This is Scribot. Gaze upon the vertically inserted pen, its tiny programmable board in the front/left, the wheels, the batteries, the breadboards. Can you guess what it does? Don’t worry, at the end of this post you’ll see it in action. For now, you may notice that Scribot doesn’t come with a flashy exoskeleton branded with characters from your child’s favorite television program. That’s because Scribot is not a consumer product, but a tool created by Dr. Karl Wendt to teach design thinking in classrooms. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because Wendt was Khan Academy’s “Maker in Chief”, where his projects include Spider Bot, and Spout Bot, and Bit-zee Bot.
You may by now be noticing a pattern. Karl builds robots. Not only does Karl build robots, but he wants to teach you and yours how to build robots. And even beyond teaching you and yours to build robots, Karl wants to teach teachers how the principles of design thinking can be used in classrooms to help students build robots. That was his mission at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and that’s the mission of his Nashville-based nonprofit, Discover Create Advance.
It seems a terrible shame that we’re sitting here in Colorado writing about Karl while he’s half a continent away in Nashville. That is, until you add another player to the mix, namely Alex Hernandez and his Boulder-based nonprofit, Design EDU. Alex is a local treasure – one of those guys who flies under the Boulder radar, but, as a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund and head of CSGF’s next-generation school initiative, turns out to have a major national influence (read his blog, thinkschools). Alex and Design EDU do education, including weekend design seminars for teachers and community dinners where educators can air their ideas and get feedback guided by the design thinking process itself.
Alex told us the story of one of Karl’s presentations he’d attended at Harvard. “Karl was showing off this submarine he’d made with kids at High Tech High [in California]. And he realized that in order for us to see what the sub could do, we had to see it swim. So before the presentation, Karl goes to Home Depot and buys a big trashcan. He cuts a hole in the side and covers it with flexible plexiglass and does the calculations in his head for how much water pressure would be pushing out against the glass and how much cement he’d need to hold the windowpane in place.”
The presentation was a hit.
And that’s what Karl Wendt will bring to the Boulder Mini Maker Faire and the Innovation in Education Summit: a heckuva cool design thinking presentation based on this newest, neatest robot, Scribot. In addition to sponsoring Karl’s travel to the Faire, Design EDU is sponsoring 30 Scribot kits that educators in attendance will learn to build. Outside the Summit, Karl’s Discover Create Advance booth will let people play with Scribots in action – a bit like Turtle Art from years long gone, after writing a simple program (with guidance by the good doctor), faire attendees will upload programs to the Scribot and watch the robot write the programs into reality on paper. Get your tickets to the Faire today, and stay tuned for a full Innovation in Education program.