Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Ever wondered how you could build a puzzle of your own? Specifically, jigsaw puzzle pieces or three dimensional puzzles? If you are a student in East Hamilton’s VW eLab, these types of puzzles are just a couple of the creative projects you have the chance to construct throughout the semester.
David Kelman, VW eLab Specialist at East Hamilton, conducts a survey at the beginning of the year to see what themes his students are interested in working on throughout the semester. Last Fall, students designed jigsaw puzzle pieces, made with the VW eLab’s laser cutter, and cubed puzzles, made with the VW eLab’s 3D printer. Jigsaw pieces included vinyl and laser-engraved patterns. “Thinking in multi-dimensions is one of the themes we follow,” stated Kelman, “and the idea of breaking past a two-dimensional view to understand how things must work to support each other is important.”
Another project the students worked on involved creating laser cut stands on thin pieces of hardboard. The stands supported board made from dimensional lumber. Students created a design on hardboard material that reflected their VW eLab Mantras, mantras that Kelman devised last semester (pictured below). The mantra board utilized one of the stands made by students, which is proudly displayed in their VW eLab currently. This project helped expose students to an authentic learning environment. This semester, Kelman added onto the mantras project by having students create coasters that reflected a specific mantra on their hardboard. The top two coasters in the design challenge are also pictured below.
Kelman emphasizes to his students that they must realize their first steps are not going to be perfect. There is room to learn as you go when being introduced to new tools and machines. “Anytime you see kids comparing their puzzle creations, they become more motivated for their work to inspire others,” said Kelman. “Several students see the VW eLab as a place where they’re finding success for themselves and getting their mind active. A mind that’s active is a mind that grows, which builds upon interpersonal skills as well.” He also encourages students to brainstorm project ideas of their own. When last semester came to a close, he had the students reflect on their strengths and weaknesses of projects they created. From there, he had them write down what they would have done differently, including any next steps they would take if they could continue their project work.
Eleventh grader, Sky Morgan and, twelfth grader, Brandon White, were both VW eLab students last semester, and they believe the class had a positive impact in shaping their knowledge for the future. “I was kind of hesitant about taking the class at first, because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Morgan. “However, I ended up really enjoying it. Learning and working in the VW eLab taught me to push myself to use technology and software I wasn’t comfortable using yet. It only took a couple of weeks to familiarize myself with the tools. Making the puzzles was challenging, but I had fun while doing it.”
Students have access to several tools throughout their time in the VW eLab. Tools like the CNC machines give students the opportunity to bring their ideas and designs to life. “The designing portion in the VW eLab was the most enjoyable part for me,” said White. “It inspired creativity and the thought process behind the work.”
Collaborating in the VW eLab has helped students prepare for life after high school, too. The projects they create teach them trial and error tactics and allow them to adjust to a variety of different programs, machines, and software. Working in teams in the VW eLab has also helped students learn how to brainstorm different ideas to achieve their project's end result. “Everyone has a different approach to solve something,” said White. “Listening to others’ ideas and adjusting our framework in group situations was helpful in reaching our goals.” The creative ideas the students at East Hamilton have brought to the table so far are impressive, and we look forward to witness what they will continue to bring to the innovative scene!