This episode is different from others and well worth listening to. It is the story about the class I helped to organize for eight students who were 9-12 years of age. As I normally teach university graduate courses, this was an entirely new realm for me. We called the class FIL – Future Innovation Leaders. The premise for the class was seeing the connection between the digital world and the physical world. For example, creating a computer program that controlled the actions of a robot, or making a 3D model in software and being able to touch the model and hand it to friends after 3D printing it. We met for 3 hours once a week for eight weeks. The class was constructed around three pieces.
3 Parts to the Class
The class involved three distinct elements:
- Robotics. Lego Mindstorms EV3s were used to explore the construction and programming of robots. We had the kids work in pairs, with each pair using an EV3 kit. After building a multiple-purpose robot, they learned basic programming and had to construct programs to solve challenges. The book from No Starch Press, “Art of LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Programming” by Terry Griffin was helpful.
- 3D Design. Name plates, key chains, and many more items were designed and printed. The workflow was to design in Tinkercad web-based 3D design software, slice the 3D model for printing in Makerbot Desktop, and print on an open source Flash Forge 3D printer.
- Communications. As future innovation leaders, the kids would have to know how to discuss and present their work. Each week they learned more about communications and worked towards a presentation at the end of the 8 weeks given to an audience of their parents. The communication element involved many discussions, such as what leadership means and how good leaders act, and playing games that teach the importance of clear communication.
A Real-World Product Experience
In episode 023 I introduced you to Sam Froggatte, the CEO of Eyeline Golf, which is a company that specializes in creating and selling training aids for anyone to improve their golf play. I met Sam near the end of the FIL class, with only two weeks to go. He had the need to prototype a piece for a putter trainer. We gave the FIL students the option to work on the idea, and they ran with it. Working in small teams of 2 or 3 kids, they developed four distinct designs and printed each. After discussing the pros and cons of each with Sam and what he wanted to accomplish, a design was selected, refined, and over 100 units printed to be tried by PGA players. This was a wonderful real-world product design experiences for the students to learn from.
Your Key Take-Away
What can you do to help the next generation of innovation leaders? It is easier than you may think. Introduce your kids or your friends with kids to free tools like Tinkercad for exploring 3D design. Volunteer in your local school’s robotics, design, or innovation program or consider starting one if it doesn’t exist. Or, if you know a group of kids who want to explore innovation, create your own version of a Future Innovation Leaders class.
- “Art of LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Programming” by Terry Griffin at No Starch Press
- Lego Mindstorms Robots
- Tinkercad web-based free 3D design
- Makerware – now called Makerbot Desktop – for slicing 3D models to print on a 3D printer
- FlashForge open source 3D Printer we used – Creator Pro
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