The FabSpaces team had a fantastic time working with future astronauts on solving complex optimization problems related to launching satellites to space. Our OrigamiSAT, a paper-version of the CubeSAT, gave our crew of very clever spacial engineers a though challenge, but in the end everyone found a way to deploy a satellite that would have made Arthur C. Clarke jealous. In particular, the superb folding techniques used by the FabSpaces crew were useful in finding a way to unfold a 10x10x10 cube (the actual size of our satellite) into an antenna almost half a meter long, theoretically increasing the ability of our satellite to communicate at higher bit-rates. We also had fun exploring the consequences of such unfolding maneuver on the critical instruments found within and created a magnetic solution to allow the cube to easily fold/unfold without disrupting the integrity of all the instruments. NASA: if you need more details, do not hesitate to call.
If this challenge seems too complex for the young minds of aspiring aero-spacial engineers, you’ll be glad to know that every single kid (ages 8-14) that participated was able to solve the challenge. This to show that when they are given a though problem and enough time to tinker, anything is possible. One observation I made while running the station is that those kids coming to the station on their own would typically perform the task much faster than others accompanied by their parents, as they were free of any pressure to perform in any particular way. On the other hand, kids working under parent supervision would tend to easily fall into the very well known displays of frustration. The biggest lesson for parents is simple: don’t be afraid or ashamed to let your kids fail as much as it is necessary. They will always find a way and that failure makes the win so much more sweeter.
Once again, Toronto families made it very clear that when great learning experiences become available they will support them with passion. The Toronto SpaceApps Challenge was a magnificent effort organized in conjunction with NASA with team participating across more than 80 countries. The purpose of the event was to give a community of eager hackers access to a very large data set of open data from NASA in order to inspire new ways to look at that data.
Just one day left to go for the Nasa Youth Space Challenge. The OrigamiSAT is ready for launch, but first an important payload of vital scientific instruments must be organized within, a challenge fit for our engineers.
During my last trip to Mexico City I had the opportunity to run our Magic Cubes workshop at a public secondary school. This was by far our largest group yet: 45 students of ages 14 and 15 spent two hours getting familiar with basic paper folding techniques and experimenting with basic electronic components. Given the size of the group, age range and the amount of time available there were very valuable lessons learned during this workshop:
- For groups larger than 15 people, the group dynamic seems to scale very efficiently as the only viable layout is to sit them in groups of 4 or 5 students per table, and show the instructions with a projector. However, it is important to have trained people available to help the groups, so the more tables, the more people you’ll need.
- When working with a projector, images of key steps are more effective than videos. However, part of our enthusiasm with Videogami is that interactive videos with instructions seem to work best for individuals. Imagine a workshop where every student has their own personal tutor in the form of a tablet.
- At FabSpaces we have mastered the process of preparing the kits in such a way that every student gets all the materials needed in a way that we can reduce wait times caused by distribution of supplies. There is some preparation involved, but the time spent there greatly simplifies the activity the day of the workshop.
- Teenagers need more difficult challenges and this workshop has a great number of those. Instead of providing precise instructions at every step of the way, I find that articulating every new step as a challenge that needs to be solved keeps the group engaged. Add a little competition among groups and watch sparks of creativity fly.
- Most importantly: because this type of learning experience is so different from anything else they do on a day to day basis, you can feel the excitement as they advance towards the educational objectives.
Kudos to the teachers at “Secundaria Diurna #230” for facilitating new learning experiences for their students such as this one. This was, without any doubt, a very talented group that came up with original solutions. Great Engineering & Craftsmanship skills were displayed.
We’re getting ready to launch Videogami, our most exciting project to date. If you are familiar with our workshops, you know how much kids love to MAKE things and how efficient this experience is to TEACH them real skills. Videogami is our attempt to bring this kind of learning experience to every home, by providing a tool that kids can use to teach themselves real skills, the kind that will get them ahead in our increasingly complex and technology-driven world.
The video was shot during a live workshop. All the interactions between the kids, the materials in front of them and our iPad app are real and taken during the workshop while they worked for two hours to learn how to build our Magic Cubes, and learn about what we adults call Theory of Computation.
There is a short but important video from our experience along with Hive Toronto last weekend as we visited Peterborough to explore new ways to teach Digital Literacy to kids. Awesome explanation by Kathryn Meisner, Director of Hive Toronto about “Making is Learning” (something we preach with passion!).
And here is a full account of the workshop that FabSpaces did with Girls Learning Code this past weekend. Help me spread the word about the kind of learning that kids want and let’s bring this kind of experience to every school.
This weekend we had the amazing opportunity of running our Magic Cubes workshop for Girls Learning Code and it was intense! We gave ourselves 6 hours to explore the world of computers in a very unique way: we started building our origami cubes, which we soon realized could become nodes in a larger “system” of interconnected cubes (see photo). From there we started to explore ways for the cubes to “connect” to each other and mastered a few techniques to do so like the pros, using electronics (transistors, LEDs, capacitors and lots of conductive tape). By the time we were done, we had not only created the beginnings of our “paper computer” using our very colourful bits of information (duh! the cubes), but we also learned the secret language used by computers deep inside. It is called BINARY language and it is soooo easy because it only has two numbers, 0 and 1.
To all the girls that participated: I was most proud of you when you demonstrated that Turing Machines (made of paper), are the stuff that girls want to learn on a fun Sunday afternoon.
How do we spark creativity, curiosity, and wonder in children? - Sugata Mitra.
And now he’s got the money to launch his “self organized learning environments”. Let them learn by themselves.
Source The Huffington Post