Dave recently wrote an article that may help budding designers pick the best approach for navigating the sea of development platforms. He loves the experience of cracking open a new design platform and seeing what it can do, and how it can be used. However there are so many out there! What about the individual options are the best for attacking a project? How can one ensure that the experience will be the best possible, preventing an immediate hate of the platform? Dave writes about all of this on Element14′s news section…
“Thanks to the NYC Maker Faire this weekend, there has been a lot of discussion of new project ideas becoming a reality. With the wide array of different development platforms that are coming out for FPGAs, Microcontrollers, and even complete computing solutions, there is always a system out there to be explored. It can be intimidating to approach such a wide array of possibilities, so what is it that makes for the best first projects?…”
This past weekend, BlueStamp had the honor of presenting at TEDx Presidio in San Francisco, California. There were many great speakers and we were excited to meet so many like minded individuals. Thanks to all of our students for their incredible work over the past few years. You all are the stars of BlueStamp Engineering!
Robin and I have been very busy preparing for BSE 2012 in both NYC and Houston. It was when we began to plan programming for next summer that I realized the successes of our 2011 students only begin to scratch the surface of what BSE can teach. The effect of a student’s first 6 weeks is remarkable: they learn how their project works, how to identify the best approach, and how to take a project beyond paper/models and into the real world. They gain the vocabulary, troubleshooting skills, and the basic understanding to allow them to begin seeing the world as an engineer. They can read a project description and understand what the separate components require (e.g. firmware, electronics, mechanical design).
With this knowledge in their back pocket, we can then expand the lessons that a second year student will be able to learn. Where a student already learned how to create a schematic in EAGLE, he or she can now move on to creating a custom PCB and have it made by a boardhouse. A student that learned how to create mechanical drawings last year can now be asked to incorporate standard dimensioning practices that can be understood by any machine shop for quoting of a large job. We will also have returning students do more planning to sharpen their management skills – budgeting, scheduling, and part ordering is something that they can understand thanks to the project they have already completed. There are so many more possibilities!
Now that we are planning for students returning for a second year, I cannot wait to see what we will have students do when they come back for their third year! Maybe the complete development of a kit product ready for production, similar to those offered by Adafruit or MightyOhm?
In about 10 days, BlueStamp will launch its summer program. However, the real work started eight moths ago as Dave and I were sitting at a train stop in Connecticut on a beautiful fall morning, mere muses to the Sunday schedule of the Metro North. My train to NYC was 30 minutes late and while normally this would have annoyed the (insert negative adjective here) out of me, Dave and I spent that morning conceiving what is now BlueStamp Engineering. We had actually been kicking around ideas for the past four months (hybrid electric bikes, a new age coffee shop, a technical training program for third world countries), none of which came to fruition. But somehow, as I left to board the train, I knew we finally had something. I had two pages left on my notepad and 10 minutes into the train ride, I was writing in the margins, just to capture every idea that passed through my mind.
The next 4 months we reached out to groups all around the country. We talked to engineering firms, college admissions counselors of top 50 universities, and we met high school students. We had our false starts and we learned our lessons along the way (yes, we have a database of all such lessons). But at the end of the day, BlueStamp emerged with some of the smartest high school minds around NYC/NJ/Staten Island.
However, the real work starts on 6/27. The students have all picked their projects and are now diligently researching exactly how they’re going to build them. It won’t be easy for them, and perhaps not even for us. But that’s what we wanted. We wanted a challenge, and we wanted to make our students think, persevere, and accomplish something above and beyond what they could imagine just a few short months ago. We want them to hustle and then look up when its all over and enjoy the view. The truth is, we have no way of knowing how successful our students will be. But if sweat and determination are any indication, this could be one magnificent view.
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.