Meet Makers in Vermont; Go Inside Quest to Learn School; Help a Robot Come to Life
8.9.12 | As students start the countdown to a new school year, Spotlight is going to spend these last hazy days of summer on break. We’ll return to our regular publishing schedule on Aug. 27. But first ...
Read this terrific story from Seven Days about Vermont hackers, artists and inventors—all part of the state’s burgeoning maker movement. You’ll also learn about University of Vermont’s FabLab, and a proposed community workshop in the city’s South End called Fab Lab Burlington. Keeping tabs on it all is the volunteer-run Vermont Makers community that holds, among other activities, a monthly book club; “The Information Diet,” by Clay A. Johnson, is assigned for September.
Check out CNN’s interactive report on video games and gaming culture, which takes readers inside Quest to Learn, a New York City school designed around gaming. The story examines the school’s successes and challenges from the viewpoint of students, parents and teachers, and considers whether the Quest to Learn model can succeed within a traditional school system.
“Our assessment system is out of kilter with learning,” says James Gee. “And until we change the assessment system, the assessment system will kill any new models (of schools) because we’ll keep teaching for the old test instead of teaching the new skills.”
Katie Salen, the school’s co-founder and executive director of the Institute of Play, which partners with the NYC public school system to run Quest to Learn, acknowledges the difficulties but is optimistic. And Gregg Betheil, executive director for school programs and partnerships at the New York City Department of Schools, said aspects of Quest are “already finding their way into the DNA of our school system.”
“They start with a really simple idea—kids like to play video games, and games in general,” he said of Quest. “They don’t always like the learning opportunities they have. Not that we should be having them playing video games all the time, but there are things from the design of games that can have import for us in the curriculum design.”
He added: “At the heart, it is not a school driven by technology. It’s a school driven by a sense of purpose and engagement—and the game-like atmosphere encourages that.”
View pictures from the edge of space. Back in June, we told you about a group of sixth-grade girls in Bowling Green, Ky., who launched a plan—Project Terra Incognita—to send “an object into the stratosphere (around 20 miles above the earth’s surface) via a weather balloon and return it safely back to earth without damaging any of the equipment from the fall or extreme temperatures and wind speed.”
Additionally, the girls set out to:
- Take both HD video and high resolution still photographs of the curvature of the earth and black of space from near orbit.
- Collect data measurements about the speed of ascent/descent and air temperature of near orbit.
- Exhibit the final photographic and video imagery of the teams work.
- Inspire others to challenge the idea that some things are impossible.
With the support of 226 backers, they surpassed their Kickstarter fundraising goal, and on June 28, there was take-off. Find out what happened next.
Looking for a new geek-out project to fund? Consider Stompy, an open-source, 18’ wide, six-legged hydraulic robot that you can ride. Who’s behind this creation? Project Hexapod— a group of 15 students and their instructors who worked together in a class on building giant robots at Artisan’s Asylum, a maker space in Somerville, Mass.
They’ve already spent four months designing, prototyping, simulating, and debugging the robot. Here’s an example of a full-sized leg. Donors who give $300 or more will get to ride it, but you’ll have to line up behind this excited 10-year-old. Support it soon—the deadline is Aug. 23.
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