Intern Field trip to Learning FabLab

-Article by Alyssa Manansala

At Zeum, we are constantly trying to re imagine the way kids learn and create, whether that means introducing kids to new technologies,  developing project based educational frameworks, or simply developing activities that inspire imagination and play.  In our attempt to get kids more engaged in what they’re learning or creating, we know that one thing is for sure:  any change starts with an idea, and more often than not it’s best to start big.

This week our Education Team of college interns went to Stanford University’s School of Education to visit the Learning Fabrication Lab, directed by Professor Paulo Blikstein.  Inspired by the Constructionist learning theories of Seymore Papert, Professor Blikstein is exploring how learning changes when kids are given tangible tools to model and build their ideas.  With his team of researchers and students, Paulo develops new technologies for rapid prototyping, digital fabrication, and learning design.  One of the Lab’s main goals is taking the high-cost and highly developed technologies they’ve developed (which include 3D scanners and printers, and laser cutting) and scaling them down for the classroom.  Taking big ideas and making them kid-friendly, the Lab promotes change in how kids learn in school, in particular by making the standard educational approach more engaging and hands on. Rather than having students learn from a teacher’s lecture, the FabLab encourages kids to learn science and technology by making and designing—a kind of learn as you go method.  The FabLab showed the Zeum Team their GoGo Board, a robotics kit and software, and a lightning bolt circuitry postcard (similar to our Squishy Circuits creative workshop).  Both the kit and the postcard are low-cost, and could easily be implemented in schools or interactive museums like Zeum.

At the end of our visit, we brainstormed ways to take inspiration from the FabLab’s advanced technology, and bring that same learn as you go method into Zeum.  Our Mystery Box, Squishy Circuits, and 3D Space creative studios are just the start—What would you do with a 3D scanner or a laser cutter machine, both worth thousands of dollars?  What would a kid do with them?  Better yet, how might we scale them down to make them both useful and available to everyone?

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