It’s a simple old saying: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. But Stanford student Jason Chua and his classmates noticed that young students didn’t seem to be applying it.
“A lot of students don’t really feel in control of their educations. When they reach a problem, they get stuck and kind of wait for someone to give them an answer,” Chua said.
The design students, including Aberdeen High grad Aaron Peck, wanted to spark in students the love of creating things and solving problems that they all shared. They called their project Spark Lab, and launched a Kickstarter page to raise funds to buy modern tools of creation to teach kids, including a laser cutter and 3D printer that creates a three-dimensional print by stacking layers of polymer.
The support was so great the team re-vamped its project into SparkTruck and launched a cross-country tour, which rolls into the Aberdeen Timberland Library Tuesday. From 1-2 p.m., kids ages 7-12 will make vibrobots, mini-robots powered by a watch battery and a pager motor designed to move by vibrating across a surface. From 3-5 p.m., kids 10-13 will make Creature Copters, creatures that fly with propellers and designed by drawing on an iPad. The iPad is connected to a laser cutter which will cut out the pieces for their design.
The idea is to let kids create their design from scratch, letting them get a little stuck so they can figure out how to get un-stuck. Chua said students seem to have an idea that there’s one right way to do things and they should be able to get it on their first try, and the SparkTruck team is trying to show them that some of the best ideas come from a blueprint they make themselves.
“We’re trying to reduce that fear of failure so they have more confidence in their abilities,” he said. “We really want them to feel like they’re in control of their environment. We want them to get over the fear of not getting something right the first time. In the real world, things aren’t cut and dry.”
The results so far have been encouraging. Lots of kids have sent postcards to the team sharing their favorite parts of their SparkTruck experience, and some students have even sent videos of things they made on their own after the workshop.
“It’s nice to think that maybe we had a small part in inspiring them to take initiative and solve problems,” Chua said.
Tuesday’s event is sponsored by Friends of the Aberdeen Timberland Library. There’s a limit of 20 kids per workshop. To register, call 533-2360. For more information about SparkTruck, visit www.sparktruck.org.