In March, the Yale gradSWE outreach team was ready to share the SpinWheel with the world and launched it on Kickstarter. At the link, you can buy SpinWheels for yourself, for a friend, or for outreach events. All proceeds from the Kickstarter will fund more Yale gradSWE outreach events like those described here. By supporting the Kickstarter, you will help further the team’s mission of inspiring the next generation of engineers.
Creativity is essential to problem solving. While obvious to engineers, this fact is often overlooked by others. Seeking to overcome this misconception and help more students imagine themselves as engineers, the Yale gradSWE team brings together art and engineering in their K-12 outreach.
Their activities empower students through the use of real engineering tools (for instance, teaching middle school students to solder!) and attract students who previously hadn’t seen themselves reflected in the stereotypes of engineering. The team first realized the benefit of this dual approach after leading high school students through building and programming motion-sensing LED bracelets. They were able to successfully attract students who hadn’t thought engineering was for them and excite them about continuing to personalize their bracelet’s code at home.
The need for more engineering kits that meld art and engineering became clear to the team from conversations at concurrent parent and educator events. Parents repeatedly asked about take-home activities they could use to further encourage their children to explore engineering. Enthusiastic about this idea, the Yale gradSWE outreach team designed the SpinWheel–a colorful, wearable, programming kit–to help more kids realize that creativity isn’t only part of art, but essential to problem solving.
The SpinWheel’s motion sensors and LEDs are fully programmable by the user. Experienced coders can jump right in, while the provided educational guide will enable programming novices to gain the skills and confidence to write their own Arduino code for the SpinWheel. Some of the activities in the educational guide include turning the SpinWheel into a step counter and programming the LEDs to change color with the wearer’s motion. The online resources that come with the kit include a virtual SpinWheel so that students can modify the given code in place and see how it will affect their device when uploaded.
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