Dremel Idea Build Preset Tests Part 1

As I previously discussed, my classroom now has a Dremel Idea Builder. Since I’ve had a chance to get familiar with the printer and the process for getting an item ready for print, I wanted to see what the differences in the presets would be if I printed the same STL file on all of the settings.

My goal here is to minimize the amount of material and time used to create something while still maintaining high quality. The Dremel software has three presets: low, medium, and high. With those different settings the following items change:

  • Layer Height
  • First Layer Height
  • Number of Shells
  • Fill Percentage
  • Build Speed
  • Travel Speed

In general, as the quality (low to high) of the preset increases, the printer prints slower and with a higher resolution. Below is a collection of images showing all of the changes that take place when scrolling through the various presets.




The Test

To see which setting I will use as my default I used the Low-Poly Pikachu by FLOWALISTIK. I scaled it down to 75% of it’s original size just to save a bit of print time and overall material use. The Dremel Software gave me the following estimates for each setting:

  • High
    • Material: 2.21 M
    • Build Time: 51 mins
  • Medium
    • Material: 1.93 M
    • Build Time: 37 mins
  • Low
    • Material 1.53 M
    • Build Time: 23 mins

As you can see the low option offers massive savings in time and material over the high and medium settings. It uses the lowest amount of fill and prints the thickest layers. In Part 2 we will look at the results of the prints and see how the estimates on time compared with the actual build time.

Google Classroom Updates May 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 3.54.27 PMGoogle has made some really nice updates to Google Classroom over the past few months. They are getting closer and closer to an ideal LMS. I’ve outlined some of my past grievances with Google Classroom, and it sounds like they are listening to feedback. Many of the issues I raised are still there, but the new additions are super helpful for many reasons.


Towards the beginning of the school year Google added “Questions” as a type of item to add to your classroom. Previously the only items that were in there were Announcements and Assignments. Questions added a nice way to give a quick formative assessment or feedback tool. It was slightly limited, but still worked. They added options now to allow for different types of questions; short answer or multiple choice. The process for creating questions is shown below:


Scheduling items

Google added the ability to create drafts of items (announcements, assignments, and questions) towards the middle of the school year. It was a welcomed addition as it ensured that you could work on something over time and not lose your progress. The problem is, for planners, you would create your items, put them into draft mode, and then have to assignment on the day you wanted to have them shown. It’s a little too hands on for something that could be automated. The steps for scheduling assignments is shown below:


A few notes about scheduling:

  • You have to set a due date for the assignment. Google automatically makes it the next day, but for scheduling you will have to change it
  • The scheduled date of the item CANNOT be prior to the due date

What this means

I love these updates. It helps me plan out things farther ahead and get things done more quickly. Being able to schedule assignments allows me to focus on instruction and creating better assignments. The five minutes or so that I will save each day will add up. It also means that if I am absent, my intended lesson gets posted.

Google also noted that they are working on parent emails. I would still like full parent access but it’s a step in the correct direction. I’m excited by what is coming. Go Google!

60 hour use Dremel Idea Builder

My school was lucky enough to find the funds to purchase a 3D printer for my classroom. I’ve been hoping to get a printer for the past several years and the time has finally come. We’ve had the printer for the past few months and we have done a few dozen prints on it.

In the video above I go over a brief review of the printer and the pluses and minuses of the printer. Below is brief breakdown of what I have found so far.



  • Easy and quick setup
  • Simple leveling
  • High quality prints
  • Quiet (useful for printing while teaching)


  • Software has no manual and has some quirks
  • Must use propriety software for prints, which means that you can’t use popular open sourced software
  • Software does not have inbuilt build support (for overhangs and such)
  • Only prints PLA
  • Propriety filament and spool. Using less expensive filament voids your warranty.

Other Notes

I am in love with the printer. The Dremel Idea Builder is built solidly and is a breeze to use. While there are minor (in my opinion unnecessary) quirks, the printer fits in perfectly with what my students need. I wish it had a few more bells and whistles, like a heated bed, but I can’t complain about the overall printer.

How to disable Google Hangouts on Menu Bar on OS X

Ever since OS X Yosemite (10.10) came out Mac users have had the option to enable a dark mode. Dark mode doesn’t do too much, but it does change the menu bar at the top of screen from a bright gray to a much darker gray. More simply, it inverts the colors so that the dark items are now the same color as the brighter areas and vise versa. For me, it is much more visually appealing and easier on the eyes. One thing that has bugged me for a long time is that there are some blank spaces on the icons that do not have a dark mode icon.

Example of menu bar with “missing” icons

The problem is that the icons aren’t missing, they are just the same color as the dark mode background. The biggest offender of this is Google Hangouts. Luckily, Google allows you to remove the icon entirely from the Menu Bar so that you can get rid of the ugly “missing” icons.

Step 1: Go to Settings

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.13.20 PM

Step 2: Go to Extensions (it’s on the left)

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.13.33 PM

Step 3: Find Google Hangouts

Step 4: Click Options and Disable “Show System Tray Icon”

Uncheck the last box.

Step 5: Enjoy

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.14.13 PM

PETE&C 2016 Reflection

For the entirety of my teacher profession I have been able to attend the PETE&C conference. It’s an educational technology conference held in Hershey, PA and it has been one of the most rewarding, enlightening, and professionally stimulating conferences that I have ever been to. For the past two years I have gone solo (previously I went with a group of teachers from my school) and I decided that I should do more to promote this conference to my colleagues and my district.

I will have a bigger debriefing post on here at some point soon, but I wanted to share the video reflection that I created to help remind me of what I learned and discussed with some wonderful educators.

My conference go-bag

I’m a big believer in conferences to enhance professional growth. For the past several years I’ve attended the PETE&C conference and I’ve gotten pretty good at bringing just the right amount of stuff with me to ensure that I am both productive and mobile.

In the video above I review the items that I bring with me to a all-day conference. A cheatsheet list is below:

  • Backpack
  • Macbook Prop 13 inch
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • Charging cables for all of those devices
  • Portable battery charger (for iPhone and iPad)
  • Notebook
  • Pens
  • Bottled Water
  • Snacks

There’s a lot of stuff that probably isn’t 100% necessary, but I find that each of the items I’ve listed I’ve used for different reasons. The biggest question is why the heck do I need a laptop, tablet, and smartphone. The main reason for this is that I can get “real” work done on the laptop (grading, chatting with students, etc), take notes on the go with the iPad, and connect to social media quickly with the iPhone. I also keep a schedule of all of the talks, rooms, and times that I want to attend.

The first time I ever went to a conference I didn’t bring anything with me. Since that time I’ve found a mix of stuff that works for me and allows me to get things done the way I want.

Teaching Electronics with Minecraft: Part 1

I’ve gotten tired of teaching electronics the way that I learned it. Typically you begin somewhere around Ohm’s Law and build up the paper and pencil work until you get to work on actual circuits. Once you are there you can test and see if the stuff you spent the last few weeks learning about actually works or not.

This is probably a decent approach for later high school or college students, but for my middle school students, they see it as one thing; math. For whatever reason, math, not matter how simple, gets a bad rap. As soon as I start talking numbers, I lose them.

So this year I decided to go a different route. Instead of starting with the numbers, I am going to start with raw theory. But around that theory, I want to build an experience for my students. Something that they can see and remember. To do this, I am using Minecraft. In the video above I discuss a few of the basic things I am starting out with to give my students a real experience in electronics. I have lots of plans on how to add things in the near future to help connect the theory to the math and action down the road.

5 Steps to Setting Up a New Mac

I recently was able to purchase a new Mac so that I can work on things on the go a little easier. My “at home” Mac is a Late 2012 Mac Mini and my new “on-the-go” Mac is a Early 2015 MacBook Pro. I know that the MBP line is about to get refreshed (maybe?) with new chips and such in March, but I had a need for a laptop now.

Whenever I get a new computer, Mac, Microsoft, or Chromebook, I got through a little bit of a customization process. A friend of mine got a new Mac shortly after I got mine and wanted to know how I set my computer up. The video below goes through a few things that I do to setup my computer to maximize its uses for me.

Beginning with MinecraftEdu

MinecraftEdu-Logo-1erntkcI’m a pretty lucky Tech Ed teacher in that I have a lot of tools available to me. My classroom is a large computer lab that has plenty of room for my 36 computers and space for soldering irons, drills, and all of the projects that my students make. My school recently allowed me to purchase MinecraftEdu for my lab.

I’ve been looking for a different way to teach some of the topics that I cover. Mainly, I wanted to teach electronics, computer programming, and home design through the lens of Minecraft. My middle schoolers love Minecraft and I am always looking for a new way to engage them and to deliver content in new and interesting ways.

After a lot of research, MinecraftEdu made sense compared to typical Minecraft. There are two major differences between the two.

  1. Students cannot host their own worlds in MinecraftEdu. The server part is totally separate.
  2. MinecraftEdu is much more limited in terms of mods, student commands, and such.

The nice thing about MinecraftEdu is that I can host a world from my local computer, have all of the students on the same network connect to it, and control the action from there.

After the install process, which is pretty straightforward, you can launch the game. You will be presented with the screen below:

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.38.17 AM

As a teacher, the first thing I always do is go to “Start MinecraftEdu Server Launcher.” A second dialog box will open that will allow you to create, load, or import different worlds. If it is your first time launching a server, MinecraftEdu will ask you to set a teacher password. Teacher privileges are not tied to usernames in MinecraftEdu, rather to a password.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.38.37 AM

Once you get past the password screen the server launcher looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.38.54 AM

MinecraftEdu comes preloaded with a Tutorial World that walks the students through moving, building, and exploring a Minecraft world. I have all of my students to through this world so I can see where their Minecraft skills are along with their ability to follow directions.

MinecraftEdu also has a number of saved worlds (prebuilt) worlds that you can download and use to create amazing things with. My students are just beginning to use Minecraft for learning about electronics. I will post some information, images, and video once I have had a chance to run through it with my students.

That’s not a computer

As the semesters switched last week I gained a new group of students and I played an ice breaker game that I use to gauge where they are at on their knowledge of technology. The ice breaker in question I call the “ABC’s of Technology.” The idea is that students write down all of the letters of the alphabet and then are given 3-5 minutes to write a piece of technology that starts with each letter.

I use this for two reasons. 1. It gives me an understanding of what students think technology is and 2. let’s me get an idea of what technology they have been exposed to. I usually let the students have a few months to discuss their ideas before beginning the time. I received a question that flabbergasted me but also aligned with a troubling trend that I have seen from my students. The question, “what’s that black box under your computer?”

Like most, I have a monitor sitting on top of my computer. The black box in question IS the computer. I explained this to my students and some of them thought I was kidding.


As time goes by I find that more and more students have a fundamental misunderstanding of what a computer is and how to actually use one. I’ll save my thoughts on how to use a computer for later but I have lots of work to do getting the computer literacy skills of my students up to where I believe that they should be.