On the Move at CMK!

Take a peek into the learning environment created at Constructing Modern Knowledge and you’ll find the computers, cameras, toys, junk food, books, building materials, tools, art supplies, MIDI keyboards, drawing tablets, software and expertise that comprise the modern learning environment. It’s a four-day “lifelong kindergarten” if you will – a workshop, a library, a classroom, an atelier. Robotics elements are an important part of the mix.

I’ve been an advocate for children and robotics for almost twenty-five years. Robotics takes computer science, math and engineering off the page or screen and into the real-world in a tactile manifestation of authentic S.T.E.M. Over the years, my students (and teacher students) have used programmable LEGO as a material for making things that move and “think” across the curriculum and regardless of age. I’ve grown concerned over recent years when robotics has become synonymous with building machines that kill your opponents machines and not as a basis for inquiry, experimentation, personal expression and whimsy.

That has never been a problem at Constructing Modern Knowledge where participants have built machines to play xylophones, swim, dispense candy and kick a soccer ball (among a zillion other nutty projects). Along the way, habits of mind are developed in addition to powerful engineering, physics, computer science and mathematics concepts.

Two years ago, a group of CMK attendees used a Scratch Board to bring a hand puppet to life. Last year we added the delightful PICO Crickets, with it Scratch-like software, to our mountain of LEGO and RCX controllers programmed in MicroWorlds EX Robotics. Smaller “brains,” new sensors and sound elements allowed for a greater range of projects than in the past. Some CMK folks experimented with the new LEGO WeDo robotics materials (programmed in Scratch); intended for early childhood, but demonstrated to challenge smart adults. We even had some of the dreaded LEGO NxT elements for folks to use.

This year, CMK is kicking things up a notch. Participants will have the opportunity to think and tinker with GoGo Boards, a low-cost robotics controller programmable with MicroWorlds or Scratch that was developed by my friend Roger for the developing world. The GoGo Boards make it possible, even raise the expectation, that you will make your own sensors and recycle the broken toys and assorted stuff in your world into robotics.

We’re even going to explore the exciting new world of eTextiles with the Lilypad Arduinos.

Of course lots of CMK participants will never go near the robotics materials and will explore other domains with different materials – filmmaking, storytelling, drawing, animating, composing. All will be supported by our amazing faculty of brilliant educators, inventors and edtech pioneers.’