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DIS Green Team Members Fabricate Shirts to Spread Their Message

4th and 5th graders from the Delran Intermediate School Green Team visited the Delran Innovation & Fabrication Lab on January 28. The DIS Green Team is participating in the Philadelphia Zoo's UNLESS Contest. The students selected the Monarch Butterfly as their focus this year, researching to learn about the species, and and devising ways to protect the species and its environment.

Green Team members decided to make t-shirts to help spread their message, guided by their advisers, Mrs. Sharon Kernan and Mr. Patrick Myers. Over several meetings, they worked at DIS on the Fab@School Maker Studio software to perfect their butterfly designs before taking a field trip to the Lab to fabricate them. Digital fabrication is the process of creating a design using computer software and then using machines to fabricate that design. Making their own t-shirts for the UNLESS contest was a fantastic introduction to the idea of digital fabrication for the children. Mrs. Kernan said, "We wanted the students to have this amazing experience of creating their 'Save the Monarch' shirts at the Delran Fab Lab so they were actively involved in the process of sharing their message about helping the Zoo and the butterflies."

Perfecting their designs using the Fab@School Maker Studio platform.

First, students worked on the computers and used Fab@School's Maker Studio to put the finishing touches on the butterfly designs they had been working on back at DIS during their Green Team meetings. Jacob Kaeser, a 5th grader, shared his thoughts about designing on the computer. "While making my butterfly design I learned how to tell a computer where to cut and where not to cut. I also learned how to use the fabrication machine and it was really cool weeding my shirt. I also learned how to weld shapes together on the Fab Maker Studio website."

Sending the designs from the laptop to the die-cutting machine.

Next, students used die-cutting machines to fabricate their design in vinyl. Once the designs were fabricated, students learned about the process of weeding. Just like in gardening, weeding is when you remove the unwanted parts from your design. 5th grader Daniel Machado can be seen weeding his design in the picture below. He reflected, "I think weeding was the hardest part of making the shirts because, as I was folding the vinyl so I can kind of pop the pieces out of the vinyl frame, I had to make sure that I wasn't popping any other pieces out that I didn't want to come out. Also I thought weeding was very hard because I had to think before hand what I wanted to take out and if I took something out by accident I wouldn't be able to put it back in and. Finally it was hard because I had to remove all the pieces with small pliers and if I ripped the frame of the butterfly I would have to print it out again." Daniel did a great job weeding his complex design, and you can see his completed t-shirt in the upper left corner of the very last picture at the end of the post!

"Weeding" out the unwanted parts of the design.

Finally, students were ready to transfer their designs onto their t-shirts. Using the heat press machine with adult help, the children carefully placed their designs onto their shirts, and permanently attached them.

Using the heat press to permanently adhere the vinyl design to the t-shirt.

5th grader Kasey Holzinger talked about her experience with the heat press, pictured above. "We took the vinyl that we used and we laid the shirt down on the heat press. Then pulled over the heat press on top and pulled it down on the shirt for 30 seconds. We lifted up our shirt up and peeled the plastic that had vinyl attached to it off and sat it on the table. That was it! It was very fun.”

4th grader Destiny Jones shared the best part of her visit to the lab, "I liked that I was a helper with the teacher and that I got to use the machines to print the t-shirt. I was happy I got to do it myself."

This year's Albert M. Greenfield UNLESS Contest is a student-driven, project-based learning program that empowers K-12 students to take action for endangered wildlife. Over the past seven years, the Zoo has engaged more than 17,000 students from nearly 400 schools in the Delaware Valley region as part of this initiative. The efforts of our participants have reached over 12 million people! Delran Intermediate School has participated in the contest over the past three years. Mrs. Kernan reflected, "As the students remember this experience, they will always know they can make their own voices heard throughout the community to support causes they think are important."

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