I could probably write ten posts based upon my experiences at Maker Faire. I only went Saturday, but I quickly realized how there is just TOO MUCH to see in one day. For this post I will focus on Robert Faludi’s talk on “Fun with Xbees.” His lecture showed some of the amazing projects that were made possible using Xbees (a component which can wirelessly communicate with an Arduino board). One project that I found applicable to our class (and also relates to our visitor last week) was Indiana University’s “BeeSim”. BeeSim uses LilyPad Arduinos and Xbee radios as well as open-source software to teach children about bee behavior. This video is a great introduction:
One point made in the video that was interesting was that children settled down and started to discuss/analyze bee behavior once they started to play the game within the constraints of set rules. The bee glove is programmed so that the children have to let the bee “rest” between rounds of delivering pollen – this time is spent by the children talking with each other about what they just did – and perhaps how to do the tasks faster during the next round. This reminded me of Vgotsky’s ‘Play and its role in the Mental Development of the Child’. “Action in the imaginative sphere, in an imaginary situation, the creation of voluntary intentions and the formation of real-life plans and volitional motives – all appear in play and make it the highest level of preschool development.” After playing BeeSim, the children gain a very developed understanding of why and how bees produce honey, and gain the ability to describe the process with the proper terminology (stamen, pollen, proboscis, ect.)
Because the tools to create the BeeSim project are relatively inexpensive, and all the software is available for download (the instructions are posted on Instructables – schools/organizations only need access (in theory) to someone who knows a bit about programming, hardware components and electronics (all things that can be learned via an introductory book on electronics) to have a BeeSim game of their own.