Jump start your makerspace with light sabers!

I originally posted this blog in my chasing life’s lilies blog series.

This year is our first year of having makerspaces on campus, so it’s a year of recruitment and a year to get others interested. With that in mind, I spent the first few months of the year securing spaces and resources. By December, I was ready to bring in students so I started with a maker party – code your own ugly sweater or upcycle an old book into a purse, tool box, or other accessory.

Though only a few students attended our December maker party, they started to make use of the space in their own ways. They asked if they could return to finish. They asked if they could create more. They asked when there would be more. They wanted to keep using the space. In my idealistic vision, I imagined the space as a revolving door – a place for students and faculty to come in and innovate – with hours similar to that of a library.

As more students and faculty use the space, I’ll have to solidify a few basic rules and offer some training courses on the tools. But, for now – for this first year – it’s about engagement and recruitment.

So, I decided to finish off 2016 with monthly maker parties open to all students and staff during open lunches (a time when students are not required to eat in the dining hall and teachers do not have duties). For January, I hosted a Makey Makey challenge and a light saber creation event. I split up middle school and high school students for more personalized events and better crowd control.

Today, the middle school students entered – 15 of them (we only have 200 middle school students) ready and armed to make. I assumed all were in for the light saber creation, but was pleasantly surprised when several girls asked to explore the Makey Makeys. Some even asked if they could complete some of the projects from last month.

This is the completed version

We began with an introduction of the space and how to use it most effectively. This was an important step in this makerspace since the space is rather small and has not been fully defined for maker.

After a brief introduction to the space, we were ready to create. I found this great Instructables tutorial previously (which I still recommend consulting), which I used to guide the maker event. Before sharing this with students, though, I made one myself. ALWAYS make one yourself first.

First, gather the supplies. I sectioned mine off into various corners of the makerspace for better traffic flow.

Supplies:

  • Clear tube guards for fluorescent bulbs (here are the ones he used). Get the T8 size. These make the blade portion of the lightsabers.
  • Small 9-LED flashlight from Walmart. The kind needed are typically found on aisle-end displays and cost $1. Here’s a link.
  • A cardboard tube that fits both the flashlight and the plastic tube guard.We used wrapping paper tubes
  • Duct tape (Any color)
  • Electrical tape
  • Peel-and-stick craft foam
  • Cutting mat
  • Hobby knife or scissors – we used scissors

Organization:

  • Place items around the makerspace by step. For instance, the tube cards and the wrapping paper rolls were on the same table. 
  • Determine what is best for your office.
Tube guards and wrapping paper rolls went on same table

Example in center. Idea (plastic) mats in center with each step at a different corner of table in counter clockwise order

Next, it’s time to get to work! To make best use of the tubes, we cut ours in half. However, in the original example, he only cut off about 12 inches. It’s up to you.

We used scissors to cut the rolls and the students (12-14 year olds) did great

Then, cut the wrapping paper rolls. We measured from the base of our hand/top of wrist to the tip of our middle finger and cut. This will be the shaft. 

Now, it’s time to insert the flashlight into the wrapping paper shaft. Most wrapping paper rolls are too wide for the flashlight so we placed duct tape around the flashlight (leaving the battery end & seal open) until the flashlight could be inserted, but would not fall out if we held up the wrapping paper roll.

Duct tape of any color to top of flashlight

After, students inserted the clear tube into the wrapping paper shaft (with flashlight). Again, the wrapping paper rolls are typically to wide so we added duct tape to the base of the clear tube until it would insert into the wrapping paper shaft without sliding out easily.

Then, we removed the black plastic covering at the end of the tube. In it’s place, we placed a piece of duct tape (sticky side up) on top of the hole (leave a little on the sides so that it hangs out – you’ll clean this up later). Then, we put the plastic covering back on, securing the duct tape. To make sure the light does not escape, you may need to wrap electrical tape around the top and sides of the plastic covering. I had to do this for mine and so did the students.

Now begins the aesthetic stage. I put duct tape over my wrapping paper shaft for cosmetic effect. It was not necessary. I also put electrical tape at the end and top of the shaft to secure it and make it look more polished. In this step, you can cut out the peel and stick foam to add grips to your shaft. Be creative and have fun.

In the final step, we colored the tubes with permanent marker. And, then, we used a low grade sand paper to sand down and diffuse the color. This helped diffuse the light.

Now, your students are ready to wage light saber war. And…hopefully, this will help jump start your makerspace. The key is finding topics that catch your students’ attention. Here is a list of our maker parties for reference.

Happy making!

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