Lesson: Self-expression through Graffiti with Throwies

Categories:  Andrew Ellis, Ellen Foster, [Lessons]

Overview: Students will learn about simple circuits by creating a Throwie and consider possible modifications to the original design, who might want to use these objects, and different ways they could be used.

What are Throwies?
LED Throwies are an inexpensive way to add color to any ferromagnetic surface. A Throwie consists of a lithium battery, a 10mm diffused LED and a rare-earth magnet taped together.

Vocabulary: LED, Closed Circuit, Open Circuit

Challenge: Create a Throwie; Learn about expression through graffiti/public art

Resources: Throwie instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Throwies/
and Graffiti Research Labs: http://www.graffitiresearchlab.com/blog/projects/laser-tag/

Tools: Tape, LEDs, Magnets, Batteries

Lesson Time: 50 minutes

Introduction – 5 minutes
Introduce students to the lesson and goals of today. Tell them they will be making a simple light up device with simple circuitry without soldering and thinking about how this little device might be used or modified.

Mini-Lesson – 10 minutes
Ask students what they know about Graffiti. the beginnings and purposes of graffiti and what it means to them. Possibly have them play around with Graffiti Writer. Then have them consider involving lights, projections and removable grafitti. Why? Who uses this tyupe of graffiti?

Guided Practice – 15 minutes
Show them an already made Throwie (pass around). Explain a closed circuit and how their Throwie creates a closed circuit. Show steps for making.

Activity – 5 to 10 minutes
Students will create their own Throwie and explore possibilities for modifying the throwie. They will work with other students to rethink the throwie and consider who might want to use their modification to the throwie.

Reflection – 10 minutes
Students will share with other student groups their modifications They will also record their modifications and ideas down in a journal.

After school Re-Using Technology Club – Working with E-Waste

Categories:  Ellen Foster, Science Club, [Lessons]
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Toward the end of last semester and for the past weeks of this new semester, a group of 7th graders have committed time to meet after school to learn more about issues of E-Waste and physically appropriating technology for new uses.

The end goal of this after school group is to encourage kids to think about technology obsolescence and how they might creatively remix and reuse technologies that are considered unusable or unwanted. They have had fun making old printer motors run, learning about how sound waves look, and exploring issues of chemicals leeching from E-Waste into ground-water supplies. They have also watched a short documentary on “DJ Focus,” a young teenager growing up in Sierra Leone who has taught himself to build a radio and other technology out of throw-away materials – his hope being that radio communication will foster discussion and connections within his community. The overall intention is to think about technology’s implications, uses, and shaping in society as a whole and within locally situated communities.

The kids were excited to take apart old electronics (mainly old printers and radios) and check out their insides — the circuitry, the gears and moveable parts. We focused on getting out usable components, such as the motors, while talking about the differences between stepper motors and DC brushless motors — how they each function, and might contribute to different projects. One day I brought in some old computer towers with the DVD player motors still intact. Two kids worked diligently to expose the motor power connections of the player and hook it up to a 9 V battery. Here is the result!

They also had fun hooking up the DC brushless motors to batteries and seeing them run on their own, separate from the equipment they were helping to cool.


It was a raucous good time for kids to tear things up, but sometimes it was hard for them to focus on the task of extracting the motors and getting them to run. This has since made me realize that I need to give them more concrete projects for creation and instruction beyond exploration and play – although I think enabling them to work in this mode is important.

Teaching them the basics of component parts (what is a resistor, capacitor, motor, circuit, etc.) by looking at E-Waste was a helpful foundation for them to think about what parts are salvageable from E-Waste, and which are potentially dangerous immediately or to the environment. These foundational skills will hopefully keep them building in the future, or at least give them pause when thinking about throwing out old electronics and the possibilities for what those objects could become.

Since first exploring circuitry and electronics through E-Waste, we have moved on to other projects but that is material for another post.

Skateboarder Activity

Categories:  Culturally Situated Design Tools, Libby Rodriguez, [Lessons]
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Skate Boarder modelMath: Geometry, Algebra, slope, graphs

Science: Friction, Energy, Wind resistance, acceleration

Materials Needed: glue gun, cardboard, toy cars, finger skateboards, scissors, marbles, computers

Prep: Run Skateboarder CSDT – may need to install java on computers and download SB applets to computer hard drives. Optionally, you can just open in a browser: http://csdt.rpi.edu/subcult/sb/index.html

Open the Skateboarder application for each student, spend a few days letting them play around and experiment with the software, asking questions wherever they find the need to. During that, spend days on lessons talking about circle degrees for using the arcs for ramps, moving segments programmatically using translation or rotation, and elasticity and friction.


  • Create your own skate park (to be referenced when you create your cardboard model).
  • Try to get your boarder to stop on a ramp.
  • Change the background of the application to a picture of your face and create a skate park so the skater skates around your face!
  • Once you are content with your software skate park, create models out of cardboard mimicking the software models and compare what the software skater does compared to how a marble/finger skateboard/toy car behaves on the cardboard model.

Teaching materials are also available