Maker Spotlight: Wildwood Middle School

The MakerSpace at Wildwood Middle School is located off the cafeteria. This location was selected with several goals in mind: to provide an easily accessible space for all teachers to develop and offer maker opportunities to students outside of class time. In December, we offered our first lunch time activity computer dissection and are planning solder and circuitry making sessions for the month of February.

Recently, science students used the MakerSpace to try their hands at building a Rube Goldberg style contraption to cause a chemical reaction between acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). You can see from the photo that several computer parts from the dissection ended up in these models.

On Friday, January 13th, the Wildwood Science Department hosted the 3rd annual Family Science night. Over 200 students and family members participated. Special guests included the Spring Mills High School STEM team, of Berkeley county, who led sessions on robotics and paper/foil circuits. We are looking forward to more collaborations with other Makerspaces and STEM schools in the future.

Tool Review

X-Carve: Precise, Reliable 3D Carving Technology
by Jamie Cope, Robert C. Byrd Institute

At RCBI's makerspace in Huntington - which we've dubbed the Maker Vault - we've managed to acquire some diverse equipment. One of the most powerful tools in our Maker Vault is the X-Carve, a tabletop CNC router from Inventables.

X-Carves use an off-the-shelf DeWalt router. The router is attached to a mechanical positioning system, which is controlled by a computer running Easel software (other software also is available - but Easel is free and easy to use).

The Easel software allows users to create designs with preset patterns, text and shapes or the ability to input a graphic in JPEG format and convert it to a usable design. After the design is complete, Easel controls the router to cut the design into wood or other similar materials. As the user you have full control over the depth of the cut, so you can engrave a design into the wood or you can cut all the way through the wood to make the shape you choose.

The X-Carve appears intimidating at first. If you don't have any experience with a CNC router, you'll probably want someone to show you how to set it up. After you get past that initial fear of the unknown, you'll realize the X-Carve is very easy to use. There is a spinning cutting tool and it presents the possibility of material splintering, so this probably isn't a great fit for elementary school students or minimally supervised students of any age. It's also noisy and creates a fair amount of dust, so take those factors into account if you plan to purchase one. The biggest word of caution for anyone interested in purchasing an X-carve is its initial assembly. It takes several hours and quite a bit of know-how to put together.

The X-Carve is a fun, easy-to-use tool that creates high-end results. Users with little-to-no woodworking experience can begin creating professional-level signs and other projects almost immediately. The online community that supports the X-Carve is fantastic so there are plenty of sample projects online for those who need a creative nudge. Overall, this is a fantastic addition to most makerspaces.

If you would like to see an X-Carve in action, please visit our Maker Vault at RCBI in downtown Huntington (1050 Fourth Avenue).To contact Jamie Cope, email jcope@rcbi.org or phone 304.781.1680.

Innovative Ideas

Today, there are many techniques in which one may make an image three-dimensional. Holograms are one of the ways this may be achieved. Use your smartphone to create precise three-dimensional images that reflect lifelike holograms. Click here to learn more about holograms and other innovations through making!