Creativity by Design

Creativity by Design

This year in Form II technology class, Academic Technology Specialist Mr. Droke conducted research on developing the creative confidence of students through the Design Thinking process. In July, he will present his findings at the International Boys School Coalition annual conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The boys were tasked to collaboratively reevaluate and redesign the New York City subway system to meet the needs of people in the year 2035. Mr. Droke was pleased to see the boys improve their creative confidence and problem-finding skills over their semester in class. Click here to watch the boys explain their ideas and to see the process they worked through.

Browning Participates in littleBits' Maker Day

Browning Participates in littleBits' Maker Day

On April 11, Browning’s technology department participated in their first Maker Day, hosted by The Marymount School and littleBits. This free, day-long event was created for educators, students, parents, designers and makers to present projects, attend workshops and explore how digital fabrication and making are reviving and inspiring our classrooms.

Director of Technology Mr. Grill & Technology Integrator Mr. Harp both presented hands-on workshops showcasing curriculum themes from their technology classes. Mr. Grill led a workshop on developing 3-D environments for virtual reality while Mr. Harp taught makers how to invent the Internet of Things. Mr. Harp’s group used littleBits and consumables, such as cardboard, to teach participants to rapidly prototype electronic inventions connected to the cloud.

Browning had a strong turnout that displayed a strong vote of confidence in Interschool collaboration. Browning teachers Ms. Suárez and Mr. Lisciandrello joined in the inventing fun, tinkering alongside Browning parents and students representing all three divisions. It was a special occasion to see Browning boys from Upper and Middle School divisions teaching boys from the Lower division. View photos.

Grade 3 & 4 Paper Circuits

Grade 3 & 4 Paper Circuits

3rd and 4th grade boys made paper circuits recently in Technology Class.  They used a paper template, conductive tape, LED’s, scotch tape, a coin battery, and markers to create unique cards for the holiday season.  Using conductive materials the boys learned how to complete a simple circuit.  I guided them through the process with an example I had created first.  Next, the boys did their best to make the card light up using a test battery.  If the LED didn’t light up they had a chance to tinker with the circuits.  They were encouraged to ask others in the class to lend a different perspective.  Finally, they used the working light to inspire their own design for a new twist to the holiday card.

Programming at Browning - The Upper School

Programming at Browning - The Upper School

Every student at Browning enters the Upper School with a required technology class that is a self paced, blended learning technology course. Form III (9th Grade) boys learn the fundamentals of computer science throughout the semester and are expected to have a basic understanding of JavaScript by the end of the course. At the end of the semester, boys will have a chance to put their JavaScript knowledge to use by creating simple web apps using Google Coder and a Raspberry Pi.

Form IV (10th Grade) offers an elective course (Intro to Computer Science) that allows the students to continue learning JavaScript, and hopefully make it far enough in the self paced, blended learning curriculum ( to create the classic videogame “Breakout”.

Form II Design the Subway Station of the Future

This semester in Form II technology, students explored how they can use design to solve real-world problems. The boys were divided into groups and asked to design a subway station for the year 2035. As the boys worked through the design thinking process, they developed empathy for the future users of the New York City subway system. Soon the boys were crafting problem statements that guided their thinking for the rest of the projects. After ideating multiple solutions, each group focused on their most viable improvements. As the groups started to finalize plans, they made rough prototypes out of foam board and push pins. This allowed them to express their original ideas in tangible artifacts before they created their final models using Adobe Illustrator and the laser cutter. After the Holiday break, each group will have to justify their design decisions through a presentation of their final models to the rest of their class.

Micro City Design with Form II Technology

Over the past month, Mr. Sambuca's Form II Technology class have been learning how to design three-dimensional shapes. The boys are currently using Tinkercad, a free web-based CAD application that allows the student to drag and drop geometric shapes to create 3D designs. The limited learning curve makes Tinkercad well suited for the K-12 setting,  where students learn real computer aided design skills and can apply the knowledge as they move on to professional design tools.   The Micro City design project was a two week assignment to test the the skill set on perspective drawing using a city skyline. Students were randomly selected a US city and began to research landmark buildings and different skyline views to get their personal perspective. The students were given design rules and size constraints (100mm long x 100 mm x wide  x 100mm high). The micro cities are all available below on Thingiverse for download and will be on display in the 2014 Browning School Art Show. Click here to view the pictures

Grade 3 Ornament Design

Grade 3 Ornament Design

In the three weeks before Winter Break, Mr. Droke's third grade class designed snowflakes that were made using our laser cutter. The boys started the project by designing snowflake using the website Make-a-Flake.  After the boys finished "cutting" their flakes, they imported them into Adobe Illustrator. The boys learned the basics of Illustrator and how to use the Live Trace tool. We talked about about how the laser cutter makes specific cuts based on the color that it recognizes. For this project, the boys needed to make the lines of their snowflakes red. After the boys made the necessary changes to their file, we began the cutting process. Every boy had a chance to watch snowflakes being cut and talk about how the machine worked. This lesson allowed the boys to develop their creativity and design skills, while also introducing them to new computer skills. Click here for photos.

Makerbot Stories - The Browning School

In 2011, The Browning School acquired a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, a 3-D printer that allows our boys to create colorful plastic models of objects. This machine can literally turn a three-dimensional computer model into a physical object. Engineers, architects and other professionals, as well as hobbyists and students, use this machine to make models of designs that they conceive or, alternately, download from the parent company’s website.

Since 2011, even our Pre-Primary boys have learned about Maker-Bot in their technology classes As part of MakerBot’s series of website stories (posted on highlighting how Replicator 3D printers are used in education, The Browning School was pleased to recently welcome Blake Eskin, editor, and Annelise Jeske, videographer. Headmaster Clement and Director of Academic Technology Jeremy Sambuca, along with a number of Browning boys, lent their expertise and commentary for a video explaining Browning’s use of MakerBot and the School’s embrace of technology in recent years. View the photos of this segment in the making. 

Developing Empathy and Research Skills through Toy Design

Mr. Droke's sixth grade boys have been "hired" by the Grade One class to design a toy that specifically meets their needs and wants. The sixth graders must create a shared knowledge of toys to be used as they use research, develop, produce and market an original toy. This toy will be designed on Tinkercad, a browser-based 3D design platform, and made on 3D printers or the laser cutter in our technology lab. The first two assignments of the project helped the students reflect on their own toy experience and develop empathy for the current first grade boys. The boys created Padlet walls that represent what their life was like as a first grader. This process allowed them to reflect on the types of toys they played with and talk about why they liked them. Then the design teams developed surveys on Google Forms for each of the first graders to complete. We spent a class discussing how these results could be used to impact their work. The next step in the design process was to research classic toys like Tonka Trucks, Lincoln Logs, the Yo-Yo, G.I. Joe, the Teddy Bear, Rock'em Sock'em Robots and LEGOs. Each design team was assigned a toy and had to state its purpose, define its demographic, talk about how it makes them feel, and research its history. The teams presented their findings to the entire class. They boys quickly realized that these toys shared certain characteristics, such as their ability to be intuitively played with without reading a set of instructions. This allowed us to have a conversation about how simple toys are sometimes more effective, better designed and more well-loved than complicated toys. This impacted the design teams' initial ideas about their toys by making them think more realistically and practically about their design. The next phase of the process is to begin ideation and focus on the toy that each team is going to develop and design. 

Click here to see some pictures of the boys presenting their research.

Arcade Game Design and Programming with Form III

Over the past two months, Mr. Sambuca's Form III students have been learning game design and theory. Using GameSalad Creator, a drag and drop application that uses visual editors and a behavior-based logic system, the boys are exploring the fundamentals of movement, controls, physics, game logic and publishing through a variety of mini-projects. The final project allowed the boys to upload their game on GameSalad Arcade. This website features Soccer Shot ManiaThe Great Maze GameSpace Flee and War of the Faces. Click here to view the pictures.  

Creative Engineering with Form II

Mr. Sambuca's Form II boys have spent the past 10 weeks learning Trimble Sketchup, a 3D modeling software, to help prepare them for the final engineering design challenge. This year's challenge was to design a Lego brick that does not exist and must work with current pieces. The students embarked on the engineering design process, a series of steps that helps the students develop a new product. After extensive research through the Lego bins and online, students began to #1 "Ask" the who, what, why and #2 "Imagine" solutions without sketching. Using digital calipers, the boys measured a variety of bricks and plates to get the exact dimensions in order to  #3 "Plan" their hand-drawn sketches. The sketches turned into an orthographic technical drawing helping  the boys to design their 3D Sketchup model. Using Makerware and the Replicator 2, students worked on step #4 "Create" to print their prototype. Once printed, students move onto Step #5 "Improve" to test and modify their brick if it does not work. This project reinforces and help strengthen the boys inquiry, problem-solving, design and troubleshooting skills. Click here view the pictures. 

The Hour of Code at Browning

The Browning School is participating in the "Hour of Code" as part of the annual Computer Science Education Week, a celebration geared to encourage interest in the field of computer programming. The Hour of Code is a self-guided, self-paced activity where students will think, create and explore using different programming platforms. At Browning, the technology department has worked hard to incorporate a computer programming unit into every grade, starting in Pre-Primary, to lay a strong foundation for future exploration. Click here for more pictures. 

Grade 1 Introductory Robotics

Mr. Droke's first grade boys are beginning to work with LEGO WeDo robotics. Each boy has a partner and is working through the build instructions on an iPad. The boys rotate between being the builder and the reader which helps them develop their collaboration skills. Over the next three weeks, the boys will finish building their robots and begin learning how to program them using the WeDo software and Scratch. Check out more pictures of the boys building here.

Purposeful Game Design and Exploring Scratch

Mr. Droke's fourth grade boys are beginning work in their Scratch Designer's Notebook where they will complete different challenge and problem-based questions to develop their programming skills. By the time they complete the Notebook, they will have all of the necessary skills to create their own game. Over the past couple weeks, the boys learned how to define the purpose of a variety of games and to critically think of ways to improve them. This activity offers the boys an opportunity to build a shared knowledge of what a "good" game looks and functions like. As the boys move through the introductory stages of programming, we stress to them how important it is to always have their overall purpose in mind. Click here for more pictures.

STEM in Action with Grade 5

The 5th graders were recently introduced to the speed formula and given the opportunity to put theory into practice by testing the speeds of cars. Each group was given a stock "plunger car" and tested its speed. After they collected their first round of data, Mr. Dunham, Middle School Head and Science Teacher, challenged them to make parts for their car that would make it more aerodynamic. Traditionally, these parts have been made out of paper, but this year some of the boys wanted to design and print their parts using our 3D printers. So, Mr. Dunham allowed a group of 5th graders to go to Mr. Droke to pitch the idea of using the printer. After a discussion of what that would involve, the boys began to design their parts using Tinkercad, a browser-based 3D design platform. Once the boys finished, they came to Mr. Droke and worked with him to make sure that their objects were accurately and efficiently designed. The boys ended this experiment by attaching their objects to the cars and testing the speeds. Now, they will compare the speeds of the car without the attachment to the car with the attachment.

The most important and lasting aspect of this project is that the boys took ownership of the process of making. It was their idea to use the 3D printers and it was their extra work before and after school that created objects that were purposefully designed and used. Our hope at Browning is that all of our boys learn to use innovative technologies to extend their learning across the curriculum. They need to understand that 3D printing, and other technologies, aren't reserved for our Technology Lab, but that they can be used wherever the boys can meaningfully use them.

Check out more pictures here.

Game Design and Programming with Grade 1

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Droke’s first grade class has learned the basics of game design and programming using the iPad application Sketch Nation Studio. This application allowed the boys to choose from five different templates to make their own game. Then, they drew the different elements of the game including the player, platforms, power ups, enemies and a background. The boys loved developing their own game and sharing their work with their friends. After the boys had a chance to play everyone’s game, we took time to make a list of all of the awesome things about the games they had made. This let the boys complement and reflect on their own work and the work of their peers. This project gave the class an opportunity to develop their creativity and innovation skills by focusing on introductory programming, problem-solving, critical thinking and design.  Click here to view the photos.

Advanced Engineering Design Class Takes Second Place in Ten80 Competition

On October 24, The Browning School's Form VI Advanced Engineering Design class traveled to Massachusetts to compete in the Ten80 New England Green Flag Invitational, part of an initiative that challenges middle and high school students in and out of schools to optimize the performance of 1:10 scale radio controlled cars. Director of Academic Technology Jeremy Sambuca reports: The all-day event was held at the North American headquarters of Dassault Systemes in Waltham, Mass. Clutch Motorsports, our team name, competed in three points-based categories, including pit crew analysis, three-minute elevator pitch and a race event. Since this was our first competition for the team, Browning made a statement among the New England regional teams by placing second at the invitational. Clutch Motorsports will be working hard throughout the school year in preparation for an invitation to the national finals at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2014. Click here to view photos taken by Aniekeme Akpan '14 at the competition.