So at Iridescent, we like to live what we preach. We don’t just ask kids to make things from scratch, we do it too. Recently I decided that I needed a device to record myself playing games on my iPad (for a separate project to be talked about later). I had done this once before using my iPhone stacked up on a bunch of books and it worked reasonably well. So I decided I wanted the device to hold my iPhone in a position where it could record my iPad. But I also wanted to record myself consistently over the course of a year, so that each time I set it up, it recorded the same way, which meant I needed something better than the stacks-of-books method. It also had to be minimally intrusive in preventing me from using the iPad.
As I thought about this, I realized I had a well-defined design challenge that I needed to solve. Which meant to make things more fun, I decided to use the rule in we use in all of our design challenges: use only low-cost materials.
Additionally, I was always impressed with a Leonardo Da Vinci segment that Bobby Zacharias used in our Be an Inventor program in spring 2012. In the first weeks of that program, students had to design some kind of invention using only the tools and technology available to Leonardo. This meant no glue or machine screws could be used to make connections–things had to be lashed together or connected by pin joints. I always thought that sounded fun, so I decided to put the same constraint on my device.
So, where did that leave me? With a handful of popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a bunch of ideas in my head.
|The final result! Now, how did I get here…|
The iPhone holder
|An earlier design of the base. It was easier to weigh down this base,
but it was much less stable than my final design.
I made sure that the base had some thickness to it, so that the cross-brace and other supporting pieces would not be resting directly against the table.
We’ve been working with the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) for some years now, and in the past year we’ve also started working more regularly with both the Chicago Public Library and Orlando Public Library to share the Curiosity Machine with local communities. In Chicago we began with a summer-long pilot program last year, and just last week we finished up the first round of Curious Sessions run by teen volunteers from Afterschool Matters!
This is all very exciting—and if you caught some of the articles from this week about the enduring popularity of libraries (or regularly frequent your own local library), this diversity of library programming likely won’t be a surprise.
In particular, we’ve been continually impressed by the LAPL’s investment in presenting STEM content to their patrons, so when they invited us to share the Curiosity Machine as part of their “Full STEAM ahead grant” we happily accepted. We were asked to run a couple of Curiosity Courses as well as offer a Professional Development session for their librarians, and this February, we had the pleasure of hosting 40 librarians from all over Los Angeles in our studio.
Our goals were to introduce the librarians to the Curiosity Machine, the learning philosophy behind it, and how to use it at their local branches. We started with a brief presentation about Iridescent and the Curiosity Machine and how our learning philosophy guides our work and then moved into hands-on design challenges, so that librarians would get to experience these challenges and the Engineering Design Processes for themselves.
Our session facilitator, Ben, invited the librarians to ask questions they thought they might ask a child during the building process. By and large, the questions they provided were very convergent—or conceptual.
Additionally, the group kept requesting descriptions of the scientific concepts being addressed in the task—expressing frustration and self-doubt about ability to teach concepts without being an expert in the subject area.
We took this comment seriously—both as a point of evaluation of the information we provide on the Curiosity Machine and to those we train to use it, and as a key point in that day’s session. At this point in the session we explained that while concepts are important, facilitators of the Curiosity Machine did not need an extensive science or engineering background. And then we demonstrated how, by introducing the Engineering Design Process (multiple iterations, curiosity, creativity and persistence), fixed versus growth mindsets, and the difference between divergent and convergent questions. As the librarians understood that the aim of building was in large part to encourage children to develop a growth mindset, they really embraced the challenge of developing divergent questions to ask during the process, as well as the Engineering Design Process.
We then ran a second Design Challenge, and guided the librarians through an “asking good questions” worksheet, directly addressing the need to develop divergent questions and facilitate a growth mindset.
As previously noted, with this in mind, and coupled with an understanding of the Engineering Design Process, the librarians embraced the challenge. In a post-survey, most librarians had very positive things to say and indicated interest in presenting a CM activity at their site (we also provided every librarian with a Curiosity Machine starter-kit and log-in info, to make this as easy as possible).
…on a final note, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that one of the suggestions the LA librarians provided and requested was a reading list. Of course. It is a great idea, and in the meantime, there are suggestions for further reading (at various reading levels) in both of our Making Machines Books.