AET Makerspace at NAEA 2016

We had an amazing time presenting an interactive makerspace at NAEA! Participants got a chance to discover 8 engaging makerspace activity stations that explored new media, engineering, and computer science. They got to learn to create with arduinos, 3D printers, sewable circuits, free design software, etc. Here is the list of all 8 presenters’ resources. We hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as we did and that it provided inspiration to take back to your own art classrooms! Thanks to the ArtEdTech (AET) group for sponsoring the session!

soft_circuit sewncircuits3  snapcircuits

3D Digitization: Creating Virtual Copies of 3D Objects

Though academic institutions and museums are using costly 3D scanning equipment for their photogrammetry and 3D digitization efforts (see previous post), there are several free 3D scanning apps that allow users to capture photos taken 360 degrees around and object and easily generate virtual copies and 3D models on their own.

Autodesk 123d Catch
Autodesk 123d Catch is a free app for smartphones and tablets that allows you to create 3D scans of virtually any object. With built in guidance, it helps you set up proper lighting and provides advice for how to ensure 360 degree capture of the object. Once the object has been captured, you can upload to the Autodesk 123d cloud to share or download the free mesh-editing software to your computer for further editing and refinement of your 3D virtual model. The resulting file can be embedded into a website for virtual exploration or can be sent directly to a 3D printer.

Classroom integration example of Autodesk 123d Catch. Create a 3D scan capture of a 3D object found during an outdoor inquiry. *Bonus extension: upload the 3D model with an observation to iNaturalist and become a citizen scientist who shares with the global community.

Autodesk Recap
Similarly, Autodesk Recap allows you to capture 3D scans of an object, but has the added ability to leverage video as well. This “point cloud software” allows users to easily plan, measure, and visualize with advanced measurement as they can capture 3D objects and geographic sites, such as architectural layouts. Simply download the free software to a PC or Mac computer and upload digital photos or digital video files.

Classroom integration example of Autodesk Recap. Attach a digital camera (SLR, Smartphone, or GoPro) to a remote controlled helicopter drone to create a scan capture of your school campus and convert the capture into augmented reality.

*Note: this post is part of a roundtable with Dr. Jason Trumble and Claudia Grant presented at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) conference. Click here to view the full paper.

3D Digitization: Exploring Virtual 3D Models

Huge paradigm shifts in museum culture are underway as a variety of institutions are engaging in 3D digitization to democratize their collections through the digitization of priceless artifacts and bringing access to the masses (Milroy & Rozefelds, 2015). Scientists in the fields of anthropology and paleontology have been using photogrammetry techniques to capture and record measurements of physical objects, but technological advancements now enable high quality digital scanning with specialized hardware, such as the Makerbot Digitizer (costs approximately $800) and the NextEngine 3D scanner (costs approximately $3,000).

Once the files are converted to virtual 3D models, they are made available on a variety of websites where you can access the files to download (as .stl formatted files) or explore within interactive 3D viewers.  This allows you to not only have access to the digital file (to print a physical copy of on your own) but it allows you to virtually interact with the 3d model on your own computer screen. Imagine being able to explore priceless artifacts that are typically hidden behind glass enclosures at a museum on the other side of the world or explore fossilized remains of ancient creatures found during a research excavation.

Smithsonian X 3D
Smithsonian X 3D is a 3D model database allows anyone with an Internet connection access to Smithsonian’s most renowned artifacts. You can explore a variety of virtual models by rotating the items, isolating different components of them, measuring them with built-in tools and creating specific views that can be shared over social media or embedded on a website or blog post just like a video. Additionally you can explore “tours” of select artifact collections and archaeological sites that are complete with 3D models, expert-written text, and additional resources.

Classroom integration example of Smithsonian X 3D. Take your students on a virtual tour of Cerro Ballena, Chile to learn more about whales ancestors by exploring Balaenopteridae fossils.

Duke University’s Morphosource is an image-sharing resource designed to allow users to upload, search, and browse high quality 3d models. is an online database of 3D models. Using the Creative Commons model, Morphosource encourages citizen scientist and the democratization of access to artifacts. As such, a variety of academic institutions and natural history musems are using Morphosource to facilitate collaboration, consolidate repository holdings, and provide access to the public.

Classroom integration example of Morphosource. Explore patterns in human evolution by comparing and contrasting virtual models of skeletal remains.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Digimorph is a lab that creates and shares 2D and 3D visualizations of the internal and external structure of living and extinct vertebrates, and a growing number of ‘invertebrates.’ Users can search a variety of specimens and explore virtual models and animations that detail the morphology of specimens in unique multimodal ways. With partnerships from a variety of academic institutions and paleontologists, Digimorph provides informative research publications with each specimen to deepen the potential learning.

Classroom integration example of Digimorph. Explore x-ray CT scans of various horned lizards and attempt to hypothesize reconstructions of what their ancestors may have looked like.

NASA 3D Models
Among the variety of data sets related to space exploration, NASA 3D Models contains a variety of 3D digitiazations of spacecraft, topographical maps, and plantary objects. Additionally, they have compiled several visualizations that allow users to explore landforms.

Classroom integration example of NASA 3D Models. Explore the impact that volcanic lava flows has on the near and far side of the moon’s surface.

Milroy, A. A., & Rozefelds, A. C. (2015). Democratizing the collection: Paradigm shifts in and through museum culture. Australasian Journal Of Popular Culture, 4(2/3), 115-130.

*Note: this post is part of a roundtable with Dr. Jason Trumble and Claudia Grant presented at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) conference. Click here to view the full paper.

MAKE things three-dimensional (3D)

The term “3D” gets spoken of a lot lately, especially “3D printing.” Though the term seems commonplace, sometimes we forget why 3D things are so cool and interesting. By turning something from flat 2D (two-dimensions) into a fully functioning 3D experience, we are not only engaging more senses (tactile touch) we are creating objects that have presence from 360 degrees of viewing.

In order to expand this conceptual understanding of 3D printing, we challenge you to flip the term and consider what it truly means to “print in 3D.” Printing in 3D can be done with or without technology, as many mixed media artists will attest to the fact the amplifying their use of tactile textures is a favorite way to add the third dimension to their artworks.

To do this, we begin with hot glue…one of our favorite tools! Not only can hot glue be used to attach objects together or fix broken things, it is an amazing starting point for understanding 3D printing. After all a 3D printer is essentially a hot glue gun on wheels that is controlled by a computer.

Printing in 3D with Hot Glue Molds

Using a flexible silicone mold (i.e. Small ice cube trays and/or chocolate candy molds bought at grocery store for about $2 each, various shapes: hearts, stars, shells, mustaches, leaves, etc.) you can fill in with hot glue and small craft findings (sequins, glitter, etc.) to create your own 3D objects. Experiment with adding small amounts of paint or food coloring to change the color and texture of the hot glue. These objects can be displayed on shelves or turned into pendants and key chains by attaching yarn or cords. See more details in this tutorial (coming soon).

Drawing in 3D with Hot Glue

Using parchment paper (baking paper bought for a couple of dollars at grocery store) you can create 3D doodles and unique 3D objects. Experiment with drawing directly onto the parchment paper and see what happens when hot glue is added. Does the drawing transfer? Experiment with adding craft findings to the hot glue as you draw. Does the hot glue drawing have the strength to stand up on its own as a sculptural object? What can you do with these 3D hot glue creations? Use the dried creation as a printmaking stamp (cover with paint and press down on thick paper to make a print) or embossing tool (place paper over the creation and rub with crayon to create colorful textures). Attach yarn or string and turn it into a sun catcher for your window or wear it as a necklace, ring, or bracelet. See more details in this tutorial (coming soon).

Computer Modeling in 3D with Free Software

Using Autodesk 123D Design (free download for Mac, iPad, and Windows) or TinkerCAD (free web-based app used directly in Internet browser) you can create your own unique 3D models. The completed 3D models can be exported as “.STL” files and sent to a 3D printer and printed into a physical object. Don’t have a 3D printer of your own? Upload your file to and have them print it for you (costs vary based on the size of your model, which material you want it printed in, and how soon you want them to mail it to your home). Don’t want to wait for snail mail…search for a 3D printing service near your home on (enter in your zip code and a list of local 3D printing services are provided, rates vary). View our resources page for more related information.

Want more 3D activities? Check out our project page for more ideas.

Converting flat 2D files to 3D printable files

Ever wonder if there was a way to 3D print a flat clipart image? Well, there is. Thanks to the extra credit effort of one of our graduate students, you too can convert a vector based clip art file (.svg) into a 3D printable file (.stl). Follow these simple steps using free software (Gimp, Inkscape, and Tinkercad)*:

Step 1: Find or create a clean clip art style one color logo.

Step 2: Open image in GIMP or Microsoft Paint, which are both free, raster-based image editing software programs.

Step 3: Go to the “file” menu. choose “export.”  Make sure the file name ends in .png and select PNG file format from drop down menu. Select “save.”

Step 4: Open file in Inkscape, which is a free, open-source vector image software program.

Step 5: In Inkscape select the portion of the image desired.  Go to “path” menu. select “trace bitmap.”

Step 6: Next “check” the box at “remove background.”  Select “Ok.”

Step 7: Go to the “File” menu.  Select “Save as.”  Go to the “Save as type” drop down menu and select “Plain SVG.”  Select “Save.”

Step 8: In TInkercad or Autodesk 123D Design go to the file menu and select “import”.  select your SVG file and select “Open.”

Step 9: From there, you can further manipulate your 3D object.

Here is our famous Texas State University bobcat logo redesigned as a 3D printable pendant: texas_state_university_bobcat_v2-3d-model

*If you don’t have the free software outlined in this tutorial, you can follow this link to accomplish the same effect using Photoshop and Illustrator:


MAKE things move with simple motorized circuits

Using inexpensive materials, you can MAKE things move by creating a simple motorized circuit. When you attach the motorized circuit to a base (a toothbrush head, plastic cup, etc.) you can make an analog ArtBot that is capable of creating a variety of randomized art. With endless possibilities, what will you design your ArtBot to do?

With all the digital technology around us, why would we want to make analog robots? Using inexpensive materials these little bots are a great introduction to circuits and allow for great engineering explorations involving simple design changes to experiment with cause and effect. There are even science competitions for these little bots: BrushBot Olympics, BristleBot Educational Robotics Competition, and many more. Even if you can’t physically compete in one of these competitions, try out some of their ideas and start your own competition with friends in your neighborhood or at your school.




  • toothbrush head (flat head works best)
  • scissors or pliers (have an adult help)
  • vibrating motor (tiny pager motor)
  • 3v battery (CR2032 coin size)
  • twist tie or rubberband
  • craft materials (pipe cleaners, foam strips, paper, etc.)


  1. Cut the toothbrush head with scissors or pliers.
  2. Attach the motor to the battery (align + and – sides).
  3. Attach motor/battery combo to brush with twist tie.
  4. Decorate the BrushBot.

Watch the Brushbots race.
Dip them in paint and watch BrushBots create art.
Tie a leash on them and take them for a walk.
Imagine where they would “live” and create them a habitat.

What happens if you add “legs?”
How can you control the path of the BrushBot?
Can you create an on/off switch to save the battery?
What happens when you use a different type of brush?




Using the same simple motorized circuit, you can make an ArtBot that can draw.


  • plastic base (cups and/or plastic containers)
  • scissors
  • vibrating motor (tiny pager motor)
  • 3v battery (CR2032 coin size)
  • drawing tools: pens, pencils, and/or markers
  • rubberband
  • tape
  • craft materials (pipe cleaners, foam strips, paper, etc.)


  1. Attach the motor to the battery (align + and – sides).
  2. Attach motor/battery combo to plastic base with rubberband.
  3. Attach drawing tools to make the base “stand up” on its own.
  4. Decorate the DrawingBot.

Watch the Drawingbots race inside a box.
Watch DrawingBots create art together.

What happens when you use a different type of base?
What other recyclable materials could you use for the base?
Can you create an on/off switch to save the battery?
What happens when you move the placement of the motor/battery?
How does the placement of the drawing tools impact its drawing?
How can you adjust the DrawingBot to draw circles? dots? straight lines? curves? dashes?

Share a photo of what your ArtBot can do!

MAKE things light up with simple circuits!

Circuits are all around us but we normally don’t pay much attention to how they work. A circuit is a loop that connects volts from a power source (such as a battery) to an output (such as a light or motor). Learn more about the technical aspects of circuits from this tutorial on SparkFun.

In addition to traditional electronic components, circuits can be made out of a variety of conductive materials, such as conductive thread, conductive tape, or even conductive ink.

Our favorite introduction to circuits is to make things light up. Combining an LED light and a coin-size battery (3 volt CR2032 batteries are our favorite) you can make a simple circuit connection that has a lot of creative potential. Simply attach tape or a binder clip to keep the circuit connected and consider what you can turn it into…a ring, a pendant, a bow tie, a hair bow? The possibilities are endless! Follow these simple steps to create your own: LED bling tutorial

Advanced electrical concepts can be explored by extending this same concept of simple circuits into soldering electrical components to a printed computer board. We like to start to learn how to solder with this tutorial that creates a blinking LED badge.

Soldering is serious business and needs to have a lot of safety considerations, but with the proper precautions we believe that children of all ages can successfully and safely learn to solder as long as they have appropriate adult supervision. Learn more about soldering basics here and be sure to check out our favorite one-page soldering guide here designed by Super Awesome Sylvia.

Maker Play Workshops at San Marcos Public Library

Join us at the San Marcos Public Library for “Maker Play” workshops on July 10, 17, and 24 from 2-4 pm. Explore technology including 3D printing and simple robotics to bring your imagination to life with hands-on projects! This workshop is free and geared toward kids ages 7-12. Space is limited so please register through the SMPL website here.

This is a series of annual workshops that are in collaboration with Maker Camp, which supports a unique global summer camp experience for young artists and inventors ages 7-12. This year’s themes include: Far-Out Future, Flight, Fun and Games, Fantasy, Funkytown, and Farmstead, which will challenge every participant to learn new skills across a wide range of interests.


Have you ever wished that an awesome DIY project would arrive on your doorstep complete with everything you needed, including instructions and materials? With TinkerCrate that is possible! You can choose from age appropriate DIY projects to spark creativity and awesome learning experiences with one simple monthly subscriptions. Once you subscribe, a box filled with awesomeness will arrive on your doorstep each month!

Check out the TinkerCrate family:image

  • KoalaCrate hands-on playful crafts for ages 3-4
  • KiwiCrate hands-on creative science for ages 4-8
  • TinkerCrate hands-on building and experiments for ages 9-14+
  • DoodleCrate hands-on art techniques and crafts for ages 9-16+