Archive for June, 2011

Programming: Summation Using Video

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

For the SP YCISL program, we went to a finale dinner. Before we sat down to dinner, I had the students take my video camera and record each other [important feature is that I did not do the video recording so that they weren’t directly talking to me – hopefully, their statements were spontaneous] make a short statement about (a) what they liked most about the workshop, and (b) what they liked most about the whole trip. They also had to state their name and which school they were from – for future reference. I plan to make this available to them in the near future. This is firstly, good feedback for me; it also pushes them to recall and set a memory before the moment has passed and become fuzzy; lastly and perhaps foremost in usefulness, it can be used as a discussion point when we meet in the future to see if they have acted on the lesson – and I have a way to recall name with face.

Project Idea: What is the pH of…?

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

It occurred to me that I don’t have a good idea what the pH of certain things are. I know Coca Cola is highly acidic, and that vinegar is quite acidic. I know the pH range of rainwater, common laboratory chemicals, soils, my aquarium (and so on). But there are also a lot I do not know. So perhaps it would be a good idea to start a collection of pH values based on contributions from the students. I could equip them with pH paper (standardize the method) and have them spend a half day going around measuring the pH of anything that catches their curiosity.

Activity: Fast Prototyping with Lego

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

On the spur of the moment of the current Singapore Polytechnic YCISL workshop, I created an activity to demonstrate (a) visualization of a product from raw material, (b) drawing a sketch of a product that someone else can interpret and understand, and (c) setting expectations when the designer and builder are not the same person.

So, each person was asked to grab a handful of assorted LEGO® pieces and lay it out in front of them. Without manipulating any of the pieces, they had to sketch on a large Post-it® something that could be built with the pieces. They had 3 minutes. Without telling them earlier, I then had them pass the pieces and sketch to the person to their right. Each person then had 4 minutes to build the model from the sketch. Next, the model was passed back to the person on the left and we observed reactions.

On the youth level, this was a demonstration about expectations and being part of a multi-step process. Sometimes, not everything will be under your control.

Exercise Idea: Unitaskers Bad, Multitaskers Good

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Prodded by Alton Brown’s insistence that kitchen utensils, tools and appliances should be multitaskers, not unitaskers [kitchen space being part of the issue], I am thinking up an exercise to challenge students to be creative about this idea.

One concept is to suggest a common object, such as a wheelbarrow, and have students creatively list all the tasks that could be done with it. This is similar to the brick use story described in [??? update later].

The second concept is to provide an object to have in hand, then have students dream up a uniquely creative alternative use for the object. For example, [and I did not know it was already in use] manicurists use rice cookers to warm towels for their clients. [Reference:]…and Alton Brown threw his rice cooker out the window because he said it was a unitasker! [Good Eats! Season 9 Episode 6 “Wake Up Little Sushi”] I use screwdrivers to dig up dandelion weeds; then again, I use my weeder to move around hot briquets in my BBQ. If you collected 52 rewards club cards, you could potentially make a stack of playing cards! Students would spend 10 to 15 minutes dreaming up their new task, then have 90 seconds [see <- this is the article that got me thinking about the 90 second elevator pitch although a web search shows that there are many more articles on this topic] to cast out their idea in front of the group – there could be an easel pad for participants to sketch their ideas [but this would not truly be an elevator pitch any longer!]