This past Fall we launched a new edtech product, BrainSports
. Our goal was to bring together elements of sports (training, competition, community) while also re-imagining an educational framework for teaching our students coding & engineering design skills that will power their future success.
During the Fall season, students in both our Lincoln Park & Wilmette studios worked towards building their own video games and controllers using Raspberry Pi (hardware) & python (programming language). Due to the multi-week duration, we were also able to incorporate typing practice and building of their logic muscles through curated coding exercises.
Launching a new product is always a challenge. However, the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive.
For the Winter season, we are hosting an Amazon Alexa skills challenge with our students. Not only did most of our Fall season students return, but we were also able to add a new set of students that will be able to experience this new product. Exciting times!
Often, when a new product is launched, one can gloss over everything that went it into designing, creating, and launching a new offering. So, we thought it would be helpful to recap a few key learnings.
The Future of EdTech is Social
Over the past 3.5 years, we’ve hosted over 1,500 students in our learning studios. And, while many of our students have been with us for several years, we haven’t seen enough new friendships develop.
BrainSports showed that we weren’t creating the right boundary conditions for community development. With the length of the season, students really had an opportunity to get to know each other. And, when their parents joined for the showcase, phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged and new relationships were formed.
Often times, technology has been mischaracterized as anti-social. However, what we’ve seen with BrainSports is that when students get the chance to collaborate, learn, and grow - the social relationship development is huge.
Next Generation’s Unlimited Potential
Students were asked to develop their own ideas for their showcase project. Some students developed quiz games and others developed video games. However, they all were able to move from concept to reality in a period of just a few weeks.
Not only were we blown away by the quality of their projects. But, we also were impressed by how they were able to explain their design process, thinking an areas that they struggled with.
One of the main challenges as technology becomes more mainstream is the necessity of communicating your ideas to a broader audience. Students were able to succinctly capture what they build and why they built it.
With our participants between 5th and 8th grade, they have the opportunity to not only continue to develop their technical skills but also their presentation skills which will make them more likely to have a big impact on the future world.
Don’t be afraid of competition
Let’s face it, competition is all around us. Whether it’s cheering for your favorite sports team or angling for the next promotion at work. In general, anything that is prized is going to require competing in order to reap the reward.
Due to the perceived disappointment that some students may experience, there are some that have swung the pendulum in the other direction and introduced participation trophies.
While we don’t want to pursue a winning at all costs mindset, we did want to interject elements of competition within the BrainSports format to show that it’s possible to have a healthy level of competition without the stereotypical negative aspects.
Through weekly typing practice and logic skill development, we systematically prepared students for the showcase day where they could win a trophy if they typed the lines of code faster than everyone else or completed a coding logic puzzle accurately.
Students performed amazingly within this part of the culminating event which proved to us that we were on the right track with incorporating competitive aspects to our new edtech product.
While we are still early days with our new edtech product, BrainSports, we are very proud of the initial learnings that have been gained.
As part of our continuous improvement process, we’ve identified several areas that we will be targeting to make better for the Winter season.
And, we’re convinced that a multi-week structured program like BrainSports will play an important role in teaching kids how to build with technology so that they can one day change the world.