David Perlis’ latest project guide is certain to appeal to the Dada artist in all of us. His 3D printed Scribble Machine produces drawings based on the random, erratic motion of the tiny motor- and fan-driven device. Perlis is a teacher and documentarian in a unique school making and designing environment called the Creativity Lab.
The Creativity Lab at Lighthouse Community Charter School, a free public school in Oakland, California, is a K-12 program that integrates community members who want to participate in designing and making. The school operates within “an open model of curriculum and project design,” regarding all students as makers and designers. Through the design-make program, which began in 2010, students plus family and school staff members can learn skills like 3D modeling, engineering, design, sewing, knitting, programming, and more, working with their hands and brains. School staff document projects as they are designed and developed so that they can serve as models for other educators.
There’s a perfectly straightforward way to make a Scribble Machine without 3D printing a major part: Tape your markers to a cup and add the other components using glue or tape as well. What self-respecting maker is content to leave it at that, however? Perlis decided to “add a greater complexity and technology aspect,” and his blog documents the process as he worked through the snarls of his Scribble Machine design, via TinkerCAD, 3D printing, testing, and refinement.
Perlis’ enhanced Scribble Machine, which appears to skate around the surface of a sheet of paper on magic marker legs, draws randomly based on, evidently, the air flow in the surrounding area and the intervention of the small fan. Apparently, the most challenging aspect of the project of Perlis was figuring out how to design shafts of just the right width to hold the markers in place. A few early iterations were either too snug or too loose. The latter wouldn’t be so bad if the markers didn’t drop out of the holder as the wiggle effect seems to be a desired one.
Perlis’ observations are delightful, actually; I appreciate that he takes seriously something so seemingly–to non-makers and tinkerers, to be clear–innocuous as a Scribble Machine. However, what’s marvelous is the seriousness with which he approaches a project that should be fairly easy for a beginning maker to complete successfully. You have to begin somewhere, and this approach, “designing a better whatever (fill in the blank),” is a positive way to nurture creativity and confidence in students and adults.
Of course, from the perspective here at 3DPrint.com, I’m also delighted to see 3D printing playing such an integral role in the creative process of these youthful makers and designers. As he was figuring out the 3D modeled and printed parts for his Scribble Machine, Perlis was already imagining how he might work with students to create interchangeable parts for their advanced Scribble Machines and how they might incorporate electronics kits with servos in order to program their devices to draw.
Before you get too excited, imagining enchanting 3D printed, desktop drawing robots, note that Perlis’ refined Scribble Machine design didn’t really work well at all. “I now have a handy-dandy Sharpie case,” he quipped. Evidently humble and undaunted, which are also admirable traits in a mentor, Perlis intends to persevere as he prepares the makers and designers of the Creativity Lab for the upcoming Maker Faire.
What do you think of Perlis’ approach to the school program? Let us know if you think an approach like this is a good way to get students (and educators and the community) involved in the maker spirit. Join the discussion in the 3D Printed Scribble Machine forum thread over at 3DPB.com.