With the polar vortex creating the coldest temperatures in decades in Chicago, the local school districts decided that the conditions were unsafe and so kids were out of school for a few days.
Since they had 2 days without the burdens of school, my kids were free to organize their days around what they were interested.
My daughter decided that she would create a drawing of a flower using Scratch. And, my son decided that he would be a robot that automatically collected trash using the Lego EV3. While, it certainly helps that their dad runs a company that teaches kids how to build with technology; it got me thinking that you don’t need permission to create.
In fact, any thing that you can envision in your mind, there is an opportunity to bring that idea to life with the multitude of available technology tools.
Costs are relatively low
Although the Lego EV3 kit that my son used and the computer that my daughter accessed Scratch from were not free, these platforms are still very accessible.
While not everyone may have a robotics kit in their home or an internet accessible computer, they may be able to utilize these tools at school or a public library.
In fact, tools like Scratch, Tinkercad, Construct and Unity have created access in amazing ways.
As technology continues to make advances, it is likely that the costs will continue to decline and even more students will gain access to the building blocks of future innovation.
Creativity is high
With tools in reach, the next hurdle to overcome is what are you going to build. My son has always been interested in automating tasks. In fact, after I took him through his very first Scratch project, he said that he wanted to make a robot to do all his chores.
My daughter has always had an eye for the creative. She has decorated her room with Polaroid pictures that she has taken of various images that she has encountered from places she has visits or friends she has hung out with.
However, this is the first time that she has decided to translate her creativity onto the canvas of a computer screen. In the process of drawing her flower, she wanted to automate the drawing of the petals. And, then she wanted the ability to change the colors of the petals depending on the season.
With Scratch, we were able to create a function to draw the petals and we made conditional statements to change the petal colors based on whether it was Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.
Oftentimes when my kids are working on a school assignment, I have to ask them to make sure they are doing there best work. For these day-off projects that they envisioned on there own, I didn’t have this challenge.
Instead, I found they kept asking about new and different things that they could add onto their projects. For my daughter, it was building the capability to change the background of her picture based on the season. My son asked if we could automate the movement of the robot using sensors and could we incorporate a button to determine when to actuate the garbage collection.
While both of my kids do well in school, I found that their quality filter seemed to be much higher when they were building an invention of their own versus completing a school assignment. It was such a refreshing change to see their internal motivation to do their best work.
While the tools for building with technology are not universally accessible, they are much more available to larger and larger groups of people.
And, even though there is still quite a bit of work to do in spreading the knowledge of how to build with technology; it is very refreshing to know that the next generation will not need permission to create the next wave of innovation.
Instead they will apply their talents, time and creativity to building things that they believe will make the world a better place. Whether that’s a program that automates the drawing of a beautiful flower and changes the looks of the flower based on the season or a robot that automates the collection of garbage, there are so many ideas that kids have.
It’s going to be exciting to not only witness their intermediate creations but also exciting to anticipate the inventions that will impact the world in a positive way.