Report from the MakerSpace: Room 5 Spring Round Up

Written by Alison Earnhart, MakerSpace Maven


It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with Room 5 as their engineering specialist this year. Working within the class’ year-long theme of Wild and Free, I was delighted at the limitless possibilities of designing and building with an eye towards natural phenomena. Returning from my medical leave in T2, the third trimester offered the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from the masterful Ms. Kathy on a few projects, and further explore engineering themes with nature as the primary inspiration.

Good engineers document their work, and Room 5 are experts at good documentation!

Returning with Ms. Kathy, we explored the geometric beauty of geodesic domes and learned a little about the legacy of engineer Buckminster Fuller, who popularized them in the mid 20th century. After building domes with Ms. Kathy, we continued with the natural geometry theme and created paper spheres out of many smaller circles and triangles. That paper folding led to another project – making paper kites! Quality engineering projects always allow room for students to get creative and make their own designs, and also challenge students to deliver some kind of functionality that is obvious and testable to students and adults alike. For the kites, we started with a basic design and then made changes and additions through iterative testing to develop even better designs. The students had a great time testing their kites over and over again with our industrial shop fan we brought into the classroom so that we could have a steady, reliable wind.

Speaking of wind, we decided as a class to spend a lot more time on aerodynamic engineering, and I was happy to oblige. We started by following up on a project we never got to finish due my sudden departure in the fall – designing and testing “whirligigs” modeled after maple tree seeds. I was so proud of the students’ focus on taking detailed observations of their whirligigs and making changes to modify how long they could stay in the air. We also designed and tested flying rubber band-powered helicopters, using the same strategy of beginning with a simple design and then adding more changes to incrementally improve their flight.

As Spring began to show itself outside, we shifted focus to the engineering of gardening and learning about how plants

Students learned how to start seeds from scratch and transplant sprouts gently.

grow towards the sun and away from gravity. As the class adopted another theme around space, it made sense to study how plants are grown on the International Space Station and what accommodations need to be made in those strange environments. We began with a large collection of seeds – morning glories, tomatoes, and sunflowers. I taught students how to soak and plant seeds, tend to them, and then transplant them when they were ready to be separated. We learned how to prep and turn the flower beds, and when we finally planted our morning glories in the beds we also designed and built our own trellises out of bamboo rods and rubber bands. I am thrilled at how deeply proud and passionate the students have been about their gardening work.

The students’ creativity and passion for learning never ceases to amaze me, and I am constantly learning just as much from them as they are from me. It has been a lovely first year for me to work with children in this age range, and I believe I’ve developed a new career passion for working with this grade level.