This one was so cool I’ve wanted to write it up for a while, just haven’t had the time.
My 8th grade class is Gateway to Technology, part of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses. PLTW has some great projects but I’m on a trimester schedule so I have trouble fitting them all in. This is my first time doing the VEX Pull Toy and I wish I’d done it earlier!
As an introduction to VEX building materials I’ve always had the class split into groups and assigned each group a gear mechanism to build, present, and if time, motorize and program using Robot C. Cool, but not very fun. Now that I’ve added this project, it’s way cooler and much much more funner! (sic)
After the students have learned how gear mechanisms work (because they payed really close attention to each others’ presentations) I tell them they are going to make a child’s pull toy using at least one of the gear mechanisms that they have learned in class. As a way to present the project we will do a parade through the main office with administration, counselors, secretaries, and available staff as the audience. At the end I asked the staff to vote on their favorite toy.
Here’s a few of the toys as they appeared in class:
Helicopters were a favorite as they looked simple, though as several students found out, lining up bevel gears perfectly was not easy.
I love this Ferris wheel because as often happens, the seats are rigid and turn upside down as it goes around.
One of the cool things about this project is the students can use design skills to make a project look really cool. While this Pacman Arcade is a simple bevel gear and belt drive, it looks a thousand times cooler because of the decorations.
Pacman was a clear staff favorite, the other three most popular ones ( Chinese Dragon, Low Rider, and Owl) are each below:
Finally, here’s an extended play of all the parade videos:
What I like about this particular project is that it reinforced what gear mechanisms do: change direction of travel, speed or torque. The students sort of get this when they build the gear mechanisms, but when they make their pull toys, it really hits home.
What I would do differently next time is not show too many examples (youtube videos) of other classes. Pacman, race cars, boxers, and helicopters, were all videos my students saw. I’d like to push them towards a bit more originality. Or I may just add that to the rubric next time to make it implicit in the grade.