3D Geometric Art Impression Tile (Tinkercad & Scratch)

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About: Hello! I'm Simon. I am a teacher who is currently working as a Professional Learning Consultant in Perth, Western Australia. I have a background in Primary School teaching with specialisations in STEM, Digit...

This guide will go through the steps to create your own geometric art impression tool which could be used as a cookie-cutter, toast stamp or tile impression-er.

I am a huge advocate for student-centred approaches to learning and development as well as integrated learning opportunities for students. I also believe it is necessary to use digital technology as a creative tool, let's break stigmas, people!

In addition to elements from creative art, this project will integrate concepts such as:

Maths:

  • Shape and geometry
  • Angles
  • Measurement

Digital Technology:

  • Programming (loops, abstraction & algorithms)
  • Input and output devices
  • Periphery devices (digital systems)
  • Hardware and Software
  • Creativity!

The impression tool will be created in Scratch and printed in TinkerCad. Adobe Photoshop and an online file converting website will also be used, although, other software may be utilised.

Supplies:

  • Scratch access
  • Tinkercad account
  • 3D printer

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Step 1: Creating Geometric Art in Scratch

Programming:

The pen tool in Scratch is a fantastic way to have the student draw their own digital art. To add the pen tool to a new project, click the 'Add extension' button which is at the bottom of the categories, in the bottom-left corner of the window (it's blue with two blocks on top of each other and a '+' sign).

Firstly, you may want to check out my Geometric Art project. This project is made to be used in a different way to most Scratch projects. Instead of interacting with it from the 'outside' you are meant to go to the code and change it to create your own unique art. So, when you go to the project, click 'See inside'.

You will see a few different stack of code, but the two which you should focus on is:

  1. When space key pressed
  2. When 'green flag' clicked

The first stack if for you to edit, that is where you change what the pen will draw. The second stack is used to reset the canvas and centre the pen ready to draw again. On the left of the page, you will see a set of pink blocks which are labelled with the names of different shapes such as 'Rectangle' and 'Triangle'. The code underneath these blocks defines the drawing of these shapes.

I have created these blocks, and for differentiation purposes, you may want your students to create their own (using their knowledge of measurement, angles and properties of shapes).

Teaching opportunity: Discuss corresponding angles and interior and exterior angles with your students. To draw an equilateral triangle, the pen will need to rotate 120 degrees at each vertice. The angle can be calculated by doing the calculation of Angle=360/X where X is the number of vertices of the shape you are trying to draw. Using this information you can also calculate the interior angle (not necessary for the project but good to know). Given a straight line is 180 degrees, the interior angle of an equilateral triangle is equal to 180-exterior angle (180-120=60). Double check: A triangle is half of a square and a square's interior angle add up to 360, therefore, a triangle's interior angles will add up to 180: 60*3=180, CORRECT!

If some students are not up to this level, you may want to give them my project, or one of your own which has all of the shapes predetermined and they can use the labelled shapes from the 'my blocks' category on the left. If you have some who you think might be able to do it with some guidance, give them a semi-structured project with only two or three predetermined shapes and challenge them to use those as examples of how to create their own extra shapes.

Drawing:

Draw one of the shape blocks from the 'My blocks' category and connect it to the 'When space key pressed' event and then press space on your keyboard and watch the pen draw. Try adding a turn block ('Motion' category) beneath the shape block you previously chose and then put a repeat ('Control' category) around it all then press space. You can see the beginning of a nice piece of art! (Video above if this is confusing!)

To make more elaborate art, you can change the pen colour or turn angle, vary the size of the shapes, add more than one shapes etc.

Teaching Opportunity: Symmetry, reflection, rotation.

Step 2: From Scratch to Tinkercad

As previously mentioned, you could use a variety of software to perform the following steps, however, I'll be using Photoshop and Tinkercad.

For this step, make sure the artwork is only black.

After you have created your artwork, take a screenshot of the file and open it in Photoshop. Pro Tip: In Windows, press Windows key+shift+S to enact the 'capture screen region' tool. In Mac, press shift+command+4 to do the same thing.

In Photoshop, select the Magic wand tool, it might be hiding under the Quick selection tool (W is the keyboard shortcut), change the tolerance to 100 and click on a black section of the artwork. This will select all of the lines of the artwork and not any of the background. Click on the Select menu at the top of the screen then click Inverse. This will invert your selection so now the background is selected. Press delete and the only thing to remain is the artwork's lines itself. Make sure you have no other non-invisible layers below the artwork layer. You might want to re-inverse the selection, select the brush tool (B is the keyboard shortcut) and paint over the artwork to make sure the lines are bold. (See video above)

Save the image as a PNG file. PNG files recognise the transparency of the background, whereas, JPG files fill it in with white. We need to have a transparent background because we eventually want to make it 3D.

Next, we are going to convert the PNG which you have saved on your computer to an SVG file. Tinkercad can use an SVG file and turn it into a 3D model.

Go to this website, upload your PNG file, change the 'Colors' option to one and 'Simplify' to one also. Click 'Generate' then 'Download SVG' ensuring your image looks the way you want it to.

Next, go to Tinkercad, login and create a new design. In the top-right corner there is an 'Import' option. Click on it and import the SVG file which you have just downloaded. BAM! You have 3D geometric art. Video above!

Step 3: From Tinkercad to Your Hands

Near the 'Import' button in Tinkercad, there is an 'Export' button. Click Export and save your file as a .stl and you are ready to take it into your favourite 3D printing software ready to print.

You could use the object to be an impression for tiles which get painted and stuck around the school. Maybe you could use it as a safe way to do linoleum carvings. Perhaps you might use it as a toast or salt-dough stamp.

If you do make something, please share!

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