The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2023

Let It Shine

Daintry Zaterka '88
Innovation and Design students lit up the Center for Creativity and Design (CC&D) this year as they learned about circuitry and used that knowledge to inspire original designs.
The Innovation and Design elective is open to eighth and ninth grade students who want to use the CC&D’s 3D design software and CAD/CAM machines to design and build practical projects using technical skills. The focus of the course this year was incorporating circuits, resistors, and switches into design work.
While some students came into the course with basic circuitry knowledge, many did not. Technology and Design Teacher Andrew Shirley and Creativity and Design Chair Kim Fogarty began by establishing a common vocabulary and baseline understanding. Students learned about conductors, insulators, and how open, parallel, and series circuits function. Students built paper circuits with copper wire to light up an LED, and as their understanding grew, they added in elements like switches and resistors. They learned how to draw circuits, read schematics, and understand the anatomy of a breadboard and how it connects components.
In January, students worked on a “Show What You Know” project to practice and demonstrate their grasp of basic maker electronics. Students used wood bases, mini breadboards, buzzers, and wires to build a “Steady-Hand” game. By carefully making a proper circuit, the wand would set off a buzzer if it touches the wire as the user navigates the wire maze. This was an opportunity for students to practice troubleshooting, to use drills and wire strippers, and to iterate improvements. Once the games were fin- ished, they were shared with Primary and Lower School students.
The culminating project for the spring term was to design an object that contains an LED light component. Students were encouraged to flex their creative brainstorming skills and sketch out four ideas before selecting the item they would create. As part of the design process, Kim taught students about diffusion and how to maximize the light output in their design. Students used a printed circuit board as a part of a kit to create their LED lights. They learned and practiced the skill of soldering as they attached wires and components. Next, they figured out how the circuit board would fit within their design, which needed to protect the circuit board and provide access to the button and the LED light. The difficulty of achieving a precise fit required students to work through some initial failures as a part of their process. “I had one student who laser cut components of his flashlight seven or eight times,” says Andrew. “The student would laser cut a piece, realize it was slightly off, adjust it, and cut it again. It was exciting to watch him work through such an intentional process.”
For many students, this project flipped the process of design thinking. Instead of designing to solve a problem, students learned a technical skill and used it as a springboard for idea generation. Now that they could build a circuit, what could they create? “It’s a different perspective on design,” says Andrew, who notes that some students found this approach more challenging. “However, for the students who want to learn the technical aspects of making, I think the focus on the skill helps them to understand the parameters before jumping in.”
Students created various objects, including a light-up chicken, a camera with a “flash” bulb, a duck searchlight inspired by the bat signal, and a fiery torch with acrylic flames that light up when the button is pressed. While the final products were small in size, each represented a big leap forward in the technical skills and habits of mind that the Innovation and Design students can bring to their work. “The project was challenging,” says Andrew, “and it was a great opportunity for students to iterate solutions, identify problems, and fix them.”

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