Category Archives: m@k3r

STEMming the Gender Gap: A Partner’s Perspective

It’s been a whole month since our STEMming the Gender Gap day and I am
61regularly stopped by students, teachers and parents to hear how much they enjoyed learning and interacting with the dynamic women of San Francisco’s tech industry.  It seems it wasn’t just one way … this week this blog post was shared with me from one of our dynamic partners in this endeavor:

by Sanskriti Ayyar

The Future Designers of the Hamlin School

What’s the best way to get rid of the horrible fish smell in the school cafeteria? A Scent Sucker Robot, of course! The Scent Sucker was just one of the groundbreaking innovations brainstormed at an all-day seminar called “What is Design?” by the fifteen 6th grade students we invited from San Francisco’s Hamlin Girls’ School to Spring Studio to learn about problem solving using design principles.

At the start of the day, we had no idea what to expect in terms of the students’ interest in design principles or how readily they’d be able to apply them. Would they be bored? Would the notion of design principles feel relevant to kids? Would they be able to accept feedback from one another? It turns out, there was no reason to worry –  these girls were engaged, capable, supportive and uninhibited. They breezed through our design thinking lecture and instructive exercises, leveling-up their design chops quicker than their more reserved adult counterparts have in the past. Next, they did some ingenious prototyping and, finally, wowed us with their design innovation presentations.

An app for promoting diversity in school lunches

                           Choose your own lunch

When I was younger, problems were tackled by “experts” and once “solved,” would remain so…for a long time. In the twelve years that these girls have been alive, the cycle of technology-driven innovation has changed the nature of problem-solving dramatically. Products can always be refined and improved. These girls are growing up in a world where continuous version updates are the norm. It is also a world in which good design is no longer just a concept people associate with German cars. With so much of our lives being anchored in ever-improving UX functionality, young people realize intuitively that design isn’t just about how something looks. They understand that, as Steve Jobs said, “Design is how it works.”

The design thinking process involves a lot of imagination, play and storytelling, so it’s not surprising that kids would take to it so well. Likewise with prototyping. We struggle to get adults to let go and have fun, resisting the idea that their concepts have to be perfect, etc., but kids are used to being beginners, so creating off-the-cuff comes more naturally to them. They combined ideas, acted out all their possible solutions, and had fun with the process, whether they were “failing” or “succeeding” at any given moment. Ultimately, the creative power of design facilitated some truly high-level problem-solving that left everyone feeling inspired.

A robot that gets rid of bad lunchroom scents.

                         The Scent Sucker Robot

Here are some of the things we learned from our time together:

First of all, we learned that blue-sky thinking and focus are not at odds. While we were worried that the creative fun and high-energy collaboration we were encouraging would devolve into a food fight, that never happened. In fact, we learned that allowing the girls to be creative actually kept them focused and on task. In the face of tables spread with a feast of pom poms, pipe cleaners and modeling clay, the Hamlin students showed nothing but motivation and enthusiasm to produce a creative solution.

While prototyping solutions for creating a better cafeteria experience, the students kept asking each other, “What if___?” They naturally asked each other edge-case questions, making sure they weren’t leaving any holes in their solutions to problems like waiting in long lines, dirty tables, and not enough food variety. We noticed that allowing them to lead with creative thinking seemed to generate a natural desire to be comprehensive and balance their ideas with time management, costs, and other logical considerations. They were invigorated by their creative ideas, and didn’t want them jeopardized by bad planning. This inspired them to make sure their prototypes were not only creative, but actually viable.

Lunch meat your way

                               Lunch meat your way

We were particularly impressed by the girls’ perfect understanding of empathy, an important consideration of good design. They realized that in designing an app, they’d need to create different app states for their respective audiences. They asked one another “What would students need?” and then compared that to the needs of both parents and teachers. Encouraging them to be open-minded and think creatively to solve their design problem, actually engendered an atmosphere of empathy, where it was easy for them to relate to the needs of their audiences. What’s more, the girls demonstrated their ability to compromise. In considering the content of the different app states they’d be creating, one group voiced concerns regarding privacy! Initially, the app was designed so that parents could see what their kids were eating at school, however some students felt uncomfortable with this feature. They weren’t so sure they wanted to volunteer information regarding their lunch choices to their parents. In the end, they decided to keep students’ food choices private, settling on a bit less functionality for the parent interface, rather than including functionality that would deter students from using the app, demonstrating their understanding of opposing needs and the art of compromise.

No more long lines

                             No more long lunch lines

We were happy to learn that the girls were natural collaborators and didn’t compete with each other. Many designers struggle with needing to outdo one another, fixating on the perfect concept, which of course is a big roadblock to innovation. The girls revelled in the idea that since they were all working together, they could relax, knowing that no one person would be responsible for solving the entire design problem. When asked, most of the girls said that the best part of design thinking was working in collaboration.

Overall we were thrilled that these 6th graders were so keen to use design thinking to tackle and solve the challenges of the day. Not only did they embrace the creative problem-solving process effortlessly, they did so with unabashed enthusiasm. Thanks to the lovely students of The Hamlin school, the future of design just got brighter.

The Table Cleaner Deluxe

                          The Table Cleaner Deluxe

First Grade Inventors in the Riveter Lab!

Last week, the first grade girls came up to the Riveter Lab to IMG_9607learn with littleBits, kits consisting of electronic building blocks that snap together with magnets to create instant circuits. They started with the blue bits (power), a power supply (battery), and a simple LED light. After a little investigation, the girls were able to connect all of the pieces to light up the light. We then added a few more green bits (output) for the girls to explore. In no time, we saw LEDs, buzzers, and motors lighting up, making sounds, and moving at every table. Finally, we added the pink bits (input) to send messages to the green bits. By using the buttons and dimmers, the girls were able to control the intensity of the lights and volume of the buzzers.

IMG_9600More important than the creation of the circuits, the girls were implementing their design thinking skills. They examined the pieces, explored the different ways the pieces fit together, designed their circuits, tested their results, and then made modifications as needed. They worked together with their partners to troubleshoot and problem solve, building on their communication skills. We can’t wait to see what else the first graders create!IMG_9602

post written by C. Windell

Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 12/17/2015

CS_supporter_school-BIG

digital_citizenship-certified_school-medAs we roll into the holiday season and prepare to spend quality time with our family’s, it’s really easy for media and technology to overstay their welcome.  Here are a few tips to help you and your family over the holiday vacation.

  • Create screen-free zones. Keep certain areas (bedrooms, for example) and times (such as dinner) off-limits to phones, tablets, TVs, and other devices so they’re reserved for rest and family time.
  • Cut down on multitasking during homework.  Little distractions can add up to big misses on the algebra test.
  • Set limits. Everyone needs to disengage from their devices — adults included. But without someone to draw the line, tweens and teens may be tempted to text late into the night or play video games ’til they look like zombies. Establish appropriate boundaries and make sure you enforce them.

If you value the work we do at Common Sense, please take a moment to let us know by supporting us this holiday season.  We rely on your support to keep all of our great content, programs, curriculums, research and ratings & reviews free and available to everyone. 

Take a moment to read about the 6 Resolutions Every Family With Tweens and Teens Should Make in 2016. and we look forward to being here during your holiday vacation and of course when you return.

Happy Holidays

 

What’s in your closet?

IMG_2966As an urban school, space is consistently a “challenge” at Hamlin.  Of course challenges offer innovative and new ways of looking at things – and no school anywhere has infinite space.

Consider a simple storage closet in Ms. Andrews’ fourth grade class (Hamlin community login required).

IMG_2970Where a number of “grown-ups” over the past decade saw (very essential) classroom storage, the fourth grade students saw more; Their “outside the closet thinking” saw opportunity.

The space was re-organized and we added some Green Screens – from the @RiveterLab and … ACTION! … production begins!

Next step – we’ll be working on some creative soundproofing solutions as we go forward to expand from video to podcast production.

Some of the first work to come out of the currently unnamed studio were thank you videos to the staff at the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park, the class’s location for STEMming the Gender Gap.

Great job girls – and yes you very obviously CAN!

 

#STEMGenderGap

See what our girls are doing around San Francisco today!
learn more about the day here


Thanks to all of our community partners in this innovative endeavor!

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 3.24.58 PM

where Hamlin girls are today!


 

 

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A Thanksgiving Message

We’re thankful for you, the Hamlin community. Happy Thanksgiving!

STEMming the Gender Gap

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 3.30.45 PMAs has been recently reported, the gender gap in the tech industry persists in 2015 – we see Hamlin Girls as an essential part of the solution to closing that gap.  On December 4th, Hamlin girls will be learning off campus.  They will visit one of 18 participating locations, with the goal for students (at all grade levels) to see, interact, and learn, from dynamic women working within the San Francisco tech industry.

We hope that over time these experiences and exposure will help us in our goal of STEMming the Gender Gap within the Bay Area tech world and beyond.   

Where we will be learning:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 3.24.58 PM

Learn with our girls on this exciting day by following @hamlin & #STEMgendergap

img from:  http://www.stemgraduates.co.uk/latest-articles-addressing-the-stem-gender-gap

Students Design Lamps in 3D Digital Arts!

Grade 7 and 8 students are making excellent progress on their projects in 3D Digital Arts. The assignment is to create a lamp using cardboard, wood, or any other available materials, and to wire the lamp. All the students have designed their lamps and we have been using the laser cutter to cut their pieces out of 3/16 inch plywood. Their designs are literally taking shape. It’s amazing to see the girls imagine their designs, cut a first draft, and then realize how they need to modify their designs to create a complete project. The transfer from 2D to 3D is complex, and they are handling it well. Finished projects will be coming soon…

emily-lai

sydney

Middle School Staff meet the Riveter Lab

On Friday the technology team welcomed the Middle School staff into the Hamlin RosieRiveter Lab to get a look at some of the tools that are in the space.  Our hope is that they can begin to envision integrating these tools into their lessons.  We strive to provide cutting edge tools and know how enabling Hamlin students to demonstrate their understanding in innovative and new ways.

Staff arrived and after a brief introduction they went to learn more in depth about 2 specific tools.  Staff self-selected their sessions and attended two of: 3D printing, Arduino, laser cutting, video production and editing with Green Screens, Circuit Scribe by Electonink, or Autodesk’s Project Ignite platform.  Staff were engaged and using the tools in a hands on way.  We look forward to inviting staff back to the tools knowing that the more they use the tools, the easier it will be for them to see curricular connection for their students.

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The Riveter Lab … a community resource

The newly opened Riveter Lab on the second floor of historicHamlin Rosie Stanwood hall is a space and resource that brings together (rivets) the entire school.  This has been a message the tech team has worked hard to communicate with faculty and students in both lower and middle school.  We also have been vocal in regards to welcoming faculty and staff to be trained on using the array of tools in the space.  That is why we were so happy to invite the Development Office and the chairs of this year’s golf tournament into the space.

They were looking to create a video, highlighting teachers that would outline Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.20.02 AMthe goal of the “Raise the Paddle” fundraiser – to support our Professional Development fund.  The team was trained on using the iOgrapher equipment, our green screen, and DoInk’s Green Screen app.  They filmed the staff and used the app to create this video:

Pretty good for a first attempt!  Like anywhere good news travels fast and it was only moments before the chairs of the Golf Tournament contacted us requesting to sign out the necessary materials to create a “photo booth” hole at the tournament.  This would allow the tournament committee to take pictures and place them on creative backdrops for display at the tournament’s dinner.  Here are some of the unmodified “green” shots:

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We don’t know if it was the fantastic video or the exemplary cajoling of the division heads, but the Raise the Paddle was a huge success and the entire faculty will be attending this year’s NAIS conference.  We feel so fortunate to work with families who recognize the ongoing need for teachers to grow and improve their craft.