Blog Archives

DIY.org: A Social Network for Young Engineers and Inventors

Do-it-yourself projects are vital components of a good STEM education, but until recently there have not been good online DIY resources targeting kids. DIY.org, a social network designed for children to share their creations with each other, seeks to change that. The site lets kids learn from each other and from a growing collection of tutorials. DIY.org is not restricted to purely engineering creations; users can share anything they make, from baked bread to artwork.

Perhaps, the greatest benefit of a site like this is that it allows kids to create a portfolio of their creations. Far too often, the talents and abilities of kids are hidden behind letter grades, numerical scores, and short teacher assessments. We are living, however, in a time when showcasing your work is becoming increasingly more important than bragging about your grades. Instead of aiming solely for perfect test scores, it may make more sense to enjoy the process of working with your hands and your creativity while acquiring useful knowledge and building up your resume. If you’re interested in a more advanced community, Instructables is worth exploring.

Instructables: A Place To Learn Do-It-Yourself Engineering

instructables

An oft-repeated maxim is that learning by doing is the best type of learning. As easy as it is to believe, it seems that humanity, at least the part living in the developed world, is quickly moving in the direction of complete dependance on complicated gadgets designed by high tech companies that recruit brilliant scientists. Even if one wanted to build something, how can it be possible to compete with the world of highly advanced industry? As it turns out, the point is not to compete but to learn how to hack — hacking, not in the sense of breaking into computer systems, but in the sense of making things. That is the idea behind, Instructables, a site devoted to collecting community-generated do-it-yourself projects. Whether you want to make complex origami sculptures or your own boat, there are numerous visual guides and detailed instructions to help you out. Each project, is effectively a hands-on lesson and can be a starting point for further exploration of physics, math, and engineering principles.

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas

mind storms book

Some of the most crucial steps in mental growth are based not simply on acquiring new skills, but on acquiring new administrative ways to use what one already knows.

If you’re only going to read one book on learning Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas has to be it. On the surface, this may seem like an outdated book about computer science education, but it is really a profound study of how people learn anything from math and physics to juggling and skiing. Written by Seymour Papert, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence and the creator of what would become the MIT Media Lab, Mindstorms illustrates the idea that children can use their own “objects-to-think-with,” intellectual structures of their own making, to acquire, and more importantly, to work with increasingly complex and abstract knowledge. The book is filled with concrete examples of students learning something completely new or even fear-inducing (like math) using knowledge and intuition that they already have. Logo, the programming language that Papert co-created, serves as the primary example of a tool that helps students reason about new ideas (not just in math) in a perfectly rigorous yet comfortably intuitive way. Whether you’re interested in math and computer science education at the K-12 level or want a deeper understanding of how people learn without all the education jargon than this book will be indispensable.