This is a little Maker activity me and my friend Amir developed for a Star Wars themed summer camp at the Great Lakes Science Center.
When we were tasked with creating some small Maker activities we knew we wanted them to make something they could take home. Balancing the complexity of a project with the age group was tricky, but this worked perfectly with our 2nd and 3rd graders. They LOVED that they got to take it home, and that they had a selection of handles and blade colors to chose from. Its a really simple design thats easy to assemble, and can be tied in easily with some education on laser cutters.
Step 1: The Design, and Pieces You'll Need
The design is simple! The handle is three layers of wood thick, each with the same outline and same design on the face/back of the three layers. The middle layer, however, has a small "2D ball and socket joint" cut into the top. The blade, which is cut out of colored acrylic, has a matching circle at the end, so it works like a puzzle piece that fits in snug and is sandwiched in by the two ends.
A goal we had was to make the lightsabers personalized, but having 30 second graders decide on AND laser cut their own designs (or ultimately Pokemon/ Minecraft pictures) to have on a handle would take FOREVER. So we designed three simple handles they could choose from. With that, they could chose from a red, blue, or yellow blade. Mixing yellow and blue works pretty ok for making a green blade :D
Step 2: The Assembly
Ok so the design is pretty layman, so don't be offended that I'm putting assembly instructions. I'm not questioning your intelligence. This step is here because when teaching bouncing second graders who's minds float away at any chance, making sure they get through every step is important. When we ran the activity, we had someone sitting at the tables with them, about one counselor for every 6-7 campers, just to make sure they weren't doing their own thing.
So its easy! Using two small glue dots (We used Elmer's, which works good with the kids), put the joint middle layer of the handle on on of the solid layers. Make sure the design is facing out! Then put one of the acrylic blades in, then the other. Two were needed to match the thickness of the wood. Then, two more small dots of glue to get that last layer on top. Voila! Thats it!
Below are some teaching notes from the activity, and problems that might come up.
Step 3: Instructor Notes/ Problems to Watch for
Some small challenges came up with during the activity, but with very simple solutions.
1. - Sometimes the blade was tooooo snug for the socket. It was difficult for the little kids to get it pushed in all the way. An easy fix that you can try to have them do before you step in is just put the second layer on top, and use it as a better force to push it in with.
2. - There will be glue and it will be sticky. Some kids just put too much on, so when it gets squished down the glue comes out the sides. Have paper towels ready to clean the sides of handles and tips of fingers.
3. Having them come to a table to pick their handles/ blades doesn't work. Bring the boxes to them, go from table to table or person to person and let them chose that way.
Teaching notes- We "broke the ice" by asking the group what their favorite things about Star Wars were. If someone says lightsaber, then theres your transition. If after a few answers no-one says it, you can say "well MY favorite thing is lightsabers..." and go from there.
When explaining the laser cutter to them, it was fun to say they work kind of like light sabers.
IMPORTANT REMINDER TO TELL THEM TO NOT HIT EACH OTHER WITH THEM!!! Don't wanna lose an eye mid battle!
Step 4: Thanks!
There were many thanks when the activity was over. The kids really did love doing it, probably many for different reasons. Some people just love Star Wars, others liked getting their fingers dirty in glue, others liked the fact that the pieces were laser cut.
It really made us happy seeing them happy about the activity, so maybe you can spread that happiness too!