Inspired by the excellent open source talk given by Jeremy Blum during BSE 2011, Iltimas wrote up his longboard wheel tread enhancement as an instructable! Tired of not having good traction in the rain (It would take much more than rain to keep him off his board), he decided to make a few enhancements. After reviewing designs and modifying them for the resolution that his tools were able to provide, he executed his plans. According to the article, he saw significant performance benefits in the rain. Good work Iltimas!
Robin and I just received a note from Ariel’s mom and were happy to read that her daughter, like our other students, greatly benefited from the BSE approach of having students take the driver’s seat when solving problems. While going up against these challenges is tiring, the resulting accomplishment truly belongs to the student. Thank you Karen!
Our daughter, Ariel, was both exhausted and exhilarated (it’s possible) when she came home every night during the six-week 2011 BlueStamp Engineering (BSE) summer program. Exhausted, because Robin, David and their assistants kept Ariel thinking hard about the engineering challenges she faced every day. Exhilarated, because of the true sense of accomplishment Ariel felt as she faced and resolved these challenges. During the school year, Ariel attends a rigorous academic high school, but has never been as consistently challenged intellectually as she was during the BSE program. In order to build her robotic arm, Ariel had to master on her own many disciplines: from mechanical design to firmware and software coding, electrical engineering and testing. Significantly, the BSE program required Ariel to perform like an engineer in a corporate setting. Each day Ariel began by listing her goals for the day in an engineering notebook, and each evening she marked what was accomplished and what additional efforts were required during the next day. When challenges and unanticipated problems arose, Ariel would consult with the BSE staff, but the task of solving the problem was left to Ariel. She greatly enjoyed the way the BSE teachers would video record her triumphs after she had resolved a particularly difficult problem. She also shared in the joys and disappointments of her fellow “engineers” as they proceeded with their own projects. We could go on and on, but the bottom line is that Ariel had a great time and gained tremendous confidence in her ability to achieve in a challenging environment. Kudos to Robin, Dave and the rest of the BSE staff.
After not thinking to get videos of our extraordinary guests speakers up to this point, we got one yesterday of Jeremy Blum giving a talk about open source licensing of personal designs. It’s a great overview for anyone looking to get a 30,000′ view of the different open source licenses and how one might decide which one works best for them (even if the display messed up the lighting…)
This is Jeremy’s second visit to BSE. Last week he came to talk about his many, many projects and to give the students a few pointers on how to make the most out of college — something he is certainly uniquely qualified to do. The students loved both visits! As they go on to make more unique and elaborate devices, I’m sure his talks will become more and more relevant!
On my short list of blogs to read, I find myself checking out Feld Thoughts fairly often. I appreciate his brief, concise articles and enjoy the technical and entrepreneurial topics he discusses. However his most recent post highlights a graduation speech delivered by Krista Marks to graduates of an engineering program. After reading it I thought that it isn’t only graduates of college finishing a degree in engineering that could benefit — but high school graduates (And BlueStamp students) that are planning on entering an engineering program in the fall. You can read the whole article here. I find it important to know what a completed task (like college) will look like once it is achieved to maintain an understanding of how it fits into the larger picture of one’s life. Not to mention how fun it is to dream about future success…
Living and breathing engineering every day since starting college makes a guy forget what it is like to be a student in high school! Over the past two months Robin and I have been traversing all over Manhattan visiting high schools to talk about BlueStamp and what engineering is like as a profession. We start by showing a few introductory projects just to get everyone on the same page. I love to see the students’ response of “YOU made that prototype YOURSELF at HOME?”
And then comes my absolute favorite part of the presentation. When we say, “Not only did I make this at home, but YOU can make one FOR YOURSELF.” Needless to say, we have their attention. We go on to talk about how the focus of the program is just to build these things, and that the students can keep their new custom devices.
The interest in the prototypes, engineering, and the empowerment one gets from realizing the possibilities each person has is spectacular. Although we don’t have enough space for all who are interested in the program, the interaction with that many students is well worth the trip around NYC. I can’t wait to encourage the BSE students as they build protos this summer!
I am often times amazed at how difficult of a job NASA marketers have. They do some of the coolest stuff ever and have access to remarkable resources (not just money, but the backing of the US government). And yet the public does not always view their work in the most positive way. Recognizing a better way to do it, the creator of the video made his own marketing material; and I am a HUGE fan of people taking action instead of just talking about how things ‘should’ be done.
There are two reasons I wanted to post this video that was on the website of my favorite electronics podcast, The Amp Hour. First, I think it makes a solid point about the long-range benefits of the NASA program. Second, there are several excellent examples of time lapse photography which happens to be one of the sample projects listed on this site.
In speaking with a friend who is a local principal today I was pointed to the extraordinary TED talks given by Sir Ken Robinson. The first one in 2006 was about how he thinks the current education system prioritizes the fundamentals leaving creativity to wither. While engineering is not as affected by this as the arts, it is still very much a problem. A curriculum is prioritized, and the soldering iron gets left as an afterthought. BSE will give students with an interest the means to pick up the experience from high school.
His second talk was filmed in February of this year. In this piece he talks about the linearity of the education path that our system currently sets fourth for our students. I’d like to draw particular attention to the fact that only in the last 2 years of college even remotely resembles what the actual job will entail. Why not give students with an interest the experience to make career choices before they step on the path?
Sir Ken also speaks to how passion changes the rules of time. Time passes differently when a passionate endeavor is undertaken. It takes thousands of hours in high school, college, and even during the first couple years of work to become proficient at designing things. Some students might find a 1 hour lecture very difficult, but a 5 hour build session absolutely riveting. Both methods teach engineering, so why not give students the opportunity to learn through the latter? It isn’t a replacement, but it can be a remarkable supplement.
I remember the first day on the job as a wet-behind-the-ears engineering co-op at Audiopack. My first project was to test microphones — look at the frequency response and then arrange them by their flatness. I understood the problem on multiple levels — the need for a flat response, the graph that the measurement produced, even how the FET in the microphone worked down to the quantum level.
But still, it was a significant challenge. When my boss showed me the setup and how to work the machine, I had a million questions. The connection method, how to make sure it was setup correctly, what to do if the setup was wrong, and other technical tasks that I knew nothing about. I was asking myself one question:
“Why haven’t I learned this before?”
The answer came to me only after working for a few years. I hadn’t learned it because so much of my education was fast-paced and densely-packed. Even though I had a spectacular high school and univeristy program where I took every engineering lab course I could from a high school on, I missed the experience of building projects myself and hooking them up. Since there are only so many hours in a school day, all of the classes were designed to get as much learning into a semester as possible, leaving time-intensive lessons such as wire connections and troubleshooting for hobbies, personal projects, and work experience. As I quickly learned, these skills are neither insignificant or trivial.
Giving the next generation of engineers the tools I was missing that first day of co-op is my motivation. The engineers who build things outside of work are usually the ones at the head of their department. Often times it isn’t because they are smarter, work harder, or sacrifice more — it is because they love their job of making something real from an idea in their head. That is why I am a part of BSE. To help groom students who will want to create things for a lifetime.
We believe that there is a lot of value in simply creating. We plan to make an awesome program to allow kids to build cool projects on their own, with technical support from instructors and TAs.
It is meant to be a beneficial, educational, and above all FUN program for students that want to tinker with engineering!