March 2011 Hackerspace Challenge

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Draft letter to Mitch Altman

  • See [1] for guidelines
  • Due 8PM EST 3/11/2011

Challenges in elementary education

Project Ideas

  • Trig. Tablet: a right angle device, reads trig functions as angle of armature changes -PROBABLY NOT -jcrews
  • "Player Piano Pen": pen or car with LEDs and light sensors, reads and plays notes as it's rolled along a musical score
  • the baroo indicator: students can anonymously register their confusion during a class.
  • bouncy ball that uses accelerometers and LEDs to teach kids about force and motion.
  • Blocks: communicate w/ eachother to teach sets, arithmetic, etc
  • Garden Sprite, a bunch of sensors for discovery of gardening and botany.
  • A Cartesian coordinate game system: 2 axes, buttons or touch pads at all intersections of the coordinates. Games are all built around (X,Y) format: variation on Battleship, or punching given coordinates for speed, etc.
  • Fraction teacher: a grid of 5x5 LEDs. Select the denominator and the proper number of LEDs turns red. Select the numerator and the proper subset of those turns green and the decimal equivalent is shown on the readout. (I am using the simple red/green LEDs here).

Dream ideas from teachers in the field:

  • A device that helps ELL students understand syllabication in English (e.g., you say a word and a light flashes to represent the number of syllables)
  • Digital Divide conquering: a way to provide low-cost connectivity to students who lack connectivity in the home/some sort of inexpensive handheld device that students could transport between home and school that would enable students to continue working on their projects outside of school hours
  • A device that could attach to a SmartPhone, scan a word in text, pronounce the word and use the web to bring up an image of the word to illustrate meaning
  • Fraction blocks that can wirelessly communicate and work for adding unlike denominators/finding equivalencies.

I was thinking last night/this morning about the kinds of mathematical teaching tools we currently use in elementary ed, given that much of the conversation last night revolved around mathematics. Common items include:

  • counters. Students in grades K-1 count everything, all the time.
  • Unifix cubes. Students use these to count, measure, add and subtract. Students will frequently build "trains" of 10 cubes using 2 different colors, sets of 5 at a time to build understandings of 5 and 10 as benchmarks.
  • snap cubes. These are like Unifix cubes, but they are able to be combined in multiple directions, allowing students to build cubes or other shapes. They can also be used for addition and subtraction and have more uses with area/perimeter/volume.
  • Pattern blocks. Used for a variety of applications, including shape names, patterning, fractions and operations.
  • Base 10 blocks. Apparently, when these were originally developed, there were blocks to model bases 2-10. Only the 10 blocks seem to be in production still, but I would love to get my hands on other bases. Used mainly to teach place value.
  • Rulers, compasses, and protractors. Used to teach measurement.

The math tools that are currently lacking have to do with power structures (such as multi-base blocks mentioned). Also, hex bugs are popular. So, I am thinking of something that has to do with hex bug idea and "unitizing" (making units and units of units) in math. See if any of these manipulatives inspire:

Places kids get hung up in foundational mathematics:

  • place value (think more grouping/regrouping than "names of places")
  • subtraction
  • division
  • fractions
  • geometric logic, particularly with area/perimeter, transformations, and relationships among geometric figures

Thank you for taking on this challenge! Hope this is helpful!

The Project Team

People who are definitely in:

  • Alan Dipert (1-2 hours a week + a marathon: C programming, miscellany, CAD (sketchup and rhino)
  • JC Sackett (2 hours a week + a marathon: arduino programming, software development (python, lua, ruby))
  • Justis Peters (5 hours a week: project management, software development, and Arduino)
  • Skippy Hope (2-3 hours a week + a marathon: C, perl, some Arduino, degree in music, has taught private lessons)
  • Jeff Crews (2 hours a week until later: fabrication, CAD)
  • Peter Reintjes (8 hours a week: electronics and PIC microcontrollers, schematics)
  • Mike Broome (3-4 hours a week (no weekends): programming (C, perl, java), low-level chip stuff, electronics, minor fabrication)
  • Dino Segovis (3 hours a week: hardware, electronics, 555 timers, fabrication, electronics CAD (FreePCB))
  • Darren Boss (4-5 hours a week + a marathon: perl, ruby, java, photography)

People we need to chase down as potential team members:

  • Tom Karches (audio synthesizers, electronics, circuit bending, old electronics)
  • Tom Billman
  • Bill Farrow
  • Dirk and Sarah
  • Ashleyy

People we need to chase down as potential project advisors:

  • Kristin Bedell
  • Maria Droujkova
  • Greg Dekoeningsberg
  • Paul Overton

Lenore will take pictures.