeeld FabLabs. Uit eigen ervaring kan ik zeggen dat er veel verschillende vaardigheden nodig zijn voor het printen of snijden van een tekening, of het nou 2D of 3D is. Zelf een object ontwerpen is een vaardigheid op zich, wat kennis vergt van de software, de effecten van overhang en hoeken die wel of niet goed printen, of marges die je aan moet houden om uitgesneden materiaal met elkaar te verbinden. Dan heb je kennis nodig over  jouw eigen machine, want elke machine heeft net zo z’n kleine variatie nodig op de standaard instellingen om de beste printkwaliteit te leveren. Materiaalkeuze speelt ook een belangrijke rol. In de lasersnijder kun je verschillende soorten hout gebruiken, in de printer verschillende materialen. Kortom, om iets moois en goed te kunnen printen heb je veel ervaring nodig en op de weg daar naar toe veel mislukte versies in de prullenbak gegooid. Net zoals elke vakman zijn vak leert.

Het grootste verschil tussen toen en nu: we kunnen onze ontwerpen zonder extra kosten naar de anderen wereld sturen, waar iemand het kan downloaden en maken. Het dorp van nu is de online wereld die lokaal produceert.

Jeremy Rifkin eindigt nog even met een verwijzing naar Ghandi, die al vroeg begreep dat massaproductie een klein deel van de bevolking zou verrijken ten kosten van de rest en dat hij, Ghandi, veel liever een systeem zou zien van productie dóór de massa. Met de huidige technologie zou zijn visie werkelijkheid kunnen worden.

Ga nu maar gauw zelf de documentaire kijken en mocht je een Maker faire aangekondigd zien bij jou in de buurt raad ik je aan er heen te gaan om zelf kennis te maken met deze wereld. Vergeet dan zeker niet je kinderen mee te nemen.

0

Your thing tells a story.

Your thing tells a story.

talkingthingAre you a maker? Have you ever in your life created an object, a thing, that solved a problem for you, or was just a nice thing to have? And if you have, did you, while constructing it, give a thought about what the end product would look like? If you’re in the hacking/maker scene, there is a high chance you didn’t. You probably created a square box to put your electronics in, or used left-over materials from your previous project. Basically, this is how all first prototypes are being made. They are meant to function first. Design is not important in this phase. And if you’re really a maker, you don’t really care about form, if you’re really honest. You can admit it, this is no crime.

As long as your thing stays at your desk or is only shared between your friends at the maker space, function being more important than form is just fine. Yet, there comes a time you’re tempted to share your thing with a much wider audience, including the ones who dó care about looks, because deep at heart you dream about making money with making things. Secretly, you’re hoping your thing goes viral, the blueprint gets bought by a company for an insane amount of money or you get enough requests for a copy you can actually start your own business building them.

But the chance of your typical maker space thing going viral is very small.

You may not realize this, but the interest in self-creation is on the rise. Think of all the maker spaces, FabLabs and hacker spaces that opened up in the past decade. It’s not the typical young pale male joining these labs, it’s also the female jewelry designers, the industrial designers looking for a space to create rapid, cheap prototypes and the occasional hedge fund broker who is desperate to work with his hands in his spare time. And think about all the people who bought a 3D printer. Many of them are not good at creating designs themselves, so they browse online to find things to download and print. These are the kind of people that care about looks and feel of an object.

So if you haven’t thought about your potential reach for the things you share online, this is the time to do exactly that. Your design tells a story, and you should think about the story you want your thing to tell before uploading your files for others to download. Take the time to add proper descriptions and tags to your object, because that is how people will find your thing. Tell about the reasons for making the thing, what problem it solves, how you created it. Perhaps you’re even hoping for others to build upon your thing. Then tell them what you think is missing, or could be added and improved.

The digital machines for making things become more and more affordable. My guess is it will not take that long for many households owning them. Therefore, if you start paying attention to your designs right now, you know you have your story ready to tell once the machines become mainstream.

*This post was inspired by the workshop Ronen Kadushin gave at ThingsCon 2014 on Story-telling based Design Process.

0

Creating alone together

Creating alone together

The past five weeks have been overly creative for me. The reason for that is that between doing proper paid for work for a client, I hooked up with Melina at a party of a mutual friend of ours. Both of us have been talking about meeting each other more often, but somehow we never came to the point of actually meeting. This time, end of January something clicked at last. We both were looking for a way of doing something creative. At the same time, we both acknowledged that it would work much better if we could do it together with someone, so there would be a real reason to produce (or in this case, a real person to produce for). Thus we arranged for our first meeting together and I’ll tell you about the creative process we created for ourselves.

During that first meeting at Melina’s wonderful apartment (a house I would love to move into: modern, bright, huge living-/kitchen area and hidden corners for desks and clutter) we talked, over coffee and sweets, about our interests and the projects we’re working on and have done in the past. At some point we started talking about the Lego-workshop I participated in a few months ago. Melina used to work at Lego HQ for a while and she showed me some mood boards she created. Based on our joined joint enthusiasm for Lego, we decided what our first step in the creative process we were trying to establish would be: build something using Lego based on our conversations and show that to the other in one week’s time.

Phase one: build something based on our conversation.

Amongst the many things we discussed, Melina told me about her latest project, in which she tries to connect the local art scene to the place where she’s from: Palo Alto, a sister city of Enschede. Keywords were crossing borders and building bridges. At home, I opened my Lego box (yes, I bought Lego for myself, because you’re never too old to play with Lego) and found some artwork built by friends’ kids visiting us a month before. One of them, neatly stacked bricks to create a big cube, inspired me to just take it and expand it. Co-creation beyond borders (the kids live in Switserland), generations and time! I used the stacks of 2×2 bricks, created a bit of space between them and build bridges.

My build:

My build for the creative process with Melina. Abstract translation of building bridges. Can you spot my ‘easter egg’?

One week after our first meeting we showed our objects to each other. Melina actually had to buy some Lego first so she went to our local shop and actually found (and bought) a wonderful retro piece. This is what she showed me:

L1010074

A retro piece on the left, brand new on the right. A representation of her quest to bring the funkiness (right) into the perfect dream (left), mixing the best of both.

Melina’s story was that the old piece was such a representation of the perfect (American) dream house, which in itself turned out to be not so pretty. The build on the right is very funky with a lot of unknown bits and pieces, which in itself is perhaps not entirely what you want either. Her ‘quest’ is to bring the funky bits and people into the perfect dream. Combined it will be something that works for everyone.

Phase 2: Create a poster based on the Lego piece and its representation.

Taking the pieces and the stories told around our objects, we would both create a poster. I like digital, Melina likes paper, so we both were allowed the methods we prefer.

I used this phase to get to know Illustrator a bit better and tried a lot of things. I had an abstract image in my mind, with on one side a perfect square and on the other side random spots. In the middle, where perfect meets random, something exciting should happen. Somehow, I couldn’t translate what I pictured in my mind to the screen (in paint I would be able to, but I didn’t have the time to arrange for that), so in the end I used the pictures I took of Melina’s build and tried all various manipulations on the photo’s. The thing that stuck was the option to create a mosaic of the photo’s, each square representing just the one dominant color in that square.

I decided to create a triptych: one of the perfect retro piece, one of the funky piece and one of both of them combined. To make the poster complete, I googled for quotes on perfectionism and I found a beautiful one from Hannah Arendt.

This is the poster I created:

drieluik_mozaiek_perfectionism

The poster I created for Melina, using the pictures I took of her builds, creating a mosaic of both sides and overlapping them (on the right).

One of the things that struck me when overlapping the two pictures, that it lost vibrant contrast compared to each of the pictures separate. So would it actually be a good idea to mix them? I don’t expect an answer 😉

In return, this is the poster Melina created:

IMG_0009_2

The poster Melina created for me, using magazine clippings and words to match the key terms in our conversations.

Melina took the classic approach, clipping magazines for things that reminded her of our conversations and sticking key words to it. Kragel? The keyword from the Lego-movie, which according to Melina covered exactly what we have been talking about. I still have to see the movie so I have to take her word for it ;-).

Phase 3: take the poster as an inspiration to make something.

There were many things on Melina’s poster that I connected with. Especially the object bottom left. After Googling a bit, we discovered it is called Centennial Chromagraph and represents the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. Together with the other piece of data visualization on the poster, I wanted to create my own piece of tangible data with the 3D-printer I recently acquired. The perfect incentive to finally start learning to draw in 3D, using Rhino (still available for free for Mac, due to developing stage).

First step was to find a relevant dataset that would be easily translated into a model (read: few data to add manually). I stumbled upon an article on people living cross-border in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. I took the dataset of Germans and Dutch living in the border region, a theme that fits right in with the whole building bridges and cross-border theme we have running during the whole process. Not knowing how to create 3D models, I searched for tutorials and found one on creating a cup. I used this to create two separate vases, with each layer representing one bar from the chart.

Step one: finding the Data

The number of Dutch and Germans living in the border region between 1996 and 2010.

The number of Dutch and Germans living in the border region between 1996 and 2010.

 

Step 2: Creating the model

IMG_0010_2

In Rhino, I created a vase for each dataset, each layer representing one bar from the original chart. Using techniques I learned from this video.

 

Step three: Printing the models

L1020048

The two small vases that represent a dataset. Left: Dutch living in German border region. Right: Germans living in Dutch border region. 1996 is the bottom, 2010 the top.

Tadaa! My very first 3D data models.

Of course there are lessons learned. Biggest one: if you print something that becomes wider at the top, you have to take into account that the plastic needs to land on something. Doh! The model on the right printed beautifully, but of course the 90 degrees extensions of the model on the left are not 3D print friendly. The first layers are printed in…air.

I discovered the option to print the object with support material and I reprinted the bigger vase. Yet, it turns out to be not a very good solution. It was really hard to remove the material, resulting in damaging the print surface of the vase while removing it. Plus, the print quality underneath the extensions was still a bit…bad.

L1020041

On the left the vase without support material. Notice the threads hanging loose. On the right the same vase, with support material still attached.

L1020044

I had to use a knife and screw driver to remove the support material with a lot of force.

L1020047

Just to proof it really is the same vase ;-). A lot of surplus material and a lot of extra printing time. Advise: design it at an angle that will print without support material. For PLA I read somewhere that you can go up to an angle of about 60 degrees.

The second main lesson about 3D designing: it is really an effort to learn to use 3D modeling software, but even when you stick some basic objects together, you can still surprise yourself. Plus: once you have a model, it is super easy to get it scaled to whatever size you want in the software that comes with the 3D printer.

We created alone together!

Melina didn’t have time to create her thing based on my poster yet. She wants to create a big triptych for her house, so that might take a while. For now, the process seems done. In two weeks time we meet again and see what we will come up with next. It might be a new process with a new theme, or it might be with someone else or it might be nothing at all.

Having to produce for someone else, allowing ourselves to explore big themes together, creating things in our own pace and style. It were the right ingredients to get into a creative flow these past five weeks. A big gift!

1

20-21 June “Make Stuff That Matters”

20-21 June “Make Stuff That Matters”

Making stuff that matters
In four months, Ton and I hope for you to join us at our MidSummer UnConference and BBQ. To make the most of our time together it will take place at MidSummer, so we have the longest days of the year. On Friday 20 June the MidSummer Unconference will take place. Followed on Saturday 21 June by the MidSummer BBQ.

The theme for the MidSummer Unconference will be ‚Make Stuff That Matters’.

We have more opportunity than ever to act and make things ourselves, while connected to and embedded in globally connected networks and globally accessible knowledge. Our world is however a closed system with restraints in terms of esources, with only our creativity in true abundance. So we better learn how to act, prototype, design and make well. Whether it is a product, a system, a structure or a new routine. So we better make stuff that really solves something for you or others, that makes something important possible. So we better Make Stuff That Matters.

The people
We hope to bring a diverse group of people from around our network together again. Last time we had some 12 nationalities joining us, 40 people at the unconference, and some 80 at the BBQ. Friends, colleagues, peers, family, neighbors and clients. In other words: you!

The program
A day long we will explore making in all its facets. We’ll have a number of 3d-printers, as well as laser cutters available. We’ll have Doodle-3D, Lego (serious play) and mindstorms for the kids (and ourselves). Bring your raspberry pi, arduino’s and other tinkering stuff, if you have it. We’ll have data-visualization and app making. We’ll have design, p2p organizing, and whatever idea you want to add! Bring your small and great skills, your curiosity and prepare to let yourself be surprised. Together we’ll make stuff that matters.


You are invited

In the coming weeks we will be sending out the first batches of invitations. If you would like to be there, you are very welcome to join us, so consider yourself to be invited. Just ping us, and we’ll add you to the list.

Mark your calendar, start planning your trip, and join us for Ton and Elmine’s MidSummer Unconference and BBQ on 20 and 21 June!
For more info see the MidSummer Unconference page(we’ll add info there as we go along).

 

0