Learn 2 Teach

Takira demonstrates her work with the Thermistor

Takira needed to use a thermistor to measure temperature and trigger an event in her Pico Robotics program.  Here is a video made the next day where she shows some of what she learned and what it means to her.

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


solar house model on Flickr Solarfest in Vermont is an outdoor festival dedicated to solar and alternative energy. This weekend event has lots of educational opportunities and chances to meet people who are also thinking of issues like environmental justice, global heating, carbon reduction and sustainable technologies. It is a good event, camping is available on site, and it is at a new location since I went.

Here are a few links:

Main site: http://www.solarfest.org/

Workshops: http://www.solarfest.org/festivalworkshops.htm

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/connors934/sets/72057594055339448/

July 25, 2008 Posted by | event | , , , | Leave a comment

Nelson Mandela


On Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday, my daughter’s friend said she didn’t know who he was. When I explained that he was the leader of the African National Congress, and then President of South Africa, she replied “How would I know about that, and why should I?”

Personally, I think Mandela’s story is compelling. He fought against his country’s unjust policies of Apartheid. When he was tried and convicted for his role in the antiaparthied effort, he spoke of how he would give his life for democracy. After 27 years in the jails of South Africa, he was released. Instead of anger and bitterness, he led his country through the Truth and Reconciliation process. There should be more leaders with Nelson Mandela’s vision.


Mandela Celebrates his 90th birthday: Link

Wikipedia bio: Link

Nobel Prize bio: Link

Nelson Mandela Foundation: Link

Time 100 Entry on Nelson Mandela: Link

NPR audio about his trial: Link

July 19, 2008 Posted by | history, justice | , | Leave a comment

Charlie Rose and Neil Young

This is a good interview of Neil Young by Charlie Rose of PBS. The discussion discusses much more than his long music career, but his creative process. Particularly interesting is the section on the war in Iraq and the state of energy in the United States. Asked how long the war would go on, Young replied something to the effect of “This war will go on until we resolve our energy problem. It is going to be a very long war.” Neil Young has been involved in helping to foster new technologies to change our transportation system. Not all of his technical information is accurate, but he is working towards a solution, not just standing by.


Charlie Rose interviews Neil Young – Link

Neil Young’s website: Link

Interview about his car project: Link

Linc-Volt Neil  Young’s car is an entry in the Automotive X Prize: Link

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Innovation from the South Shore

photo of Back Bay filled in during the 1880\'s using Otis Steam Shovels, invented in Canton Ma

photo of Back Bay filled in during the 1880’s using Otis Steam Shovels, invented in Canton Ma

In the July 3 Globe South section of the Boston Globe is an article about some of the important innovations that have happened just South of Boston.

Some highlights:

1927, Dr. William Hinton, son of former slaves, developed a test for syphilus, one of the most challenging diseases of his time. Dr. Hinton became the first black professor at Harvard Medical School and was a pioneer in preventative medicine.

1836, William Otis of Canton invented the steam shovel, Otis steam shovels were used to fill in the Back Bay. Before his invention, construction workers did not have easy access to the powerful leverage of pneumatic and hydraulic energy systems in their tools.

1890’s, King Gillette The founder of the Gillette corporation came up with the idea for the disposable razor while vacationing in Hull.

1906, Reginald Fessenden developed the first system to transmit voice and music over radio waves. His broadcast of Christmas Eve that year was heard by ships’ radio operators all across the Atlantic. Before that time, they had only communicated via morse code, a language of short and long beeps.

1937, Ruth Wakefield, through experimentation and making do with different materials invented the chocolate chip cookie at the Tollhouse Inn in Whitman.

More Information:

Here is a link to the article: Link

The Boston History and Innovation Collaborative: Link

School for Champions Biography of King Gillette: Link

Boston Breakthroughs: Link

Steam Shovel information: Link

A bio of Dr. Hinton: Link

William Otis on Wikipedia – The polish version has more information (go figure): Link

Back Bay history – Link

July 18, 2008 Posted by | innovation, invention, local history | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kairos Shen, Chief Planner for the City of Boston

Karios Shen, Chief Planner of the City of Boston

Kairos Shen is the Chief Planner for the City of Boston. He has a strong say in every major architectural project that is built in the city. The article in the 6-29-08 Boston Globe Magazine tells a lot about his interesting story and how buildings and architecture projects are designed in the City of Boston.

Link to article: link

Announcement of his elevation to Chief Planner: link

Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA): link

A brief bio of Kairos Shen: link

July 18, 2008 Posted by | career | , , , , | Leave a comment

Design Squad and thoughts on this Saturday’s session

On PBS, WGBH Channel 2, there is a great show based on engineering challenges where teenagers compete with and against each other. This week’s show has two teams working together to build a hockey practice target for use by the Bruins. When I watched the show this morning (it airs again at 5:30pm Sunday) I was struck by some similarities between our program and theirs.

They have teenagers working together to solve problems.

The participants are doing complex things with interesting systems.

The individuals are explaining what they are doing as they do it.

Builders and makers are learning about the things they are working on and providing a functioning project.

I think it would be useful for people in our group to start paying attention to this show for a couple of reasons: The show is good, well produced and made in Boston. The teenagers come from lots of backgrounds and look a lot like our group. They are showing how to work well in the group and get the product done on time.

They are using the Design Process to solve problems. They communicate clearly and well with each other. They don’t just head for the final product, they gather a lot of information, make drawings of their ideas, make a sketch model to prove to concepts, then they make a carefully crafted prototype to show to the client.

The show has a website: http://pbskids.org/designsquad/index.html
This week’s show: http://pbskids.org/designsquad/challenges/s2-ep11.html

A segment of the video of the show (I found that it plays better in its own window instead of on the main page) http://pbskids.org/designsquad/challenges/v_s2/211/3_ssi_video.html?&filetype=wmv&bandwidth=_hi

This section shows the design and build of the Sketch Model. I believe that what we built on Saturday was a collection of Sketch Models. Each group proved to some extent that their ideas worked. The next step would be integration of each of the group’s products. Now that the scale of the building has been settled, more appliances and furniture could be carefully crafted. The house could have a more complex and accurate floor plan, the sounds could be assembled into the scratch program, which would interface with the pico program, and the whole thing could be powered by solar or hand generator produced electricity.

We all got through much of the design process, but there could be more to do.

In Design Squad, they have two full days for each challenge. The first day is about understanding the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, trying out the best ideas and making a plan for the final prototype. The second day is about refining the ideas of the first day, narrowing the focus to the individual components that will be included in the more polished prototype, and making all the parts of the system work together. They could do another session of making the whole thing look really pretty and ready for a mass market, but I have not seen that happen on the shows I have watched.

Here is a link to their version of the Design Process: http://www-tc.pbskids.org/designsquad/pdf/engineers/ds_eng_design_process_sign.pdf
There are many versions of the design process, It can be used in programming, engineering, life planning and lots more. We all do it every day to some extent, but being conscious of it helps to produce more effective results in your decision making. It also helps when the group is all aware of where they are in the cycle.

Design Away!


July 18, 2008 Posted by | Teaching and Learning | , , , , , | Leave a comment