Teaching as Art

Making Things Move - Final Workshop


I ran a one hour workshop on basic gear mechanisms called “Making Things Move” for my Teaching as Art final. In the picture above, I’m drawing on the board and explaining rotational motion.

talking with students

Thank you to everyone who came to the workshop! And thanks to Nate for taking such great photos! In the rest of this post, I’ll give a recap of the workshop.


eventbrite page

In this workshop, students will learn about basic examples of mechanical advantage and how to achieve certain kinds of motion. Students will do some hands on paper prototyping to design mechanisms of their own.

Workshop Goals

The goal is to give students a general idea of what types of components are available to you and how they can be used in simple projects. This will be a brief overview, but I will be happy answer more in-depth questions students have have after the workshop.

Workshop Summary

Note: I’m not that strict on timing - the minute breakdown is a way for me to imagine the pacing of the class when designing the workshop. I started 10 minutes late to allow people to come in and get comfortable.

Part 1: Intro and Lecture


2 min: Introduce myself and the workshop. Give an overview of the schedule.

15 min: A brief presentation on gear mechanisms. A PDF of slides are available here. And then the animated slides are available here.


  1. Why are mechanisms important?
  2. 6 types of movement –> 3 axes of translation and 3 axes of rotation
  3. Anatomy of a gear - what is important for you to know when purchasing or making your own –> pitch, pressure angle, shaft size, # of teeth, diameter

Part 2: Explaining Gears to Each Other

class reviewing cards

class reviewing cards

15 min: Hand out a series of cards with different mechanical components. If there are many students, form pairs. There is a drawing and explanation included on each card. Cards will be different colors for each component.

  • Bevel gear
  • Worm gear
  • Helical gear + Spur gear
  • Rack and pinion
  • Cam and follower
  • Lead Screw

all the cards

Students will have time to review their card. During this time I will walk around and make sure students understand their component and are able to explain it.

walking and talking

Next, students will explain their component to the rest of the class.

explaining to the class

explaning to the class

Part 3: Hands-On Activity

15 min: Divide people into teams of 3-4 depending on class size. Teams will work together to make a mechanism based on specific goals (ex: convert rotational movement in this direction to translational movement in that direction). There will be extra cards with components for students to grab from if needed. There will also be simplified paper representations of the components to help students visualize the gears in space. I will walk around and help students.

helping out and walking around

5 min: Teams will present their how their mechanisms works. (We didn’t have enough time for this during my workshop.)

Part 4: Conclusion

8 min: Final thoughts to wrap up, thanks, and ask students to fill out a feedback form.

If There’s Extra Time

8 min: If there’s extra time, give a short presentation to explain the basic concepts around mechanical advantage and a simple 2 gear mechanism. Provide a few examples to solidify these ideas.

Feedback from Students

I asked students to fill out a short feedback form after the workshop. 4 out of 11 people filled it out. Overall, people seemed to enjoy the workshop and understand a majority of the material.

survey - recommend again?

It seemed my delivery of the material was good for the most part. One reviewer said I could’ve spoken more confidently and apologized less. I 100% agree and I’m working on it! They also said the slides were “simple and useful”.

survey - clear?

The workshop pace seemed okay for the most part. I had a two non-ITP students, and I suspect that they needed more time to get comfortable during the group activities since they didn’t know everyone.

survey - pacing?

There were mixed reviews on the activity. I knew that I could’ve prepared better. I made the gear component cards by hand, and I should’ve photocopied them so there was more to go around. One reviewer suggested that I should have given images of all the types of gear to each group. I agree, and looking back, a handout with a diagram of all gears would’ve been extremely helpful.

survey - activity?

I think the workshop attendees had different goals in mind. Some people were there because they were just curious and other people wanted to learn more material that they could practically implement. One reviewer wished that we had gone over more material, especially since ITP p-comp enthusiasts could benefit from learning more about mechanical design.

Overall, I’m happy how things went for my first workshop. I’m looking forward to getting more experience and improving my teaching style in my future workshops/classes!