Middle School Projects Bridge
Design, Science and Art
Last fall our 8th graders learned about building structures and their ability to withstand movement beneath
them. Developed by teachers Barbara Abecassis, Elaine
Molva and Xavier Le Renard, the “shake table test”
underscored the intersection of design and science, and
unfolded in phases. First, students built a shake table to
simulate the movements generated by an earthquake
and to measure four different types of seismic waves:
P-waves, S-waves, Love waves and Raleigh waves (or
lateral, vertical, undulated and all directions at once).
Second, they used four sets of materials to build their
structures: Legos, toothpicks and marshmallows, card
games, and plastic straws to test the resistance of each
of the materials when placed on the shake table that
replicates the stresses created by an earthquake. Finally,
the students put their structures to the test on the shake
table, varying the types and force of its movements. Excited, inquisitive 8th graders created a scale of intensity
to measure how much they moved on the table, in addition to noting the types of damage withstood by their
structures. Afterward, they drew conclusions about why
certain structures performed better than others in relation to the height of a building, the size of its base, and
the use of bracing to build the structures.
This spring the same trio of teachers crafted another
interdisciplinary project that unfurled in phases. First,
8th graders studied kinetic and optical art to understand
Transitional Design Project Ends Year
how the illusion of movement is produced; for example,
they examined the kinetoscope, praxinoscope, zoetrope
and flip book. Students then built a variety of sculptures
and models to create movement with fixed images. In
the second phase, centered on science, students dissect-
ed an eye in the design lab. They learned about retinal
persistence and understood why and how our eyes
perceive movement, relating the exercise back to the
art-related lesson in the first phase. Finally, our middle
school students designed toys for kids aged 3-6, with
the stipulation that the toys must include a mechanical
on Perfect Note
In the Spring Semester of 2015, 5th and 6th-grade
students collaborated in a cross-disciplinary project
involving Design, Music, Technology, and Science.
Together, they created a digital music instrument known
as a monome using Makey Makey, a technology kit for
turning everyday objects into touchpads.
Organized into three phases, the first step of the project involved product design. In their Art & Design class,
6th graders used the laser cutter and 3D modeling software to create a prototype of their digital instruments.
The second phase involved Computer Science and Electronics. Both 5th and 6th graders learned about the different electronic components found in a monome, such
as NeoPixels, LED lights, conductive materials, jumpers,
cables, wires, and resistors. They also used the soldering
iron to build an electrical circuit and SCRATCH, a multimedia authoring tool, to program their sounds. Their
work culminated in Phase 3 as the sounds of their digital
instrument debuted in an audiovisual performance that
closed out the school year.
Design Faire Dazzles
On April 17, for the first time ever, students in grades
3-12 hosted a Design Faire to showcase projects created in our Design Lab and Tinker Space. The layout of
this exhibition was organized around various design
topics, spotlighting our community of interdisciplinary,
experimental, innovative, and forward-looking thinkers.
Topics included architecture, sustainability, game design,
fashion design, movement, lighting, technology, products and models, and graphics.
Some projects showed the effects and impact of
technology on our lives, while others explored different ways to collect and use the sun’s energy to improve
the efficiency and performance of a design. Students on
hand proudly explained their design process and the
motivation behind their ideas, including a “tech rest in
bed” or a “solar collector” (see pictures). An interactive
station with different tools and supplies was even set
up to engage visitors in creating their own design. In
addition, a brainstorming activity area was displayed to
encourage people to share their ideas and design thinking approaches. Participants crowded our Community
Space, which was abuzz with creative energy!