Throughout the summer making program, we used several techniques to help students develop their ideas at different stages of making. The processes of drawing, prototyping, and documentation are just as important as the actual ‘making’ of a project.
1. Journals: Initial ideas, sketches of designs, lists, a working book that keeps everything organized.
Every student on the Summer Making program had a journal to sketch, write, draw, stick, and paste their ideas. One of the most crucial things we learned from using journals is that students need LOTS of prompting to use their journals, but once they “remembered” that they had a journal they got used to using them and they were a great tool. As well as developing ideas, the journals were also used to referring to what students were thinking yesterday/last week/at the last session. A lot has happened since the last session (both to student and teacher), and a reminder of where you were in the process, especially when projects are still conceptual, is very useful.
2. Models: 3D sketching, concept models, prototypes, test-builds.
I can’t stress how useful making a concept model is for solving problems and refining designs. For example, in wood-working week, students’ chair design ideas were elaborate and diverse, and many of them were ready to get making after making a few sketches. Before moving to the next stage (making in wood) students were forced to make a cardboard model. This was not a popular technique with the students at first. However, they soon realized how important a test-build was, because every single design was changed before moving on to a wooden version. Models were also used as props to refer to and further ideas. Cardboard models are invaluable for visualizing problems that are not clear on paper. We applied the same rule to laser cutting -students could laser designs they wanted, but needed to test in cardboard first.
3. Documentation Station: Photograph, blog, tagging.
The documentation station was integrated into part of the development process. In each room, we set up a computer, camera, and a white board backdrop, where students would take photos of work and write tags and labels for progress and finished work. Students would take photos of the work as they progressed to a new stage in the process. They could immediately post to a school-run Tumblr by using the inbuilt camera and a monitor (Tumblr allows you to upload a a photo directly to a post). This way, our young makers became acclimated with documenting, tagging, and sharing their work and process.