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Electronic Arcade workshop @TIS 2015 (Session #3)

In this session we formed groups and followed a schematic to build various version to the same game.  All groups learned a lot while cutting materials, and using creativity to build with a loose specification. Since the fundamental game was planned in advance,  teams were able to insert their own unique style to the finished project. We saw dominos, sharks, and joke discs all adding another dimension to today’s arcade. By the end of the class, ping pong balls were flying around, and many groups were impressed with the results from other teams.


Experience the scenes with more pictures of the building in progress.

Cutting cardboard lesson #1: Underestimate the size of holes, doors, etc. Easy to make them too big!

Electronic Arcade workshop @TIS 2015 (Session #2)

IMG_0207    For our second meeting everyone did the marshmallow challenge.  Each group had innovative ideas and different methods of reaching the goal of making the highest possible tower. The marshmallow challenge showed everyone the value in teamwork, some basic engineering, and assumptions…who knew marshmallows were heavy if they are sitting on top of spaghetti?!

A great activity for all ages, and often used in business and team building situations. Why not try one? Here is a TED talk on the marshmallow challenge. After implementing a few of these, I have seen the same issues over and over. Many people build very intricate structures that are sound until the last few minutes when they hoist the marshmallow on top. The ideas that it is indeed ‘heavy’ is a lesson for many.

Expanding those building skills and using the items from home to continue the concept of “no bad ideas”,  littleBits were handed out and allowed exploration of possibilities to build any mini game possible. The presentation of resulting of games like “race car pinball”, “drawing contest”, “whack-a-domino”, and “secret handshake” were fantastic to watch the creativity implemented in such a short time.

Check out the creative learning in action with more photos

Electronic Arcade workshop @TIS 2015 (Session #1)

Maker Toolset is back in action!  We are at TIS for a new session of one of the popular clubs we have run there: The Electronic Arcade club. We kicked off the term with some personal introductions and an answer to, “What was the last thing you made?”  We were excited to see that this group is very active in creating the world around them, whether it is from Legos, Minecraft, food or littleBits…this group is excited about making!

From there we moved on to an exploration of the basic rules of operation during the club. Top of the list was, “There are no bad ideas at first.” This led to a discussion about how we would like everyone to feel comfortable putting their ideas on the table without fear of judgment and then allow the opportunity for others to add to or improve. Everyone should help everyone make something great. We gave the class a short version of the D-School’s rules for Brainstorming (great rules for all ages!). I will put them in their original form below.

1. Defer Judgment. Don’t block someone else’s idea if you don’t like it…put it on the whiteboard and maybe you’ll be able to build on it later.

2. Go for volume. Getting to 100 ideas is better than 10, no matter what you initially think about the “quality”. Try setting a goal for the number of ideas you’ll get to in a certain amount of time to provide some stoke.

3. One conversation at a time. When different conversations are going on within a team, no one can focus.

4. Be visual. Sketch your ideas out for your teammate. It will communicate them more clearly than words alone, plus you might inspire some crazy new ideas.

5. Headline your idea. Make it quick and sharp, then move on to the next one.

6. Build on the Ideas of others. This leverages the perspectives of diverse teams and can be especially useful when you feel like you’re stuck.

7. Stay on topic. Your idea for an edible cell phone is awesome, but not during a brainstorm on making opera more exciting for children.

8. Encourage wild ideas. The crazier the better…you never know where your team might be able to take it. (See #1 and #6).


Finally, we reviewed the anatomy of littleBits, which colours held what function and tackled our first design challenge. The resourcefulness and idea exchanges were awesome and we look forward to working with this group of young inventors. We also watched this video as inspiration for the kind of inventions that await. A great start to a great session.

Japan Robot Week 2014 @ Big Sight

Snake bot

Snake bot

The Robot Week event this year was at the Tokyo Big Sight location near Tokyo Bay and was in the same hall as manufacturing and vacuum tools. So many great applications for robots to increase automation, and human leisure time.  Many companies’ products were marketed to better health.  Exo-skeletons were in abundance, and the queues were long to give them a test drive. Besides physical health, mental health was also addressed by robots designed to assist with outlying age groups. There were robots aimed at leading the elderly through daily exercises. They could speak and respond to phrases providing interaction without a keyboard or remote. For the younger ages, they had toddler-sized telepresence robots that allow grandparents to communicate and play on the floor with their grandkids from remote cities.

Mind-controlled wheel-chair

Mind-controlled wheel-chair

Universities students brought interesting robotic devices like a solar powered survey car, mind controlled wheel-chair, and even a biomimicry inspired snake robot. The solar car is destined to be sent into nuclear disaster sites on a one-way mission. Solar panels will power sensors, communication and motors allowing this robot to take measurements at various locations reducing the number of people risking their health to enter those areas. The mind-controlled wheel-chair is able to sense its surrounding environment, and take basic instructions from an off-the-shelf Emotiv neuro-headset. The snake bot is marvelous to see in action as the 14 wheels are not directly powered, but motion is created by laterally rotating the axles in sync to create a movement in direction perpendicular to the axles .

The Kawasaki Robot Festival was also on-site showing the success from their annual event in August.  Universities compete for big prizes, and the festival hosts Jr.Robot events for school-age students to join and experiment with robotics.

Overall, it was amazing to see the wide usage of robotics already for sale, and those in the future as technical teams explore solutions to various physical, and mental challenges experienced in our everyday lives.