TechHive Studio, November ’14

This first workshop was at the TechHive studio where Sherry Hsi was leading. It consisted of meetings on three consecutive Saturday sessions in a studio-like setting. Each meeting was between 2 and 6 hours long. The instructional goal was to prepare students to learn basic mechatronic ideas, gain confidence in working with paper as a design medium, and learn how to prototype with Arduino-based components. In an introductory activity, we gave students origami paper and written instructions on how to fold a lily. The outcomes were varied. As the students had a surprising range of skill in paper folding, only a handful of students had ever folded paper as a craft activity. Then, in the second session, we gave students in groups of 2-3 step-by-step instructions to create a hand-powered paper automata flower. One member of each team also learned basic programming in Arduino. Finally, in the last session, students built interactive flowers in which a servomotor and a light sensor were embedded using the given rack and pinion pre-cut gear assembly. We gave students the option to go beyond the design provided in the tutorial and to adapt it to their own creations.

This first workshop showed the potential of the big picture of paper mechatronics as a creative learning medium. Not only did students build working models but they also modified the models freely to personalize their creations. Also the final outcomes were diverse. Once the students understood the mechanisms, they began to use them in unexpected ways. For instance, several teams applied the petal structure to produce a related sort of movement, such as the flapping of a bird’s wings or the motion of leaves of a plant. Some teams deployed the mechanisms within an entirely different creation having the up-and-down movement but without the petal structure.