In week four I described a project that I would like my students to work on. The prompt was “Make a pinhole camera that you can use to take a photo.” When I have assigned this project in the past, I didn’t have a maker space in mind, but relied on students to use materials they could find themselves. Now that I understand the reasoning behind a maker space, it’s time to open up the possibilities for students to explore and challenge themselves to be successful in this project.
The pinhole camera is a very simple item. It has two basic components: a light tight box, and a pinhole. In the words of Thomas Edison “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” (Martinez, 2016)
I will now try to list items that should be useful in constructing a pinhole camera. (this is not exhaustive!)
tin coffee cans, match boxes, cardboard, wood, foam board, cereal boxes, old single lens reflex cameras, LEGOs, film canisters, buckets, empty aluminum soda cans, old metal teapots, empty Spam cans, empty Altoid cans, empty paint cans, empty oatmeal boxes, paper cups, plastic cups, construction paper, matte black spray paint, nails, sewing needles, push pins, thumb tacks, acupuncture needles, awls, hammers, nuts, bolts, screws, craft glue, super glue, wood glue, hot glue guns, tin foil, thin metal sheets, electronic tape, duct tape, cellophane tape, painters tape, masking tape, ribbon, string, thread, rulers, protractors, compasses, saws, X-acto knives, scissors, screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, and various other items.
Seems pretty vast for only making a light tight box to take a photo! Well, this list doesn’t include the necessary chemicals and materials to actually develop and produce the final image. Students would need access to a wet photographic darkroom, and all of its components. As well as knowledge of darkroom processes.
Now to the important aspect of how to acquire these materials. First, we need a place to have our maker space. Garcia-Lopez says we should be able to find or repurpose a space. (2013) Our school had (and still has) a photo classroom. This will be our maker space because of the close proximity to the wet darkroom, which is still functional, and has the necessary materials needed to complete this project.
I think that using our community resources is one of the best ways to acquire materials for making the camera. I really think that I can call for donations from families and organizations in town. Most of the items listed are very inexpensive and chances are that individual community members can donate a screwdriver, or a jig saw, tape, or whatever they can part with because they have extras. I know that the local lumber store has scrap wood that they would be able to donate to the school for student projects. We have a wood shop at the school as well, but I would rather not impose on that department because they have their own resource acquisition concerns. I can make a flyer at the beginning of the school year that describes our project and lists the possible donations families can contribute. Some of the items listed are repurposed like empty paint cans, empty Spam cans, and old metal teapots. Instead of throwing them away, they can clean them and donate them. (less land fill items!) I believe I can get about 95% of the materials needed for this project from donations. I suppose the 5% would be items that don’t get donated.
One idea I read about and like is a “Make Sale.” (Hlubinka, 2013) As students make their pinhole cameras and produce photographs from them successfully, they can sell their cameras or photos. Pinhole photography is becoming one of those low-tech hobbies that draws a lot of interest from artists and businesses. Who wouldn’t want an image produced from a local student made from a simple pinhole camera displayed at their bank, business, or restaurant! The students can sell the image only, or the image and camera together. What a talking point if you have the camera that made a stunning image.
As far as total cost? With all the donations and scraping around for materials that are free, I can probably estimate that items we need to purchase would be under $200. Our district has a reimbursement plan that allows teachers to spend $250 for school supplies. I suppose I can use this money to “pad” our supplies. There is a cost associated with using a wet darkroom, but there is enough supplies to last the first school year. After that, we need to aggressively fund raise and ask for donations again, and sell our products!
I believe there is great potential for this project, not only for creativity and learning, but for economic reasons.
Martinez, Sylvia Libow; Stager, Gary S.. Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Kindle Location 3337). Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.
Garcia-Lopez, P. (2013). 6 Strategies for Funding a Makerspace. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/6-strategies-funding-makerspace-paloma-garcia-lopez
Hlubinka, M. (2013). Funding School Makerspaces. Makezine. Retrieved from http://makezine.com/2013/09/05/funding-school-makerspaces/