Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mindstorms Storm the Mind

For many years I have been including design technology activities in my teaching Math and Science courses. I have used a variety of "found" materials to teach the design technology skill sets to my students. Design technology is basically the application of scientific knowledge and understanding to the improvement of the human condition through problem solving and invention.

Today, the term 'engineering' has replaced 'design technology' but everything else remains the same. The change is a good one because the discipline was constantly being confused with 'information technology' and other forms of  technology; a neat example of how word meanings change over time.

To upgrade the engineering aspects of my courses I want to introduce my students to the Lego Mindstorm materials similar to those used in Mike Thomas's Williston schools engineering program I blogged about several weeks ago. The Lego Mindstorms materials are a long way from the Rubber Band Rollers I usually have my students create but they offer infinitely more in terms of opportunities for developing genuine engineering skills in young children as well as in college students. Just imagine the sense of accomplishment when you build something such as a Lego robot or a vehicle and then program it to do things using your laptop computer. You can even program it to solve a problem such as climbing a step or getting out a a 'room' using light  and motion sensors. Here are some YouTube videos of many of the possibilities.

Just think of the language development, the social studies, math and science students can learn while they are engaged in authentic inquiry with projects like this not to mention the motivation!


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