Architectural Design: Dream House Edition

Where would you build your dream house, if you could pick anywhere in the world?

Henry decided his dream house would fit well on the shores of a lake in Iceland. The home has front facing windows and a deck that runs the length of the front overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond.

The location is certainly beautiful, but required unique design considerations. The roof, for instance, had to be practical for a snowy region. “One thing I took into account was the slope of the roof,” Henry said. ” I couldn’t just make a flat roof. It had to be sloped so the snow would just slide off.”

Cooper’s dream house is set in Copper Mountain, Colorado, “right on a hill – ski in, ski out,” he said. “Our friends built a house right on the lot I’m building on.”

While the location and lot were based on the friend’s house, Cooper added his own extravagant amenities.

“I added the things it was missing,” Cooper said, “like a ski room, kind of like a mudroom, but you come in after skiing and you can store your skis in there.”

The house also has a trampoline (yes, IN the house), and a foam pit in the living room. The second story is lofted “and you can jump into the foam pit from the second floor,” Cooper said.

If you think that is over the top, wait until you hear about the garage. The garage/warehouse includes a pool with changing rooms, storage for mountain “toys” like Jeeps, ATVs, skateboards, and bikes, and – wait for it – a skate park, with a second foam pit. “When I built my house I kinda wanted it to be unique so I put a skatepark in it,” Cooper said.

Although many Colorado mountain homes are used for vacation, Cooper wants to make it his permanent home. “I’d probably live here full time,” he said.

The homes created in the class Architectural Design range from the extreme to the elegant. Cece’s house on the North Shore features a great room with a grand piano and “a morning room facing Lake Superior where you can watch the sunrise through the window. There is a hidden library; if you slide the bookshelf it’ll open the library.”

While she splurged on some areas like the hidden library, other design decisions were based on practicality. “We had to think about the design, too, like how many bathrooms, bedrooms. You can’t just have a fun house.”

Cece learned to pay attention to details when designing. “I had to keep in mind the size (of appliances), especially for the kitchen sinks and toilets. You don’t want it to be too small or too big to fit.”

Space, light, and flow also had to be considered. “I learned that once you start putting walls up you see how open or closed the space is,” Cece said. “When you block off space, it can feel closed in.” She discovered this when she built her dining room. “I removed a wall because it would be too closed in,” she said.

Sophie’s property features a forest of large construction paper trees and a tree house. “It looks kind of crooked like the kids living in the house built it,” Sophie said of her unique tree house.

Ryan placed his dream home in a new development outside of Fargo, North Dakota. “I like flat areas,” he said as he flipped through google images of his building site. The flat open prairie stretched for miles in all directions. “It’s kind of out in the country and it’s away from busy streets, like in St. Paul,” he said.

Sadie’s house is located near Washington, D.C., on High Island in the middle of the Potomac River. “I wanted it to be cabin-like,” so she designed the house to feature a field stone and brick exterior.

One thing she learned about architecture was, “it actually matters where the sun sets and rises. It matters where in the house you would be (during those times),” she said. Those elements determine how buildings are angled and where windows and rooms are placed.

Sadie was happy to be in the design class. “I really like building stuff,” she said. “I came in here every year for Open House for five years.” She was so excited to finally try her hand at designing her own dream home.

Programming the Future: Lego Robotics

“Henry! It’s going to work! Just try it!” Brady shouted at his partner.

Lego robotics engineers today were eager to tackle the cardboard golf “greens” in preparation for playing mini golf at the Mall of America next week. It won’t be the kind of mini golf any of us is used to playing, however.

“The robots are going to do it for us,” Henry said. “It’s challenging because you can’t use remote controls.”

In the Challenge Room, students tested their robots on five cardboard mini golf holes, learning to program around obstacles in order to sink their balls into the holes.

At Hole 3, robots had to climb a steep slope and drop the ball into a tunnel at the top. Junia’s team had tried and failed on Hole 3 several times, but they were back with an adaptation they hoped would solve their issues.

“A ha! I made a tail so it doesn’t fall backwards on the hill,” Junia said.

She placed the ball at the front of the robot and hit start. At first it seemed to climb, but then got stuck. “It’s not falling over, but we might need more grips or to put the tail in a different spot,” Junia decided.

She scooped the robot up and headed from the Challenge Room back into the Engineering Lab. As seen in today’s Facebook video, Junia’s robot successfully conquered the hole just a few minutes later.

Peyton and Evan had similar issues on Hole 3. “We’re trying to get up but one part of the robot gets caught,” Peyton said.

“We’re going to add something that pushes it up,” Evan mentioned.

Jakob did a happy dance when he learned his robot made it into the “Hall of Fame”. Once a team’s robot successfully completed the five practice holes, they could attempt Level 6, “an incredibly difficult one,” said one of the teacher’s assistants who was helping to create it.

Earlier in the week, the robotics engineers completed smaller challenges that helped them learn to build and program their designs.

Suheyla and Sydney used “sensor thingys” to program their robot to react to bumping or touching an object. “We’re trying to get it to touch four walls,” said Suheyla. With a touch sensor on the front of the ‘bot, “we have to touch it and go back, and then touch it again and do it four times,” she said.

But they struggled with the turns. “We’re trying to make it turn more,” Sydney said.

Suheyla analyzed the issue. “It hits the corner of the same wall instead of the next wall.”

Max and Cole had conquered the sensor challenges and moved on. “We made a robot arm so we can pick up something with it. It will be attached to the tank bot,” said Max. “It will be able to go across rough terrain and pick up things it can fit in its arm.”

Their robotic arm will be tested in the Robo Cross challenge. “We have to pick stuff up and move it to another zone on the board,” Cole explained. He pointed to a wooden platform, roughly four feet square and divided into quadrants. Robots must pick up Lego blocks, batteries, ping pong balls, etc., and move them. Each successfully moved item is worth a different point value.

Suhelya and Sydney were not new to the world of programming. “I have done a lot of coding but not EV3 coding (Lego Mindstorms),” Sydney said.

“I have done some programming on robots, but this is the first time we have had to build and program it ourselves with just a little help,” Suheyla said.

And it’s definitely the first time she has had to design a robot to play golf for her.

Tech Ninjas Battle ‘Bots

Wiggle Bots

It was a highly-anticipated Battle of the ‘Bots – Wiggle ‘Bots, that is, – in Tech Ninjas this afternoon.

Tech Ninjas visited The Works Interactive Children’s Museum today to learn about engineering and to create their very own wiggling robots.

“What do motors do?” asked The Works teacher, Riley.

“They move stuff. They spin and do other things,” said Alistair.

Riley gave each student a small silver motor and asked them to discuss what they discover.

“There’s a magnet inside!” Vincentas noticed right away. “Is there sap in here?” he asked peering into the motor chamber. “It feels sticky.”

Eli demonstrated his knowledge of the motor workings. “The electric coils collect electricity from the magnet when it spins,” said Eli. “If you could spin it fast enough, it would make electricity.”

“But there’s no way a human can make it spin fast enough,” Weston said.

“You would need electricity,” added Maxwell.

At the next table, students shared what they had learned about their tiny motors.

“We found copper wires,” Zoe said.

Alistair found an alternative use: “We found they make good spinning tops,” he laughed, spinning the motor across the table.

Ethan noticed that his was “a three-cylinder motor.”

When The Works teacher misspoke and called copper an insulator, the kids were quick to correct him. “I think copper is a conductor,” corrected Alistair. You can’t get anything by these smarties.

The next challenge, said Elias, “was to make the copper wire spin.” Nolan placed a piece of coiled copper wire onto two prongs set above a magnet and watched as it started to spin. “It’s magnetic force!” he shouted excitedly.

Colin observed that the wire grew warm the more it spun. “We also noticed something – it gets hotter,” he said. “It’s hot because of the energy it’s using.”

Nolan hypothesized that more magnets might create more spin. But his test didn’t pan out. “Guys,” he warned, “don’t add two magnets. It basically stops it.”

Rhett was excited and concerned, but mostly excited. “My copper is cooking! Can you smell it?

Moving into the next step of the engineering process, Siena taped bright yellow electrical tape to a paper clip. “It’s going to attach to a motor and another wire and then to another paper clip and when we connect the paper clips, it’s going to spin an eraser.” We were getting closer to the “wiggle” part of the ‘bot.

Once the mechanics of the ‘bot were completed, it was time for artistic embellishments. Students could use decorative elements such as pipe cleaners, googly eye stickers, markers, and colorful straws to personalize their Wiggle ‘Bots.

Maxwell said the class would have a competition with the wiggle ‘bots back at school. “We’re going to do battle with them,” he said.

Before it even got to wiggle once, Colin’s ‘bot already had a personality and a name. “I’m going to name my ‘bot Sir Wiggler!” he laughed.

Popping Rockets: Inventions & Engineering

Ellie was perplexed. “Mine still isn’t blowing up!”

She stared at the small white film canister on the ground in front of her, waiting and waiting for it to “pop”. Teacher Tracy Pluim picked up the canister and flipped open the cap.

“That one was ready, but just didn’t go,” he assured Ellie.

Ellie refilled her canister with water and broke an Alka-Seltzer tablet into quarters. “I’m adding a tablet, one quarter of it, and it’s going to blow,” she said, confidently.

“I think it’s a carbon dioxide solution,” said Teacher’s Assistant Britta.

Ellie placed the canister upside down in front of her and waited. “It makes the water fizz,” she said about the tablet. “It has a reaction and it blows!”

A canister nearby gave a slight “ppppfffttt” and fell over. “It didn’t even go very good!” said a disappointed A.J. But he wasn’t deterred by his anti-climactic result. Try and try again.

Rhys sat on the ground, waiting patiently. “It takes a while,” he said. He leaned in to check the canister. “Yeah, it’s still fizzing.”

Suddenly, “POP!” “Oh, my gosh!” Rhys exclaimed, falling back onto the concrete, his eyes big.

Ellie’s third attempt was not looking good several minutes in. “I hope it works,” she said. Getting impatient, she bent down, about to pick it up, when it suddenly POPPED and she jumped back in surprise. “So one-quarter works better!” she concluded.

Luke said they were instructed to try different amounts of the tablets to determine which would work best for the actual launch of their paper rockets. “That’s what we were testing,” he said. “We tried one half, and then three quarters. One just sat there and the other, the three quarter piece, exploded, but didn’t go very high.” Like Ellie, he also found that the one-quarter piece worked the best.

When it was time to launch the rockets, students lined up against a wall, slipped the uncapped canisters into the rocket tube and waited for the countdown. At “One”, they quickly capped the canister, set it upside down and ran to the “observation deck”. A couple of rockets exploded right away, and others took their time.

Luke’s didn’t pop until he picked it up. “Mine exploded in my hand!” he laughed.