Makerspaces bass: Thoroughly modern approach pays off big time
While most of you might know me as an outdoors writer, my full-time career is in education as an elementary STEM teacher. STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – is a trans-disciplinary integrated approach to learning that incorporates emerging technologies and the engineering design process as it applies to solving real-world problems.
Students learn to collaboratively plan, prototype and test solutions to various challenges using tools and materials ranging from basic rubber bands and Popsicle sticks to highly advanced robots and coding apps. I must admit, it’s a pretty awesome course, and the kids love it.
But a big part of my job is keeping pace with all the new gadgets and gizmos that help revolutionize learning. That’s why I found myself at Lebanon Valley College a few weeks ago learning about Makerspaces. These specialized learning labs contain equipment that allows students to creatively innovate by bringing their imagined designs to life.
Makerspaces may contain Legos with servomotors and sensors, computer software linked to a vinyl decal machine, or even a laser engraver. One of the tools I really enjoyed exploring was the MakerBot 3-D printer, which uses rolls of plastic filament, similar to weed-whacker string, to manufacture a three-dimensional object designed in a basic drafting software called Tinkercad.
Naturally, when the instructor said we could design and print virtually anything our minds could dream up, I immediately began pondering outdoors applications. I decided a top-water bass plug might work, since I could draw up the design to be hollow in the center for buoyancy and have concaved mouth for popping action.
Following some research and design, I slightly tapered the back end so it would balance nicely in the water and kept the overall specs just under three-inches. A technology education teacher in the class, who also happens to be an avid angler, suggested I might order a Heddon Zara ‘Puppy’ lure online, since I’d easily be able to thread out the treble hooks and eyelet to use on my lure, so I did just that.
After 3-D printing the black body, I added blue and silver paint for flash, and used epoxy to glue in the hardware. Once dry, I placed the lure in a plastic container for safekeeping and added it to my fishing vest for an upcoming trip to the Pine Creek Valley in Lycoming County.
A few days later, I found myself wet wading a favorite fishing stretch on the “Big Pine.” This long run is popular for smallmouth bass in late summer with its rocky bottom and deep shaded ledge pools. I’ve caught a few decent fish here before, and my hopes were high that I could manage the same on this outing.
Of course, the first lure I tied on was my Makerspace mammoth, the big top-water popper I was so anxious to test and see if it would actually work.
On the first cast down and across, I confirmed the lure floated and provided decent action, but it didn’t prompt any strikes. However, on my second cast, a bit upstream this time, a huge smallie exploded from the current to demolish the popper shortly after hitting the water.
The husky fish ran aggressively and took line, jumping clear out of the water several times, giving me a perfect view of my largest Pine Creek smallmouth to date as it fought both my drag and the current. Man, did I go nuts. I was hooting and hollering like a little kid with a smile on my face long after the 20-inch bass was landed, photographed and released.
For good measure, I made a few more casts and experienced three misses before hooking up with and landing another respectable 16-inch bass a few minutes later, erasing the idea that the first fish could’ve been a fluke.
All doubts cast aside, it was officially confirmed that my lure indeed worked, proving a valuable real-world lesson to share with my STEM students this fall: “If you can dream it, you can build it.” That’s what innovative learning truly is all about.