Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Forgotten Dream: Our Glowforge Arrives! (PART 1)

Back in October 2015, we pre-ordered the Glowforge. We, and other Glowforge potential owners repeatedly received delay-of-shipment emails, to the point where many people began to jump ship.

The space had been taped off for so long and it had become a joke. Someone wrote "The forgotten dream," back in 2016, and earlier this year, someone else added "We will love love u and cherish u what scared u away?" We still don't know who wrote these messages.

And then, we received "the" email.

Thursday, October 19th

On Friday, November 3, the box arrived. (Teacher's note: Friday was parent-teacher conferences, so there weren't any kids to freak out with. I sent them an email, but it wasn't quite the same.")

Sunday, November 5, we assembled for the unboxing.

We made the same mistake we make every time we open a box with something expensive in it: we cut the tape and then realized we had opened it wrong. We carefully turned it on its side and took the laser cutter out. Looking at the unboxing guide, with the link conveniently located inside the box, we found that we shouldn't have even cut that tape.

Once we got everything out of the box, we removed the protective foam and assembled the "print head."

We cut out some cardboard to seal the window we were venting the exhaust through, and set up a table near the window. Then we plugged it in and turned on the machine. It worked as expected, making some bubbling noises from the water-cooling system. The setup process was super simple and only required us to connect it to the school's WiFi before we could start making things from their web based software (that can run on a Chromebook!).

Someone drew a simple not-so-accurate square on a piece of paper and placed it in the machine so that we could scan it. We scanned it and then put some acrylic in the machine. When we went to cut, we ran into a problem.

Here's the thing: the Glowforge was so popular because of how easy it is to use. In order to make it this simple, they made their own material presets. These material presets are only for their "proofgrade materials," which means we can't cut with our own materials. They do have a way that you can set it yourself, but the controls are very ambiguous and you can't save presets. We also didn't have our introductory proofgrade material kit, it came the day after.

So, we estimated, choose only to engrave, and ended up with this >>>

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

3D printed flexible filament robot hand

Each month, we are excited to see what new filament comes in our Maker Box. This month, we received some NinjaTek Cheetah flexible filament, which is pretty exciting.

Next, we had to decide what to print with it! Lat time we got a sample of flexible filament, we re-printed the rubber feet of the 3D printers that somehow always seem to get lost in a middle school classroom....

Since we were experimenting, we went on Thingiverse to find something cool. We downloaded the file Miniature Robotic Hand for NinjaFlex by Open Bionics - it prints in one piece!

As you can see in the video below, the final product is pretty cool!

Of course, what's the next step?  Print a BIGGER one. This print used the same type of filament, but was significantly bigger.

We learned something surprising!  When it is this big, it is too floppy to function in the same way, so the final product was rather dull.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ultimaker 2 Go Disassembly and Reconstruction

Back in April, our Ultimaker 2 Go stopped extruding.  This is not unusual.  The standard procedure is to take a look at the extruder and maybe unload and reload the filament, checking for errors. Unfortunately, one of our students decided it would be a good idea to take the entire 3d printer apart. The student took apart the entire extruder and, in the process, broke the temperature sensor and the heater cartage.

the broken temperature sensor and the heater cartage
the broken temperature sensor and the heater cartage
The Broken Temperature Sensor and the Heater Cartage

Despite our teacher's constant reminders to document, there was no documentation, except photos that were lost (the photos in this post were taken after the disassembly).  After disassembly, what used to be a 3d printer extruder looked like this: 

disassembled extruder
Disassembled Extruder

So, we were left to reassemble a broken 3D printer with very little documentation and no recollection of "what happened."  The Ultimakers came with an extra "Hot End Pack," which includes a temperature sensor, a nozzle block, and various other extruder related parts.  At first, we thought this would solve the problem. But ends up the pack did not come with a heater cartridge, so we were stuck. The Dynamism site (where we first ordered the printer) sold only a few, more consumable, parts--and not the parts that students might destroy. 

Luckily, Ultimaker support eventually clued us in to the fbrc8 Ultimaker warranty site. This was VERY helpful! We found a heater cartridge and ordered one.  

Back in the classroom, we replaced the broken temperature sensor with the one from the "Hot end pack" and the heater cartridge from the fbrc8 warranty site using this fbrc8 resource: Changing Heater Cartridge And Temp Sensor (2GO).  We had to open the bottom of the Ultimaker to plug the heater cartridge back in. It was good practice in reading the instructions very carefully!

Finally, for reassembly, we followed the Changing Parts In The Print Head steps for disassembly and reassembly, even though most of our parts were already... ahem... disassembled. We also used the instructions: hot end assembly | hot end disassembly

Eventually we reassembled everything and were proud of our efforts when it printed flawlessly once again!

- Reuben (8th grade)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From After School Making to School Maker Faire

On May 26th, BPC had its first official School Maker Faire. (We've done unofficial "micro-maker faires" in the past.) What started as something we did in an after school club three years ago (making) has now fully infiltrated seventh grade science!

The kids made bath bombs and henna, build a giant cardboard tank and a very tiny metal foundry, constructed a duct tape hammock, figured out dual extrusion, and even turned old tires into seats! For a list of all the student projects, visit our school STEAM blog

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Screen Printing for Awareness

I Screen Printed onto old shirts to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ and mental illness communities. I noticed that representation in the media of the LGBTQ+ community is sparse, and there is almost no representation of people who fight with mental illnesses. Seeing yourself represented in the media can change someone's outlook, make them feel hopeful, and can show them that they are not alone. Lack of representation can isolate groups of people and I wanted to combat this problem with creativity. At first I wanted to make a clothing line, however time and material constraints proved that to be unfeasible so I decided to try screen printing. I had never screen printed before, so I had to learn from Wikihow. I started out by coming up with phrases to ink onto the shirts, for instance “Dear Homophobes; Boo!”. DSC08469.jpg
(Image from the school Maker Faire taken by Ms.Mytko)

I tried cutting out the phrases, however this was challenging to do with scissors. I decided to try printing it out first, then using an exacto knife to trace the lines. This worked well but it still wasn't time efficient. I finally attempted to laser cut my design, this was not only time efficient but it was also a great learning experience. I cut old undershirts and screen printed my phrases onto them. This project costs around 45 dollars for the baseline materials but it can fluctuate significantly for the unnecessary materials.

I learned that it's okay for there to be small mistakes and sometimes those mistakes can improve the style of the shirt. I would enjoy marketing this into a business on Etsy, I will continue to screen print at home and I will possibly sell some shirts. If you are interested in this project make sure you set the ink into the shirt before you take off the screen, this will ensure better quality prints. Don’t give up when the ink smears, or doesn't come off, you can always go over your design with an ink dipped pencil. If you don't focus  on the mistakes, but rather on the quality parts of your print, you will end up a lot happier!

This is the Wikihow site that was incredibly helpful in teaching me how to screen print:

Friday, May 26, 2017

3D Printed Gears Using Dual Extrusion

For our school maker project (in science class), we wanted to create something that kids everywhere would be interested in using, and we also brainstormed different ways to spread our creations beyond the school to reach a wider audience.  We wanted to use our knowledge of 3D printing.  As we saw the rise of fidget products all over our school and all over the country, we realized that we had found our project: we decided to 3D print some fidget spinners that we designed ourselves out of recyclable filament.  There were some technical challenges that we experienced: for instance, the design we created ended up with some overhangs, which you can see in the image above.  To deal with this, we decided to use dissolvable support material to hold them up. We also had to make a decision about what printer to use of the ones available to us at school.  We chose to use a Replicator 1st Gen because of its dual extrusion capabilities, and this served us pretty well.

At first we were just making very colorful objects with two different colors of filament. We made this two color frog, along with some other things. After making a few multi-color prints, we quickly realized that this printer wasn't made just for printing with different colors. There must be some other reason that they made a dual extrusion printer. After doing some research, we found out about dissolvable filament. With dissolvable filament we would be able to make very complicated prints and dissolve the support material in limonene. One of the biggest problems with 3D printing is that you can't get support material out of very small places. With dissolvable filament, it was also possible to make moving parts in one print. Our first test was to make this gear thingy. We then decided we wanted to make more, and designed a different two geared fidget. However, we had a problem, the sides were not fully connected and the model often broke. We redesigned it, and it look something like this:

2.0 coming out of a tub of water after getting soaked in Lemonine

We used TinkerCAD because of its very straightforward design software that all of our group members knew how to use and the fact that we could use geometric shapes very easily along with the community shape generators.

To get started with our project, we started out with a simple dual geared fidget because we had no experience making this type of project before. Starting simple was helpful, and we later were able to get more complicated and make things like triple gears and quad gears.

One of our greatest challenges was when one part of the 3D printer we were using broke. We were able to re-3D print this part but it was a bit of a hold up. We also had to come up with a way to fix the windows for our 3D printer because our print’s kept peeling and we needed to stop drafts from reaching the heated build plate.

Elan fixing The Replicator
Throughout this process we learned not to rely on machines because machine failure is common. We also learned that even if you are using a very baseline software, you can still make amazing creations with it, it just may require more work.

If we wanted to continue this project, we could create more gear designs using ball bearings. This would be hard though because we might have to not print the gears as one piece so we could insert them, or we would have to put them in mid print.

Our advice for other people who do this project is to start early and use a web based software (like so that they will be able to access and change their project from different places.

An estimated cost of materials in this project (not including the 3D printer) is about $40 because of the fact that the slicer and the design program (Tinkercad) were both free, so the only costs we had to cover were filament (ABS and HIPS) and electricity. This $40 could cover many, many gears, because they are almost hollow and therefore very efficient with the material.

Rolls of ABS and HIPS

To learn more about dissolvable filament check out this on MakerBot’s website.

One day while we were waiting for a set of gears to print we chose to make a website at Through our project we had to fix the Replicator about six times and replace some parts. By the end we had created four production lines. And already finished two of them (dual geared basic and dual geared +). We thought that with four different products to choose from we had finally done what we had meant to the whole time, we had finished with our fidget production.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Today we got a package and are proud to introduce to you, the Cetus 3D! The Cetus is a printer from Teirtime (the same parent company of Afinia).

The Cetus is a pretty new 3D printer that was on Kickstarter for pre-order late last year and was meant to deliver this January. We bought this directly from Cetus and it came in about 2 weeks from China. As you can see, it does require some assembly, but it is not too bad.

The Cetus seems like an amazing deal for $300. It removes all of the flashy boxes and accessories most of the new 3d printers have today, and gives you a great experience. With linear guide rails, a 7 inch cubed build area, wifi printing ability, and an easy to use software, it even came with a nozzle unclogger and snippers to cut filament and such, what's not to love? Well, not much.

The only bad thing is the Z axis is not supported without power. This means when you turn off the printer when it is at the top (or its idling position) the printer head will glide down and rest into the build plate. You can print a clip or lever to hold it in place and stop it from doing that so its an easy fix.

From the first test print, we can see it is super super great quality for a budget 3D printer. I do have to say that the next time anyone asks me for a suggestion on a nice, budget 3D printer, the Cetus is going to be the first thing I suggest. Its great for a classroom or your first 3D printer.

I was also surprised when I printed an overhang stress test and it didn't start stringing until about 60˚, and even after that it still printed with very very minimal strings (even to 90 degrees!!).

I was amazed, I then loaded up the Make Benchy boat stress test. Once again I was astonished at the quality of the overhangs and pure detail around every corner. Comparing it to the Afinia, the Cetus lacks a heated bed (and that means no ABS but it doesn't matter anyways because our classroom is trying to move away from ABS) and currently in their shop is a beta heated bed anyways so if you really wanted it you could get it. On the flipside, the Cetus has a much larger bed and is also quite a bit cheaper.

I'm excited to continue using this 3d printer as it is by far my favorite.

- Enzo (8th grade)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Theremin in our Classroom

.... because every middle school classroom needs more things in it that make noise.

In all seriousness, I am proud of my students for building this theremin from a kit, then troubleshooting it until it actually worked. Now, they are experimenting with the goal of eventually producing music, instead of sounds resembling the screeching of a tortured cat.  You can read a little about the theremin's interesting history here, or watch the video about the science of how it works below:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Making Models in VR with Kodon and Gravity Sketch

Recently, I have been experimenting with making 3D models in programs called Kodon and Gravity Sketch in VR. Kodon is more of a sculpting program that you get a basic shape and from there you can push/pull/smoothen a material using the controllers of the HTC Vive. Whereas Gravity Sketch is a program similar to TiltBrush, but instead of having a colored brush, it's a 3D sphere that you can draw with. Both programs are in their early developmental stages and not very close to being a complete software but are both fairly easy to use and self explanatory.

The first program we got was Kodon. It was already on Steam and was just like downloading any other games. Once I put on the headset I thought that someone was standing in front of one of the sensors because it was flashing and almost re-calibrating. It slowed down and I eventually got used to it. Its most likely due to the capabilities of our computer not being able to catch up with what the software is doing.

Another thing that was confusing was the seemingly infinite number of menus that seem to change randomly, but after a few minutes of finding my way, I was able to navigate to any screen from anywhere. It was still a bit confusing but after fiddling with some settings I understood and was able to use the controller easily. One of the settings is turning the controller around so you can use it more as a pen than a controller. It was slightly easier to use but still had its glitches. After using this for quite a while and then seeing the final result, I concluded I didn't want to use this software on this setup again. It was quite difficult. In the end, it may not look like much, but this pig-head model is my first tangible 3D model designed in virtual reality!

Then I tried Gravity Sketch which was more so what I wanted. As soon as it booted up it was very blank. Nothing at all. But the controls were surprisingly easy to figure out how to use. In a matter of minutes I was proficient in using it. As I said before, it is very similar to TiltBrush  After finding the download button I decided to start my first real project in Gravity Sketch. Making it was very easy to do and exporting and saving was easy. My one complaint of Gravity Sketch would probably be that for some reason, all the strokes are saved separately in one model, making my arch nemesis  overlapping shells. It adds one step too many between drawing to print. I need to drag it into Meshmixer and combine all objects, however when you have too many strokes (as mentioned, due to my computer's processing power), it crashes. But once I do wait for an hour for it to load, the outcome is well worth it.  I could then print it on the 3D printer and it was a very nice model. The software is very easy to use even though its in its beta stages. - Enzo, 8th grade

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Posts forthcoming!

Welcome to our blog. We have been up to so many things over the last two years but we are slacking on our blog. We plan to start regularly posting again soon!

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...perhaps we are just embracing "historical optimization"?