Better, lighter, faster Face Shields

During the pandemic, we closed schools in large part to keep kids safe. We closed the whole city to keep people home and away from contamination. Yet, somehow, now that students were not in school, students were all of a sudden working 40 hours a week, during the middle of the school day. Not only are students now not learning, but they are also in high risk situations second only to hospitals and community homes. We are not yet in the situation like our neighbors where health care workers were relying on 3D printed masks. Our healthcare workers seemed to have the proper PPE. However, our students who were working in the service industry were very vulnerable, the debate on masks was still evolving.

One particular student who was doing well in class, but was not particularly enthusiastic in the normal F2F class, was flourishing in this pandemic. He was attending on line classes and also learned to design in 3D. He took the ubiquitous 3D printed face shield design and revamped it so that it was more flexible, faster to print, more cost effective and material efficient.

Because it was more flexible, when student would hit their new face shields on the car trunks, the shield would not fall off, but rather just bend.

Better, Flexible Ear Savers

Frontline Health Care Workers:

It did not take long in the pandemic before our students started to notice that their moms, dads, siblings, uncles, and aunts were coming home from work with sore ears. The straps for the masks were digging into the back of their ears from extremely long days of work. The same desire to act to help solve light poverty turned local.

Students found a design of ear saver to help prevent the ear damage. There was a design that was all over social media, but there was also a design made by Bessborough Middle School kids. However, my students knew that we had flexible rubber filament that might be even more comfortable than the PLA versions that were circulating.

The realization that this was going to be a long term event, the ear savers could not be single use. They would need to be sanitized. So they conducted some experiments. They sent some of their ear savers to a local vet clinic to see how they fit, if the flexible rubber would survive the autoclave sterilization process. IT WORKED!!! They tried 4 different thicknesses. 2 mm was too thin and too flexible to hold the tension in the straps while 5 mm was way too thick and over kill. It was 3mm that seemed to be the optimum rigidity, time, material and cost effective. We started printing them from my home and distributing these through the Bessborough Middle School network and our own connections.

Fridge Pulls for Pandemic Milk

Way back in March, just as we were starting to plan for a large round of designing and building of lights, the schools were closed due to the pandemic. In New Brunswick, we did not know for how long. Eventually, it was decided that students would proceed to the next class/level regardless of their work or lack thereof while schools were closed.

Students once the elation of classes being shut down subsided and the realization of the seriousness of the pandemic both locally and globally, they started to feel a loss of control and power. Interestingly, they used the initiative to solve real problems for real people that they practiced for the lights and applied it to the pandemic.

One group of kids noticed that their grandma could travel through the grocery store without touching anything that she did not take home, except the handle for the milk fridge. So they created a little hook to open the door to give another degree of separation between them and a contaminated surface.

Pandemic Activity

During the Pandemic, we have had a quiet social media presence, but that is not to say that we have not been busy.


Early in the pandemic, I was so proud of my students who used their 3D printing and Design abilities to optimize the 3D printed masks that were popularized. Their design uses 30% less plastic and prints faster.


They also created hooks to allow people to maintain a layer of distance from opening the doors in grocery stores when they get milk. I will write update posts re these activities a bit later.

Blue/Yellow Circuits:

On the light side of things, Josh from Brilliant Labs coached Physics students on how to use Eagle with the mindset of adapting our Masitek Solar Circuit (Blue and Yellow) with test points. Rather than us making the lights and sending them to our friends living in light poverty, perhaps the circuit board could also be used as a mini-lab to discover electrical engineering concepts.

We used the Voltera machine to make our first prototypes. Over time, as we trouble-shot, the solder would build up, but we think we are confident to order our professional boards.

Innovative Labs Schools Charging Units:

Our friend Koen Timmers opened on of his Innovative Labs Schools that he built with Jane Goodall. This one is at Kakuma Refugee Camp. They have teachers willing to teach, a few laptops and some individual devices. However, they do not have a good way to charge their 5V devices.

Fortunately, Jeff from Sussex Regional High School (who we met at L’Abbey MakerFaire sponsored by Brilliant Labs), reached out to talk about teaching in the pandemic. We decided to collaborate on this Innovative Labs School Solar charging issue. Again, Josh from Brilliant Labs is joining as both schools meet every Wed at lunch, virtually of course. Some students are F2F and others join from home.

Today, we are meeting with Jeff from Voltaic Systems to talk details. They offer commercial versions of what we are suggesting and we are hoping that they will give us some insight.

DesJardin Grant

Thanks to the generosity of DesJardin Insurance, we received a $3k grant. They award grants for programs that help keep kids in school. Both prior and during the pandemic, Current Generation has motivated students to work both at home and at school . It seems to allow students to take back some control that they have lost during the pandemic. All of this not to mention our friends living in light poverty who are now able to continue their studies. This grant will be spend buying batteries and solar panels. We expect to have about 200 lights available to be sent by the end of the school year. We are in desperate need for batteries, battery holders and solar panels! This grant will go a long way, but we are not there yet.

Polyhedron Tilted Tower

The Prism Tower seems like a large step forward. It is much lighter, still strong, and fits snugly together. It will be useful for illuminating a whole space. However, much of the light is NOT directed towards a page to read or do homework. So we modified things a bit and tilted the lens, a clear advantage to using 3D printed lens over the polycarbonate tubing. The Polyhedron Tilted Lens uses the same base as the Prism Tower. Can’t wait to get a bunch of these made and field tested.

Prism Tower v7: Revisions based on feedback from Sierra Leone

Almost exactly one year ago, we delivered some lights to @EducaideSL when we attended the Global Teacher Prize and #GESF in Dubai. The feedback was that the hot glue we were using because of ease of use, softens near the equator and did not hold sufficiently well. Also, we have known for a while that the polycarbonate tubing that we were using for a lens was better than the original thick 3D printed lens, but had the draw back of not diffusing the light and leaving a glare on the page. In an attempt to reduce the number of pieces, to making the parts fit more snugly so that crazy glue could be used and make a diffused light and reduce the overall amount of plastic, we redesigned the lens and the base.

The original lens was 3D printed, but it was thick, blocked too much light and was expensive, that is when our friends from Engineering Brightness Colorado ( came up with the idea of using polycarbonate tubing. If we could have a thin enough lens that is 3D printed, we could have more flexibility, and diffused light. But all of the thinner walls were weak and structurally unsound. Thankfully, while strolling at the Bosch-Dremel table at ISTE’19 Phili, Ian found multiple 3D printed vases. Bosch ad Dremel were generous to give us the stl files, which we modified for our purposes. This allowed for strength in the wall that were thin enough to let diffused light through, and provide air vents in the sides.

Switching from a cylinder to an oval shape minimizes the plastic and is designed to fit Grace’s Red Circuit nicely with LEDs on both sides of the board to illuminate a whole room.

See Grace’s Circuit for the Gerber files for the circuit board and the stl files for the 3D printer.

Let’s Talk Science : Digital Summit

The keynote started with Mr Fogarty pretending that he forgot his speech, speaking into his watch to have it delivered. While we waited, the Brad Paisley video, “Welcome to the Future” played showing how ,”Things I thought I would never see, Happening right in front of me. Welcome to the Future.” Then a drone flew in and delivered the speech.

If our students are going to follow all of their wonderful paths that were shown in the video they will need to solve problems we have never seen before. Problem solving has always required critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, but- “Welcome to the Future”- these solutions will also need coding.

Current Generation was featured prominently at the Let’s Talk Science Digital Summit because of the way we can personalize student learning

As teachers/mentors, we place learning activities in front of students and because they love the making and the purpose of Current Generation, they are willing to learn things that they would not otherwise do, like public speaking, and graphic arts. All of a sudden there is a practical reason why they should learn, not just because it is an isolated class. Global Classroom

Honoured to present as part of the Global Classroom series. This episode is on “Using Technology to do Good in the World”. I was very proud to see some of the experienced students who experienced the WE Connect Global Simulcast become coaches and mentors to our novice students. Not only do students learn about 3D printing and electrical engineering, but they also learn about lighting, public speaking and global broadcasting.

Overcoming Language Barriers at the European Maker Faire in Rome

Perhaps the most important learning from the European Maker Faire had nothing to do with Engineering or Graphic Arts, or History or Culture, but rather around language.

The girls were concerned about the unknown language issues that they might face being in a foreign country. There certainly was lots of English around but how would they interact with the general public.

Day 1 was dedicated to schools where there were many groups of kids in which most could speak English. Sometimes, there would be a group where none could speak English save one. Our students would speak and then one would translate with lots of emotion and patience. It was sweet to see parents and teachers helping their very young students understand what we were doing and learning how to solder using a hot soldering iron. My favorite moment was when a young student translated to her parent.

Day 2 was open to the general public where English was much more rare. Fortunately, we had designed our posters to be very graphical and language independent. We also had the foresight to connect with some Italian students through a connection with the Varkey Ambassadors to translate our brochure. Almost all of our 300 copies were distributed on day 2. To our surprise, I think because of the eye contact and body language of our students, passers-by took the time to read the translation on the spot. They would smile and nod as they began to understand what we were doing and why. It was particularly fun teaching people to solder with a hot iron without using any words.

Afterwards, the students talked about their experience and made the jump in empathy. This one day low risk event gave them a short glimpse into what it might be like for the growing number of new-comers that are arriving in our town and in our school. I had never intended to grow they citizenship in this way. Wonderful unintended consequences

So Much Hard Work to Get Here.

Students did so much work, so many different kinds of work to get to the European Maker Faire in Rome. It shows why they were the only school on this side of the Atlantic and one of only 3 high schools outside of the EU invited to the European Maker Faire.

Transdisciplinary projects offer the advantage of developing discipline content in a “just in time” fashion that adds a level of authenticity, enthusiasm, and purpose. Students don’t ever ask, why do we need to learn graphic arts, or sentence structure, or a second language, or engineering or public speaking because the answer is obvious and right in front of them, often times for something due next week!

I gave a keynote at the STEM Symposium in Colorado that suggested my ideal high school of the future will look much like k-2 where there is no border between the disciplines, and where competencies like communication, creativity and critical thinking are just as important as content knowledge. Current Generation is a tangible example of this style of learning at a high school level and these girls reflect on their work.