This is the paper circuit I made at the IU School of Education MILL Makerspace during the Constructionism course last week. It was a super quick exploration. Among 3D printed figures, LED lights, conductive tape (copper and silver), and coin-cell batteries, colorful index cards were laying on the table, ready to be used. I was standing close to the index cards and their colors seemed fun to work with. I picked them up and started to shift them around.
Recently, I have been exploring fabric manipulation techniques and the kinds of implicit and explicit mathematics concepts embedded in different techniques. One of my favorite shapes of the origami structures I created is the pinwheel. So, I started out my paper explorations with the basic shapes of this design and the idea to create a pattern that integrates the circuit materials (i.e., conductive tape, LED, and coin-cell battery) to be minimally visible as possible, and that the interactions with the circuit (i.e., the switch) would be integrated in the pinwheel design.
Although I've made circuits of different materials and level of complexities before, the projects I set out within the minimal constraints of the instructions that were provided was much more complex than I had anticipated. On a small and super fast scale I experienced the kind of playful and imaginative spiraling process that youth at the computer clubhouses are theorized to experience (Rusk, Resnick, & Cooke, 2009). The quick project had me thinking about shapes, angles, and dimensional constructions long after leaving the makerspace, and here are some of things that stood out to me in hindsight:
- Similar to Papert and Harel's (1991) description of the painter-programmer who was guided by colors and shapes in how meaning was constructed, I listened to the paper structure and let it guide my placement of the circuit and conductive tape. The material itself was sturdy enough to keep in place, while flexible enough to allow me to wind the LED and the conductive tape through the construction. While I started with an idea, I did not know how I would eventually get to the final design. The folded paper and the way I arranged the pieces helped guide the way the tape was placed (e.g., when to have the tape on the front or back side) and where to position the switch (e.g., on one of the folded corners). It was interesting to see all aspects of the design interconnecting in the process of making. The way the circuit was be placed and could be interacted with was informed by the overall form the paper was folded into.
- The windmill design is constructed out of 8 equally shaped square pieces of paper. Half of the squares make up the base. The four remaining pieces are folded into the shapes that should construct the pinwheel. First, they are folded diagonally to create a triangle. I remembered that one of the points of the triangle needed to be folded up. What I did not remember was which point needed to be folded. Looking at my finished paper circuit design, I knew something was not exactly pinwheel-y about it. Writing this post and juxtaposing the picture of my paper circuit and the picture of my fabric pinwheel that revealed the trick. Since the fold should be visible, it matters which point is folded up! Documenting my process, a-ha moments, and overall project work on the initially blank canvas allowed me to reflect on my design activity and to make new connections (Chapman, 2009).
- When making my circuit, I was not alone. I crafted and debugged along all of the other course participants who were working on their own interpretations of the assignment. One of the other participants, Joey, created a layered card design. What stood out in her design was how she used the bendable properties of the conductive tape to twist the paper into waves that looked like the branches of a tree. I only recognized what she had been working on after both of us had finished when we chatted, took pictures, and explored each others' projects. This interaction made me reflect about my own process, and how individualized my approach had been until the very last minutes of the time spent at the makerspace. Staying longer in the creative environment of the makerspace might have helped elaborate these initial seeds of joining in and collaborating that so important for constructionist learning environments (e.g., Rusk, Resnick, & Cooke, 2009). I wonder what could have become of both of our projects if we had teamed up or worked off of each other's ideas.
- Chapman, R. (2009). Encouraging Peer Sharing: Learning Reflections in a Community of Designers. The computer clubhouse: Constructionism and creativity in youth communities, 81-89
- Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. Constructionism, 36, 1-11.
- Rusk, N., Resnick, M., & Cooke, S. (2009). Origins and guiding principles of the computer clubhouse. The computer clubhouse: Constructionism and creativity in youth communities, 17-25.