Wootton Woodlands D&T learners were introduced to a Creative Big Project, which empowered them to design, manufacture and program micro controllers to create a fun and enriching learning environment for Early Years, as part of the school’s Immersive Primary Curriculum. The enchanted Woodland aims to encourage young learner’s reading interest and skills though imagination by providing endless opportunities for exploration and interaction.
The projects provided our D&T learners plenty of opportunity for shared learning, group problem solving, and innovative thinking through Learner Leadership and connecting to one another through a shared creative experience. “As a group of learners, we wanted to create an enchanted woodland, with named characters and back stories.” These would allow further development of children’s book based around the wise old oak tree called Arbor. External sponsorship was secured which allowed for a substantial investment in Arduino and robotic equipment, modelling boards, faux shrubbery and a Promethean Interactive Screen. Design concepts for the learning environment were submitted to SLT for approval.
Learners were divided into different teams:
- Designers, sculptors for fabricating the tree, wishing well and stoned walls.
- CAD/CAM engineers for modelling and 3D printing the parts. This included Mechanisms for the mouth and eye movements were explored by the learners.
- Electronic engineers, they programmed using Arduino Uno boards, so that when learners came into the woodland, a PIR sensor would trigger the servos within the animals and within the tree, a servo would control a linkage so that the eyes moved left to right. The mouth was connected by wire to a pulley so that it would move when talking. These sound files are played by a Bluetooth speaker, with the sound files stored on a SD card.
The project also provided career opportunities by establishing links with a local carpentry and joinery firm, and building career aspirations in set design, story telling, robotics, electrical engineering, software engineering, marketing, product design.
The Enchanted Woodlands will continue to be developed, with the publication of a pilot book Wootton Woodlands- the story of an Acorn. This will also be animated, and produced in school as a podcast.
Peter Williams, Curriculum Leader for Design and Technology at Wootoon Park School, reflects upon the project outcomes.
“The foundations of this project are based on Technology; Whether that is CAD/CAM technology, programming the Arduino Microcontrollers, or the 3D printing technology used to create the animals and fine details of the Woodland.
We used CAD software such as SketchUp, Microsoft 3D builder, and Autodesk Tinkercad. These software’s were used by the 3D design team produce the detailed, and accurate designs for the animals perched upon the tree. Once we had produced our designs digitally, and created high-detail render images, we manufactured the animals on the Ultimaker S3 3D printer in PLA filament. These CAM created pieces were then adjusted and painted by our incredibly talented Art team. Once painted, we inserted Servos into the animals to allow for us to individually control the animals using our Arduino Uno microcontrollers. Over the period of 8 months the programming team meticulously created a program which when uploaded to the Arduino’s brought the tree to life.
Strong links between the hardware and software teams were absolutely essential to create a vibrant, exciting environment for Primary children to learn and read. One of the most amazing things that I have seen during this project is the wide smiles from the young children as they saw Arbor the Talking tree, spring to life and tell great stories of adventure, friendship, and community. We have also received numerous comments from the Primary Teaching staff; who discussed the smile that is brought to their faces every morning when they watch the magic well swirl to life in vibrant blue colours, and the animal’s tweet and call. This project has also been the perfect opportunity for students to use their imagination to explain the story of Arbor, and the story of all the animatronic animals that call the tree home.
The varied distribution of students working on the project has been great to see. As students from all secondary years, backgrounds and skills grouped together to produce one common project. Seeing so many diverse groups of people working together on this project really produced a community spirit, with all of our varied backgrounds working seamlessly together. By using social media, we have shared the spirit and ethos of our Big Project Community with the wider society. Further links were developed with local businesses who shared their expertise and skills with our team so that we can create a detailed and accurate project.
The message of boosting the literacy skills, and inspiration of our primary students was carried throughout, with Secondary students designing and writing short stories to be recorded by the Head of our English department, and played through the built-in audio system software. We have developed in all aspects of digital work, with our 3D design team learning and using new state-of-the-art design software’s, to the programming team designing built for purpose programs. Our project was secured and supported through the generous support of a National IT communications company. Who’s support both financially, and educationally powered the enthusiastic work of our team.
The effort and determination shown throughout has been admirable and inspirational throughout. With our work covering time through disturbances in education, and social lives due to the pandemic; we had to develop and heavily depend on systems such as Microsoft Teams to allow our continuing work throughout. We produced a stable and effective online system, with all team members being able to access all of the needed materials remotely. As a team we used every technological system at our disposal to keep all aspects of the project running effectively and smoothly, even throughout student absences and illness.
Student Responses to the Project
“In conclusion, this project has thoroughly opened my eyes to the varied parts of what Design Technology means, with the community produced through this project being an everlasting bond between all who have had the amazing chance to work on this project.”
Ryan Year 11
“ I joined the Big Project to create a magical Wootton Woodland for the primary year groups because I have always loved getting my hands dirty, and getting the full experience of Design and Technology. I believe that this project has been the most exhilarating and fun experience here at Wootton Park, it was great to have people who just enjoy the subject to professional abilities like my dad from Willow Joinery, he helped us with our wishing well structure. Many of the parts that we needed for the project were created on the 3D printer or hand carved like the detail on the main tree and stump. In the well, we have LED lights to make the effect of rippling water and the tree has sensors that will make the tree come to life. The animals in the tree also move from sensors, this makes if feel even more magical.
The amount of Teamwork that has gone into this project is immense because we have had people from Year 7’s to Year 10’s to people with professional abilities, they have helped to turn this idea into something magnificent. This shows that people of any age can work together if they share a love for Design and Technology. “
Alesha Year 10
CREATE Education would like to thank Peter Williams, Curriculum Leader for Design and Technology at Wootton Park School for sharing this amazing project with us.