How to teach kids how to make things, like a submarine and a rocket
Recipetips by MindShift, Inc. is a web-based digital fabrication platform that teaches kids to build extraordinary innovative products. The creators behind this teaching tool are adults who are scientists, engineers, and innovators.
But let’s be clear – they’re not trying to teach the kids to be engineers and scientists. They want them to learn how to tinker.
Using this tool, adults can use furniture, electronics, and even cars to create anything they can imagine. Think of it as the modern equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle. No metal needed!
Gadgets are just the beginning. Recipetips by MindShift also teaches kids how to manipulate gravity, reveal hidden features, and manipulate moving parts. You’ll be able to mix and combine multiple materials, receive guided feedback, and learn from others using your discoveries to create your very own amazing contraption.
The creators share their workshop tools. Above, you can see a steampunk set of LPs. Each of these records is “fused” with metal rods, one on top of the other. With the free tools provided on the website, kids can create whatever they like:
Anyone who thinks this project is fun and creative, have a heart. This tool is for adults only. Because, you know, children should have everything they need to learn by ear. And all that stuff about learning and effort and patience and planning for perfection.
What’s the point of doing all that, you ask? It’s to prepare kids for making their own thing – and the creators have seen a positive impact on kids. For example, one of their surveys showed that kids who take workshops, take engineering classes, and use programs like the Make Magazine… share their interest and excitement about learning.
So why is it good for kids to learn how to make stuff? After all, most kids have trouble making their own lunch because they have no idea how to open a food packet. But by using a program like Recipetips to learn how to tinker, kids can learn how to figure out the difficult parts of it all – and then go from there.
Kids will never know how hard it was to make a speaker-neck warmer, like this kid did with Recipetips. Or to build a 3D circuit board, which this 8-year-old created by hand.
Maybe that’s not so encouraging. I like to think of it as stimulating the creative, creative side of kids – learning that science, engineering, and technology aren’t always about making things that are obvious (and the worst possible solution to a problem), and learning that everyone’s different, and there’s value in seeing ways to learn from it.
Also, you’ll never want to let them watch a “Lost” episode again, because kids will see how much effort it took to build the hatch. It’s impressive to kids that this kid had to go all the way back to model building and plans to build a model, get a chunk of computer science, put together a program and interface, and draw some paper and paint.
So it’s not like the tool is going to turn kids into building robots – though kids will learn the design and drawing skills to get to that point.
According to Science Today, people were always building things when they were kids – they called them tomahawks, elephant talons, and cleaves. They didn’t want to show off those things. They didn’t get fancy, and thought they were developing a hobby, or something for fun. And so they played with the things they could figure out – they didn’t learn the complicated instructions, and then build complicated machines from there.
Trust me – kids who are learning to learn through Technology and Innovation class or whatever can really only learn through hands-on activities. And what’s more hands-on than watching a kid build a ship? All I know is that kids who are interested in technology and their technology need to be learning this stuff as much as possible.
So, the next time you see a little kid bemoaning the fact that he has to spend all his time outside, just tell him about kids who make their own kit. See how excited he gets, then ask him to tell me about the design. Here’s to aspiring engineers and scientists. And if he asks what his hobby is, I will tell him about how he used Recipetips. And that would make me really happy!