We are working with robotics to ultimately design a robot to compete in the First Tech Challenge; an international robotics competition. Each student learned the rules of the competition, research the problem, design and sketch ideas, select an idea, build a robot, and test and evaluate the performance of the robot. Just before spring break, each student presented his robot design to the class. We then selected a student design to build a robot that will compete against the other section of this course at the Tech Expo.
Forms II and IV boys excelled in the Rube Goldberg Engineering Expo on April 3, competing against other teams to build chain-reaction machines designed to ultimately open an umbrella. Our Middle School team won third in the first-ever live competition for their age group, while the Upper School team brought home the Legacy Award presented to them by Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter and chairperson of the organizing foundation, Jennifer George!
What makes a better designer today? In Form II this year, we experimented with project-based learning. The boys examined existing chairs and reengineered a personal version using digital tools in technology classes.
Rapid prototyping with technology has become commonplace in many professional services. In this class, the boys explored pragmatic tools including Computer Aided Design, 3D printing and Virtual Reality to produce a minimum viable product. In the third iteration, students built a virtual experience using the Unity programming language and Oculus Rift. Furthermore, the boys scanned ceramic models with Mr. Davis and imported these organic structures into a VR realm where they could be displayed next to CAD models created in technologyclasses. Our class meetings often resembled a studio where boys would “learn, create and problem-solve in an unstructured environment” (MIT Admissions Office, 2013). This process was the intentional result of meaningful collaboration between the art and technology departments. Through student process, our line of inquiry offers a glimpse into the world where learning to become a better designer will include an interchangeable order of experience with computers or clay.
On Saturday, February 6, students and teachers from nine different schools along the east coast as far as Buffalo and Pittsburgh came together at Browning for the CS50 AP Hackathon led by Harvard’s computer science professor David J. Malan and his team, who led the students through different problems sets. Though students were at different spots throughout the curriculum, everyone was working together in a relaxed environment, helping each other, and having a great time. The event was full of music, candy and learning. Students left the event with lots of “swag,” including T-shirts, stickers and bags, all with the Browning name emblazoned on it. I hope we can do more collaborating like this in the future. Click here to watch a video about the computer science movement at Browning and for more details on the hackathon.
I’m pleased to report that both the Middle and Upper School excelled in a regional programming hackathon/codeathon competition held Sunday at Riverdale Country School. The Agile Youth Competition brings schools together for friendly competition and intense challenges related to computer science learned at school. Browning exceeded expectations yesterday adding to our community’s positive reputation as a leader in academic technology and computer programming.
This winter, one of the hottest tech startups littleBits found out about the Form IV Intro to Engineering class offered last spring. A West Coast publicist reached out for an interview and asked if littleBits could publish a case study on the class. Following weeks of collaboration, the final piece is live on the littleBits website for you to read and share alike at littlebits.cc/case-study-the-browning-school
Browning teachers have been utilizing the educational practice of Blended Learning, which combines online and digital learning with face-to-face instruction. Earlier this school year, we documented Browning’s summer Blended Learning Cohort in which 10 teachers participated. A new video delves into the Blended Learning model and explains how our teachers are using what they learned in the cohort to personalize the classroom experience for each boy in ways that were not possible just a decade ago.
Could your idea be the next big thing? Why work towards creating a minimum viable product? How might we invent your next job? The widely popular reality show "Shark Tank" has proven the American Dream is still alive. This introduction to engineering design course asks students to answer these questions while engaged in the invention process and its application.
William Noel famously said, “The Web of ancient manuscripts of the future isn't going to be built by institutions. It's going to be built by users … people who just want to curate their own glorious selection of beautiful things.” As users we notice problems from everyday life that are frustrating. Our objective was to isolate one problem, ideate and prototype a simple solution connected to the Internet. Bi-weekly our group worked in the lab demonstrating an ability to learn, create and problem-solve in an unstructured environment. Ideas brainstormed with pencil-paper doodles transformed rapidly to functional prototypes. Furthermore, we gathered for a round table outside the lab on alternating weeks. Each of these conversations were sparked by a relevant article related to entrepreneurship, market trends and how might we brand our inventions to succeed.
Through process and experience, students made connections with practical, analytical, creative and research-based thinking. In order to test his mettle, each boy created a succinct elevator pitch to sell his invention to a panel of some of the best advertising professionals from JUICE Pharma Worldwide.
One boy offered an accounting of his design and experience at JUICE, as follows: "My design was of a robot dog. The purpose of the dog was to help parents teach their children responsibility. The dog was upcycled to connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi signals. From these signals, anyone with a phone and the correct password could control the dog. The parent could force the dog to make a noise until a button is pressed. Throughout the course of the semester-long class, we pushed towards this independent design. Our designs were created using littleBits, modular electronics that transfer energy and stick together using small magnets and wood. The final design was taped over or colored in for the aesthetic. The presentation of the design was a culmination of all the lessons learned in the class. Presenting the final iteration of the project was a great experience in entrepreneurship and public speaking."
Most boys would agree that waiting in the green room to go on camera may have tested some nerves. However, all left with new tools young entrepreneurs and engineers agree are necessary for success.
Director of Technology Aaron Grill, Technology Integrator Anderson Harp and the entire engineering class would like to thank Browning parent Forrest King for organizing and inviting the class to JUICE Pharma. View video and photos.
This year in Form II technology class, Academic Technology Specialist Mr. Droke conducted research on developing the creative confidence of students through the Design Thinking process. In July, he will present his findings at the International Boys School Coalition annual conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The boys were tasked to collaboratively reevaluate and redesign the New York City subway system to meet the needs of people in the year 2035. Mr. Droke was pleased to see the boys improve their creative confidence and problem-finding skills over their semester in class. Click here to watch the boys explain their ideas and to see the process they worked through.
On April 11, Browning’s technology department participated in their first Maker Day, hosted by The Marymount School and littleBits. This free, day-long event was created for educators, students, parents, designers and makers to present projects, attend workshops and explore how digital fabrication and making are reviving and inspiring our classrooms.
Director of Technology Mr. Grill & Technology Integrator Mr. Harp both presented hands-on workshops showcasing curriculum themes from their technology classes. Mr. Grill led a workshop on developing 3-D environments for virtual reality while Mr. Harp taught makers how to invent the Internet of Things. Mr. Harp’s group used littleBits and consumables, such as cardboard, to teach participants to rapidly prototype electronic inventions connected to the cloud.
Browning had a strong turnout that displayed a strong vote of confidence in Interschool collaboration. Browning teachers Ms. Suárez and Mr. Lisciandrello joined in the inventing fun, tinkering alongside Browning parents and students representing all three divisions. It was a special occasion to see Browning boys from Upper and Middle School divisions teaching boys from the Lower division. View photos.
The Academic Technology Department recently completed revising the departments mission statement and measuring the quantity in which they teach Computer Science, Design and Technology Skills. Below is an infographic representing the 2015 Academic Technology Curriculum Map
3rd and 4th grade boys made paper circuits recently in Technology Class. They used a paper template, conductive tape, LED’s, scotch tape, a coin battery, and markers to create unique cards for the holiday season. Using conductive materials the boys learned how to complete a simple circuit. I guided them through the process with an example I had created first. Next, the boys did their best to make the card light up using a test battery. If the LED didn’t light up they had a chance to tinker with the circuits. They were encouraged to ask others in the class to lend a different perspective. Finally, they used the working light to inspire their own design for a new twist to the holiday card.
This semester in Form II technology, students explored how they can use design to solve real-world problems. The boys were divided into groups and asked to design a subway station for the year 2035. As the boys worked through the design thinking process, they developed empathy for the future users of the New York City subway system. Soon the boys were crafting problem statements that guided their thinking for the rest of the projects. After ideating multiple solutions, each group focused on their most viable improvements. As the groups started to finalize plans, they made rough prototypes out of foam board and push pins. This allowed them to express their original ideas in tangible artifacts before they created their final models using Adobe Illustrator and the laser cutter. After the Holiday break, each group will have to justify their design decisions through a presentation of their final models to the rest of their class.
Over the past month, Mr. Sambuca's Form II Technology class have been learning how to design three-dimensional shapes. The boys are currently using Tinkercad, a free web-based CAD application that allows the student to drag and drop geometric shapes to create 3D designs. The limited learning curve makes Tinkercad well suited for the K-12 setting, where students learn real computer aided design skills and can apply the knowledge as they move on to professional design tools. The Micro City design project was a two week assignment to test the the skill set on perspective drawing using a city skyline. Students were randomly selected a US city and began to research landmark buildings and different skyline views to get their personal perspective. The students were given design rules and size constraints (100mm long x 100 mm x wide x 100mm high). The micro cities are all available below on Thingiverse for download and will be on display in the 2014 Browning School Art Show. Click here to view the pictures.
In the three weeks before Winter Break, Mr. Droke's third grade class designed snowflakes that were made using our laser cutter. The boys started the project by designing snowflake using the website Make-a-Flake. After the boys finished "cutting" their flakes, they imported them into Adobe Illustrator. The boys learned the basics of Illustrator and how to use the Live Trace tool. We talked about about how the laser cutter makes specific cuts based on the color that it recognizes. For this project, the boys needed to make the lines of their snowflakes red. After the boys made the necessary changes to their file, we began the cutting process. Every boy had a chance to watch snowflakes being cut and talk about how the machine worked. This lesson allowed the boys to develop their creativity and design skills, while also introducing them to new computer skills. Click here for photos.
In 2011, The Browning School acquired a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, a 3-D printer that allows our boys to create colorful plastic models of objects. This machine can literally turn a three-dimensional computer model into a physical object. Engineers, architects and other professionals, as well as hobbyists and students, use this machine to make models of designs that they conceive or, alternately, download from the parent company’s website.
Since 2011, even our Pre-Primary boys have learned about Maker-Bot in their technology classes As part of MakerBot’s series of website stories (posted on makerbot.com) highlighting how Replicator 3D printers are used in education, The Browning School was pleased to recently welcome Blake Eskin, editor, and Annelise Jeske, videographer. Headmaster Clement and Director of Academic Technology Jeremy Sambuca, along with a number of Browning boys, lent their expertise and commentary for a video explaining Browning’s use of MakerBot and the School’s embrace of technology in recent years. View the photos of this segment in the making.
Mr. Droke's sixth grade boys have been "hired" by the Grade One class to design a toy that specifically meets their needs and wants. The sixth graders must create a shared knowledge of toys to be used as they use research, develop, produce and market an original toy. This toy will be designed on Tinkercad, a browser-based 3D design platform, and made on 3D printers or the laser cutter in our technology lab. The first two assignments of the project helped the students reflect on their own toy experience and develop empathy for the current first grade boys. The boys created Padlet walls that represent what their life was like as a first grader. This process allowed them to reflect on the types of toys they played with and talk about why they liked them. Then the design teams developed surveys on Google Forms for each of the first graders to complete. We spent a class discussing how these results could be used to impact their work. The next step in the design process was to research classic toys like Tonka Trucks, Lincoln Logs, the Yo-Yo, G.I. Joe, the Teddy Bear, Rock'em Sock'em Robots and LEGOs. Each design team was assigned a toy and had to state its purpose, define its demographic, talk about how it makes them feel, and research its history. The teams presented their findings to the entire class. They boys quickly realized that these toys shared certain characteristics, such as their ability to be intuitively played with without reading a set of instructions. This allowed us to have a conversation about how simple toys are sometimes more effective, better designed and more well-loved than complicated toys. This impacted the design teams' initial ideas about their toys by making them think more realistically and practically about their design. The next phase of the process is to begin ideation and focus on the toy that each team is going to develop and design.
Click here to see some pictures of the boys presenting their research.
Over the past two months, Mr. Sambuca's Form III students have been learning game design and theory. Using GameSalad Creator, a drag and drop application that uses visual editors and a behavior-based logic system, the boys are exploring the fundamentals of movement, controls, physics, game logic and publishing through a variety of mini-projects. The final project allowed the boys to upload their game on GameSalad Arcade. This website features Soccer Shot Mania, The Great Maze Game, Space Flee and War of the Faces. Click here to view the pictures.
Mr. Sambuca's Form II boys have spent the past 10 weeks learning Trimble Sketchup, a 3D modeling software, to help prepare them for the final engineering design challenge. This year's challenge was to design a Lego brick that does not exist and must work with current pieces. The students embarked on the engineering design process, a series of steps that helps the students develop a new product. After extensive research through the Lego bins and online, students began to #1 "Ask" the who, what, why and #2 "Imagine" solutions without sketching. Using digital calipers, the boys measured a variety of bricks and plates to get the exact dimensions in order to #3 "Plan" their hand-drawn sketches. The sketches turned into an orthographic technical drawing helping the boys to design their 3D Sketchup model. Using Makerware and the Replicator 2, students worked on step #4 "Create" to print their prototype. Once printed, students move onto Step #5 "Improve" to test and modify their brick if it does not work. This project reinforces and help strengthen the boys inquiry, problem-solving, design and troubleshooting skills. Click here view the pictures.