domingo, 7 de julho de 2019

Stories of Tomorrow, Today

Cá está, a apresentação que fiz na escola de verão Stories of Tomorrow. Um momento gratificante, em que partilhei ideias sobre programação, robótica e 3D a um grupo de professores ligados às ciências vindos de toda a União Europeia. Foi mais falar do que mostrar como se faz, mas o objetivo era dar uma visão de ferramentas destas vertentes que podem ser usadas em projetos que tenha o Espaço como tema. Foi um prazer partilhar a experiência que adquiri com os meus alunos no Agrupamento de Escolas Venda do Pinheiro, que representei no evento.

Pelo aplauso entusiástico que recebi quando terminei a apresentação, fico com a sensação que o público gostou (isso, e o feedback pessoal que me foi dado por alguns dos participantes). Ou então, estavam a aplaudir porque, finalmente, me calei... Deixo aqui a apresentação, e as suas notas.

Stories of Tomorrow, Today: Coding, Robotics and 3D printing – STEAM based activities and Space.

Slide 1: Introduction - Stories of Tomorrow, Today: Coding, Robotics and 3D printing – STEAM based activities and Space. In this talk, I will do an overview of some coding, robotics and 3D tools, showing how to use them for storytelling activities or other types of learning scenarios.

Slide 2: Who am I - A short presentation. I’m a teacher at Agrupamento de Escolas Venda do Pinheiro, near Lisbon. Even though I began my career as an arts teacher, now I teach ICT. Essentially, this is what I like to teach kids: how to use tech tools to spark creativity.

Slide 3: Who am I- I’m also the co-creator of the Anprino robot, a low cost, open source solution for educational robotics. Created by ANPRI, the portuguese informatics teacher’s association, this project combines the power of 3D printing, Arduino and blocks-based coding, to enable a low cost, multifunctional and easily transformable robotics platform. There are kits in more than 150 portuguese schools. This is an open source project, everyone can freely download 3d printable elements and assemble their own Anprino. Our motto in creating this accessible robotics projets?  So that no child is left behind: έτσι ώστε κανένας σπουδαστής να μην μείνει πίσω.

Slide 4: Coding - When I was creating this presentation, I orignally wrote “coding for children”. But, actually, what this tools enable is coding BY children. Scratch started it all: it’s blocks-based approach, construtivist vision and low floor/high ceiling principle sparked an educational revolution. This aproach actually has a long history, dating to the 1960’s. A time where computers were hardly as ubiquitous as today, and yet, at MIT, Seymour Papert had the vision that these machines could be powerful learning tools in the hands of children, fostering deep skills. Today, the blocks based coding approach is used to spark children’s interest about coding and fostering computational thinking. With this approach, it’s very easy for our students to create games, digital narratives or other programming based activites. As you can see, the hard to memorize commands and structures of coding languages are codified as draggable, connecting blocks, making it easier to create programs. Which tools can you use? Scratch is a great (and free) starting point, and it is supported by a very open community wich invites every creator to share its projects. Also, there are lots of apps that emulate this coding approach. Some, such as MIT Appinventor or Thunkable, can be used to develop full-fleged mobile apps.

Slide 5: Coding - Games are a fun way to challenge students. They play right into one of their main interests. Looking for ideas on space themes for games? Just do a search on the Scratch website, and have fun with the games that the community has created. The game i’m showing is a pretty complex piece of coding, but not all games need to be that complex: you just need an idea, some characters (called sprites on Scratch) and some scenarios (we called them stages). The rest can be done with simple coding, teaching them about actions, cycles, conditional statements, and variables for points.

Slide 6: Coding - Another great way that visual blocks-based coding languages can be used is in creating digital stories or presentations. Easier than video, far richer than a classic powerpoint presentation. In order to achieve this, students will have to do research on the theme, select appropriate multimedia content, structure a way to present it (either as a story or as sequential presentation), and code it. So, they’re learning about the curricular themes, and developing their coding and computational thinking skills.

Slide 7: Coding - Want to go beyond with a coding project? Literally, into orbit? How about challenging your students to creade code that can be run in the ISS? This is the goal of ESA’s AstroPi contest. Any teacher can enter it with its pupils. The challenge is to use Python to write programs that will be run on one of two Raspberry Pi computers inside the International Space Station.  You can use your own Raspberry Pi with the SenseHat add on to program and test, or online tools that emulate this system. Rasperry Pi is a full fledged, low cost computer running on a Linux variant that can be hooked up to basic peripherals and used as desktop computer.

Slide 8: Robotics - There is a huge diversity of accessible robotics solutions on the market – from the very high end NAO and lego kits, to cheaper arduino based solutions. Great classroom robotics solution embodie the principle behind the success of coding approaches in education, the low floor, high ceiling paradigm. Make it easy to understand, yet vast enough to enable advanced projects.

Slide 9: Robotics - One way of using robotics to foster learning about space is by creating a learning scenario. In a sense, similar to what Stories of Tomorrow does, only here the story is the spark that will be translated in tangible constructions. A learning scenario is an integrated approach that mixes knowledge from different areas of the curriculum. In robotics, activiy rugs are very popular, either with squares or full blown maps. The challenge to the students is to program robots to follow specific paths, either on a step-by-step approach, by line following, or obstacle deflection.

Slide 10: Robotics - Can they be applied using space as theme? Yes, in several ways. For example, using (or creating) a mat where the robot has to be programmed to go to specific planes, based on input from task cards. Imagine that your pupils design a solar system, and program a robot to go to chosen planets, for examples. More complex scenarios may mix several technologies, like 3D printing, where children could create their own moon or mars based. More complex: use modular robotics, like Lego kits, to develop robots capable of doing tasks in alien environments. ESA’s teacher workshops on robotics actively explore these kinds of approaches.

Slide 11: Robotics - Or you can enter a competition such as Cansat. The challenge: develop a micro-satelite that fits inside the space similar to a can.

Slide 12: 3D - Now, onwards to 3D printing. Or to be specific, addictive manufacturing. 3D printing is the sexy moniker. In fact, addictive manufacturing is a well established industrial techonology, with many innovative ways to manufacure objects. It is especially useful for building difficult pieces with complex geometry. These are some examples of parts for satellites printed using titanium printing. Two examples show comparisons: in the one held by an ESA researcher, he’s comparing a structural element for the wings of a plane. The solid one was machine milled, and is massive and heavy. The other was 3D printed, only needs to be solid on the lines of force distribution. The result is a piece that is as resistant as the traditonally manufactured one, yet it is lighter and uses less material. In a other example, two nozzels for fuel injection into satellite engines. The first was machined and welded, creating potential weak points that can be troublesome. The second was 3D printed as one piece, no welding necessary. Oh, and that smile you see on the researcher’s face? Keep it in mind, you’ll see it again soon… (photos taken by me at ESA’s ESTEC open day).

Slide 13: 3D - Before diving into 3D printing and education, some cool ideas about this technology and space. Made in Space 3d printer became the first addictive manufacturing facility in the ISS. The rationale: being able to print tools and other objects as needed, instead of filling up precious space with supplies that may not be needed. This printer successfuly tested 3D printing in microgravity.

Slide 14: 3D - A consortium of several european companies is developing a 3D printing machine for use in the ISS. Sponsored by ESA, their goal is to create a fully european solution to addictive manufacturing in space, with advanced materials. One of the participants is BEEVERYCREATIVE, a portuguese manufacturer of 3D printers. I’m hoping to see them on the ISS soon…

Slide 15: 3D - Addictive manufacturing is especially suited for complex parts, such as the complex shapes of rocket engines. A lot of companies and research institutes are developing ways to incorporate 3D printing into rocket design. Some companies are trying to go the extra mile, by developing 3d printed rockets. Relativity Space is one such enterprise, and seems serious enough to have been given by NASA a space at Cape Canaveral to develop and launch their rockets.

Slide 16: 3D - Big, bulky, rather ugly, yet proves the concept. This honeycombed strutucture is the result of tests develope by ESA for concepts of 3D printing shelters on the moon, using regolith as a source material. Since going to the Moon to fetch some regolith is a tad expensive, ESA’s researchers used earth materials with a similiar chemical composition, showing that in future moon settlements, structures can be built using this technology.

Slide 17: 3D - Finally, there are a lot of concepts for using 3D printing in space. Habitats, colonies on the moon or mars, created with local materials. The dream of replicating machines goes forth. Remember, it started with RepRap’s dream of buliding self-replicating printers, and where will it take us? 3D printing is actually not a new technology, its first patents date from the 1980’s, and is a well established technology in industrial settings, with several complex and advanced manufacturing techniques. But, for us, seems novel thanks to the availability of FFF/FDM printing technologies, enabled by the open source movement.

Slide 18: 3D - As fun and tantalizing as current developments and future concepts in addcitive manufacturing are, for me, as a teacher, there is something far more important. This is what really matters: enganging our students with meaningful activities. Enabling them to be creators, to express their ideas using digital tools. If our students are taught, from an young age, to master 3D modelling and CAD; if they can 3D print their creations; if they can apply the knowledge they acquired in projetcs, if these technologies are seen as approachable and not out of reach, what will they grow up into? It all starts here. Believe me, I’ve yet to meet a student that hasn’t made that look, the “i made this look”, when holding the first 3d printed object that he designed. It’s a complex look, a mix of pride, fascination, and a broader horizon. Oh, and remember the look on the ESA’s researcher from earlier? O told you you’d see it again, didn’t I?

Slide 19: 3D - Where to begin with 3D modelling? I’m going to show you some apps that are easy to learn (keeping in mind the low floor/high ceiling concept). And I’ll begin with apps for mobile devices, because… what is the one thing all your students have, and can cause chaos and mayhem if taken away from them? Precisely, mobile devices. This is a way to harness them in educational settings. I really love this app. It’s not complex, and it’s actually quite limited, when compared to other 3D software. And yet, it’s extremely simple to use on a mobile device. You can mae rather complex models with your fingers on a tablet or smartphone.

Onshape: full-fledged CAD on the tips of your fingers? Yes, it’s possible. Onshape allows its users to do advanced 3D modelling on any device, either tablet, smartphone or computer. All you need is the mobile app or a browser, and an internet connection.

Slide 20: 3D - And now, moving on for desktop computing apps.

Tinkercad: designed for childred, uses primitive modelling techniques. It’s a very powerful tool, yet simple to use. Models can be created with precise measurements, combining simple shapes called primitives, with boolean operations (cut/group).

Sketchup: online version of the wildly popular and intuitive 3D modeling software. It’s a mix between CAD and surface subdivision modelling. Literally, you can draw in 3D using this app.

Slide 21: 3D - Here’s some examples created by my students at Venda do Pinheiro. Unfortunately, i seldom get to explore Space as theme. In projects, I look to inputs from other teachers, and project have very much focused on heritage, or history. So you’ll have to extrapolate a bit from this talk. Remember, whatever themes or approaches, what really matters is this: challenge students with meaningful projects. Teach them to use digital tools, not per se, but as tool with tangible applications. Essentially, plant seeds of curiosity, science, technology and creativity. The explorers of tomorrow, the creators of killer apps, the designers of future space technologies, are our students, today.

Slide 22: 3D - Finally, how about using virtual reality without costly and high-end computing resources like Oculus? CoSpaces is a fun way to design virtual spaces. You can use presets, or design and Import your own 3D assets. It’s very limited, compared to more advanced VR authoring systems. But it is accessible, easy for young students, and the spaces can be viewed on mobile devices with Google VR.

Slide 23: Conclusion - Remember, this is what really matters. Not to teach technology tools per se, but using them as elements in wider projects. This is where the real learning is. While developing, for example, a computer game or digital presentations using blocks-based coding, students are learning about the theme chosen for the project. But they are also developing teamwork skills, digital literacy, coding skills, in what can sometimes be very informal interdisciplinary approaches. Thank you for your attention.

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