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See what can be done with free stuff! November 8, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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Face of the new Dutch 5 Euro coin

I have just read the following article from one of my tech feeds.  This wonderful design was primarily made from Python software, one of the major engines of Blender and in addtion, The Gimp and Inkscape featured strongly as the creative tools required to produce this winning design.  This coin is now in production and you can see how the artist developed his ideas on his blog.  A win for Open Source software I would say. Total cost of investment to the artist? $0.  0 in any currency is a whole lot of nothing!  So what does this mean for education?  It means that there is a lot out there that can be used to create stunning opportunities for learning, for developing thinking skills and on a limited budget. Software that costs nothing but allows the individual to be as creative as this, has to be the way forward for schools.  So what are you waiting for? Get downloading, installing and enabling your students to be creative, problem solve, think and be engaged.  All for the princely sum of $0.

Obverse of new coin

Obverse of new coin


Robotics – Lego Mindstorms July 25, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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I have been working with my Robotics team for a few weeks now.  I love Lego Mindstorms and am of the opinion that every class should have one box.  They are such a wonderful tool for getting students to think and problem solve. 

The challenge this year that I have set for the students is to get a robot to draw.  The challenges so far have been these.

  1. Build a robot by copying a design from the manual ( I have stressed to them that it is not a building exercise but a programming exercise.)
  2. Design and build an arm to hold a whiteboard marker
  3. Ensure that the arm can be lifted off and be placed back onto the writing surface with the use of a motor
  4. Ensure that the robot and pen holding arm can draw a circle (easy programming)
  5. Ensure that the robot and pen holding arm can draw a square (harder programming)

Most of the groups this week have hit the programming wall of creating a sequence of moves to make square.  One set have created a lovely pentagon another a triangle.  One group has managed to rip up the paper as the robot writes (they have an additional wheel, that serves no real purpose and they have yet to evaluate that element of their design, as they continually chew through paper they will make that conceptual link!)  One group has just got the to the programming stage and one is still in the design and build stage.  Finally one group has discovered the ‘repeat’ function and has made a square.

Now that they can create arcs, lift and place the pen and draw angled turns, they are now free to program their robots to draw something.  One group is going to make a stick figure, I am really looking forward to that.  I had envisioned a choreographed dance of five robots each with their own pen colour all collaboratively working on one element of an overall drawing.  We will see if the students have the same vision.

One thing is for sure, the 90 minutes ends for teacher and students alike, we do not know where the time has gone and lament that we have to wait another week for the next session.  These students are really motivated to work through these problems.  We celebrate being stuck each week and relish the pit of despair as they have to think and problem solve their way out of the quagmire in order to solve the problem and move on.  As I say every class should have a set at the back of the room.

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