Riverpoint Academy, a high school located in Washington State known for its interdisciplinary, project-based STEM curriculum, added a D.I.Wire to their makerspace shop in 2015. A desktop wire bender was something new to the Riverpoint Academy (RA) learning space, and at first, students were unaware of the capabilities such a small machine could have. However, it did not take long for students to go from experimentation to design and fabrication.
Sage, an RA senior, was inspired by examples he saw on the Pensa Labs website. He took the concept of a “revolved shape” and began to prototype his own designs for a free-standing lamp. At RA, a tremendous amount of teaching energy goes into creating and maintaining an environment in which students build to learn. Iteration is infused into all they do. As students learn to embrace the freedom this provides them, their fear of failure withers.
While working on his lamp, Sage’s applied learning process allowed him to transform the way he envisioned his final product. With each prototype came new ideas which eventually included incorporating code for color-changing Neopixels, along with laser-cut wood, solder, glue, heat shrink, and a cloth shade made in collaboration with a fellow student. Sage even ended up using the CNC mill to build a custom table that allows the D.I.Wire to sit flush with the surrounding surface, bending free from any entanglements.
Faculty at RA believe in giving students opportunities to engage with materials, machines, and content in their own way. In alignment with Seymour Papert’s constructionist assertion that students need “objects to think with,” their physical space caters to the curious. “The freedom to play fosters a natural evolution of how students use a tool,” explained Matt Green, one of the instructors there.
The students and faculty see the D.I.Wire as a unique catalyst in their space, as it naturally encourages students to think about how bent wire designs can be used as part of a larger design. “We’ve seen the quality and complexity of student work increase as they’ve learned to think with the D.I.Wire,” said Green.
Special thanks to Matt Green, Glenn Williams, and Sage, who collaborated on the documentation and writing for this case study.