Drink & Draw: Strategic Illustration Expert, Chris Chopyak, Offers Boulder Workshop!

The internet doesn’t lie: people would rather look at your information than read it. That’s why an infographic goes viral while a white paper with the same information lives in the backwaters of your company blog ne’er to be read again. And when the human brain plans things — be it a business strategy or a book idea — we don’t see it in sentences; we “see” it in pictures. International visual communications expert, Chris Chopyak, knows how you can see it better. Her book Picture Your Business Strategy details the brush strokes of the winning strategic illustration methods she’s used with organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to basement startups.

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Can Soldering Teach Emotional Regulation?

Dr. Kristi Pikiewicz originally wrote this for SparkFun and gave us permission to repost — it’s a small town here in Boulder! In this post she shares a nontraditional use for soldering, namely to teach emotional regulation in a therapy setting. What’s your soldering experience? Calming and meditative or infuriating and awkward?

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5 Ways to Foster Innovation in Children

Last week, Maker Boulder published a series of short posts by Alice Kembel describing how to foster innovation in kids. She should know: her husband, George, is Global Director and Co-Founder of the Stanford D-School and Alice is a thought leader in maker education. The Kembels are new to Boulder and bring with them their three innovative boys. And after last week’s series a couple of you intrepid readers asked if you could pretty please just have all the tips in one place instead of having to click post-to-post and inevitably getting lost in the process. So here they are: Alice Kembel’s 5 Ways to Foster Innovation in Children!

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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 5)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the fifth and final suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Praise the effort children put forth in the creative process, not their innate abilities.  

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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 4)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1, 2 and 3 HERE, HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the fourth suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Teach children to view setbacks as a opportunities to learn rather than as failures, and encourage them to embrace an attitude of experimentation.

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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 3)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1 and 2 HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the third suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Provide scaffolding for children in their creative processes.

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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about why I let my children play with trash. Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the second suggestion in this 5-part series in how to foster innovation in children:

Emphasize that there is no “right” way to create something.

As adults, we often take a “teacher-learner” approach with children; we teach, they learn, and we tell them when they’re doing something right or wrong.  When it comes to innovation, use a “learner-learner” approach.  Resist the urge to instruct your child in the “right” way to do something; allow children to experiment on their own.  Children can often surprise us with the unique ways that they utilize materials to design what they imagine.  They may incorporate a material in an unexpected, novel way, or use a completely different process to create their ideas.  Instead of saying, “You should do it this way,” or, “That’s not going to work,” use neutral language that encourages independent thinking, such as, “That’s interesting, I wonder what else we could do with that,” or, “I wonder how that’s going to work.”  Give your child the opportunity to think for himself without the idea that there is a “right” or “wrong” when it comes to innovating, and both of you will likely learn from the process.

When my oldest son was a toddler, in a never-ending quest to keep him occupied and out of mischief, I found a painting activity in a book that I thought he would enjoy.  After spending twenty minutes setting up the activity, I presented the materials to him and said, “Look, you can use these paints on the sliding glass door and then wash them off with the hose!”  He performed the intended task for about three minutes, and then proceeded to experiment with mixing paint colors for the next twenty.  As a rule-following, structured person, I was tempted to tell him that he wasn’t using the paint the “right” way; I had, after all, invested twenty minutes of my time to create the experience that the book described.  Instead, I refrained from saying anything and followed his lead, and his paint mixing experiment ended up being far more intriguing for both of us.

Join us tomorrow for the next in this series: Provide scaffolding for children in their creative processes.


Alice Kembel and her husband, George, are recent CA–>CO transplants, having just arrived in town after immersion in the Stanford D-School. You can find Alice at www.aliceshikembel.wordpress.com.

Why the D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 1)

Anyone visiting our home will stumble upon numerous unique creations designed by our three boys: bats with five-foot wingspans made of paper and masking tape, daggers whittled from sticks, bug zoos designed with wine corks and popsicle sticks, night vision goggles consisting of toilet paper tubes and duct tape, snake traps constructed from cardboard and string, and a two-pronged lice comb that my oldest son made for his kindergarten teacher out of wooden skewers and Scotch tape.

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DIY Bionic Rock Climbing Hand (c.o. MIT’s Hugh Herr)

Here in Boulder, we actually know who Hugh Herr is: the climber who lost his legs to frostbite on Mt. Washington, designed his own climbing prostheses, and used bionic feet to send the world’s hardest thin cracks. Herr now runs a biomechatronics group at MIT’s famed Media Lab. I talked with Herr for a book I wrote and, in addition to working on balance mechanics for “real” prostheses, Herr was deep into the creation of what he called a “spider suit” — basically, the elastic-like suit holds your arms and fingers in the flexed position, augmenting your pulling strength. With elastic help, climbers will appreciate the extra pep in their pull. Or…they would if the thing actually existed commercially. Until then, I offer this (moderately harebrained) prototype, which my kids and I actually product tested one afternoon up at Flag.

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Images as Communication: Logos, Icons, Infographics, Oh My!

We remember things better when we anchor them to images. We see this in the mnemonics of memory competitions and we also it with the recent info-graphic craze, in which artists illustrate the driest data, bringing it to life in a way that makes it both more digestible and also easier to remember.

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