Jean Adams' Honors Geometry class at Castilleja School in Palo Alto
A few months ago Jean Adams, a teacher from Castilleja School in Palo Alto, wrote to me about the OpenSCAD tutorials on our blog so she could use them in her classroom. Obviously, this got me interested, so I asked her to share more about her class:
I teach Honors Geometry at Castilleja, an independent girls’ school for grades 6-12 in the heart of Silicon Valley. This year our school opened an “Idea Lab” in connection with Stanford’s Fab Lab and trained a group of teachers on several digital fabrication machines. Among those machines was a cute, wooden MakerBot Thing-o-Matic. I was immediately drawn to the homebrew feel of the community around MakerBot and frankly the machine reminded me of the Apple I. A parent volunteer, Diego Fonstad, showed me the openSCAD program and I saw how wonderfully this software could help teach several concepts in my Geometry class. I began to play with OpenSCAD by following MakerBlock’s tutorials on the MakerBot blog. Eventually I adapted his tutorials for my classroom and my student’s learned OpenSCAD during two 50-minute class sessions. They were then given time outside of class to work on a final project which was printed on our school’s Thing-o-Matic.
The list of concepts that this project helped teach or reinforce is actually quite extensive. During the year long course my students learn about union and intersection of geometrical objects, vectors, rigid transformations such as translation, rotation, dilation (scale in OpenSCAD), and the z-axis. All of these ideas came together in the design of their OpenSCAD object. Futhermore I teach a small amount of programming in the python language and their skills in that language transferred over directly into OpenSCAD.
Beyond any specific content learned through this project, I intended my students to practice using spatial reasoning. A 2010 research report by AAUW entiled “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” presents research that shows women can dramatically improve spatial reasoning skills in a short amount of time in order to close the gap with men. ”If girls grow up in an environment with opportunities to develop their spatial skills, they are more likely to consider a future in a science or engineering field.” I found that students struggled with thinking and rotating in 3 dimensions, but by the end of the project had developed a robust ability to rotate their OpenSCAD objects in their mind.
A nice (and accidental) side effect was the chance for students to express themselves creatively in math class. Diego Fonstad wrote, “The detail and breadth of their output exceeded what was required of them to complete the project. This underscores their latent creativity and desire to build and also demonstrates how this exercise tapped their intrinsic motivation and truly engaged the students.”
Jean’s class have shared their designs on Thingiverse, including the cutest and pinkest R2D2 I’ve ever seen.
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