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November 30, 2015

Stroll through STEM Land

I made a 3 minute video of a stroll through STEM Land on a Sat. We (Aura Auro team) are together at the same time with multiple classes and a few children from around who join us. Here is the video:

A few notes:
- The display for STEM Land was made last week by a few children. It switches between a 5  sets of ways of how STEM Land is displayed. The children soldered the board together programmed an arduino to switch between these (with help from Naveen). Here is a blog post with more about this.
- We recently added dobble, blockus and another abalone to STEM Land. Blokus is another great strategy game and dobble is excellent for observation with different scaling. These additions are popular and extremely good in brain twisting skills. 
(We also got bounce off and jungle speed which are also very popular though I am not as convinced about their utility to learning :).)
- Children have been working quite a bit on Alice a 3D programming environment. This allows children to stretch the programming they were introduced to in scratch with a 2D stage to a 3D world. Here is a note on a game that Rati is creating.
- Blender has also picked up and few children children have learnt more or less on their own. Vaidegi also started putting the 3D printer in action first with things available online and then with learning blender herself this has added the idea of being able to create what you make in blender. The implicit mathematics and visualizing in modeling 3D images is excellent. With the printer you couple this with what can actually be made nicely.
- The 'fan' is a salvaged (thanks Lata) and the children added an external battery adapter (since the one inside had rusted) and Puni is explaining how he noticed that it acts more as an exhaust picking up things rather than what he expected of pushing things away.
- One group of students have become quite good at putting together mindstorm robots. The first one took them 2 weeks. This is their fifth robot and it just took them 2 days to put together. Here is a link with a snake robot in action.
- We have started salvaging old boards that I had around to get components we can use elsewhere and started a fix it lab. We fixed our first phone...yay, more on this later.
- A few Isai Ambalam children join us on Sat since its their day off and so do a few children from Auroville.

Playing, tinkering, making and learning is alive in STEM Land.

November 10, 2015

Experiences at STEM Land...

A few recent experiences at STEM Land that touched me...

- I have been touched how elder and younger children with similar interest are willing to work together as equals. How open elder children are to learn from younger children who have developed an expertise at something.
- We didn't spend a single rupee on labor to set up STEM Land. A big we (Aura Auro, our friends, volunteers and the children) did it ourselves.

- I had decided that I was going to let STEM Land self organize. One day some younger children came to me and told me that a couple of elder children had taken their laptops. I told them to work it out among themselves. About 10 mins later I had opportunity to work with the elder children and I enquired what happened. The elder children without batting an eyelid said that STEM Land is a place of work and they only took the laptops from two children who were playing computer games and not working seriously.

- We started working with the 9th grade girls only this term and in the beginning they would only stay in the games, materials room and not explore the technology room. This week I had a couple of girls working hard to create a story using programming in a 3-D environment and connect their mathematics to what they wanted to accomplish. Another group has been working on soldering a display for STEM Land with N.

- A few Isai Ambalam (the other school I work with) children come to STEM Land on Sat (their day off). They just felt at home and the Udavi children took care of them as their own when they are here for the whole day. A couple of Auroville children have started coming to STEM Land once a week and were unfamiliar with the programming environment and some Udavi children sat next to them and worked and helped them when they were stuck and I was only called once for help during two sessions of 1-1/2 hrs that they worked here.

- N who has completed his undergrad in EE wanted to volunteer at STEM Land I asked him not to worry about teaching children and just focus on using STEM Land facilities for his own growth. When he started working he realized that children could do many more things than him and learnt from them. 
When we were opening STEM Land we split the opening speech in 2 min sections between four of us at Aura Auro and the children were cheering for each of the youth. When we had completed the children cheered and asked N also to speak. He said, he comes here to learn and have fun.

- A couple of other youth who graduated from Udavi also come in on Sat in the afternoons and engage with children or play abalone among themselves. I get back to Aura Auro at 2:00 so I wasn't quite sure what to do when the Isai Ambalam kids were here the first week and needed to stay later. The youth said don't worry I'll stay here and lock up once they leave. Next week the Isai Ambalam kids were telling me that they will lock up themselves!