Tech Challenge: Prototyping Phase

Last month, we were introduced to our challenge and started brainstorming ideas. Today, we put those ideas into action and start creating prototypes to explore our ideas further.


  • Moveable platform to hold paper
  • Must move page in four directions (XY axes)
  • Must not impede use of right hand
  • Must be able to operate with head movements

Inspiration for motorized XY movement:

Tech Challenge: Kick-Off & Ideation Phase


Today we met the amazing Dr. Cathy Bodine, a Bioengineer and Assistive Technology Partner at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus.

She showed us how her team creates assistive technologies for clients with severe disabilities, and shared some of the unique projects and challenges they have worked on.

Then, Dr. Cathy told us about a new client, a boy with muscular dystrophy who loves to paint (and is quite good!). But he can only move his hands in a 2 inch range of motion, so someone always has to be there to move the paper for him while he paints. This is quite frustrating for him, as you can imagine.


Design a table that allows him to paint independently.


  • Moveable platform to hold paper
  • Must move page in four directions (XY axes)
  • Must not impede use of right hand
  • Must be able to operate with head movements

We kicked off this challenge by learning about the User-Centered Design process, and had a brainstorming session to generate ideas.


Today we met the amazing Michelle Mellenthin, a biomedical engineer and post-doctorate researcher. We learned about her experiences with Engineers without Borders and her current research on technology that helps damaged lungs function properly.

We then got to construct our very own Foldscopes (origami microscopes) and used them to look at images of healthy vs. damaged lung tissue, among other things! We were even able to attach the Foldscope to a cell phone camera for a more enlarged view.

The Foldscope was developed by Manu Prakash and designed to cost less than $1 to build. It is part of the "frugal science" movement which aims to make cheap and easy tools available for scientific use in the developing world.

Learn more about foldscopes and Manu Parakash's other inventions by watching his TED Talk:

Holiday STEM Crafts

Today we built our very own buzz bots using a toothbrush head, coin vibration motor, and coin cell battery. Along the way we explored electric circuits and prototyping to arrive at our own unique designs and figure out how to improve the bots' sense of direction, speed, and overall bling.

Then we continued flexing our prototyping muscles (and taste buds) with a gingerbread building contest. A delicious, messy, creative challenge!

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Forensic Chemistry

Today we got to meet Lynn Riemer, an experienced forensic chemist, illicit drug expert, community advocate and prior member of the North Metro Drug Task Force in Colorado. We learned all about her extraordinary experiences in the field, and the major role chemistry plays in solving crimes.

We also got to experiment in our own version of a crime lab, observing reactions between commonly known powders and various solutions. We were then able to use these observations to correctly identify an unknown substance! [download activity]


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This month we met two awesome ladies from HawkQuest who brought us an interactive lecture featuring FOUR living birds of prey:

  • Harris' Hawk

  • Great Horned Owl

  • Peregrine Falcon (fastest animal in the world)

  • Bald Eagle (top predator in the world, not counting humans)

Dion and Dara were very knowledgable and taught us a lot about the different kinds of raptor species!

Kick-Off & Trashin' Fashion!

We had a blast meeting each other and creating Trashin' Fashion – designing with upcycled materials and a "STEM" theme.


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New Year, New Blog

Welcome to the new North Arvada Middle School Blog!

If you're curious about what we were up to last year (2016-17), be sure to check out our old blog at :)