Tools and Toys for Knowledge Construction

MSTU 5199

This course is a hands-on design course intended to introduce students to the core tenants and techniques of constructionist design. In this course students explore, use, and evaluate existing educational technologies specifically designed to engage learners in personally meaningful construction. These technologies include virtual construction environments and tools (NetLogo, Scratch, Pencil Code, etc) for creating digital games, simulations, or interactive stories as well as state-of-the-art prototyping equipment (3D printers, laser cutters, microcontrollers, etc) for developing wearables, robotics, interactive exhibits, and electronic toys. While a portion of this course is devoted to becoming familiar with the affordances of these technological tools the primary goal is for students to design and develop a new tool or environment for knowledge construction.

On this website you can find summaries and images of a few of the final projects produced by students in the course.

Fall 2016

Physics Coding Game

Physics Coding Game

The purpose of the development of this educational game is to teach both, coding skills and basic physics content – simple machines – while accounting for both formats of coding (block and text). Like any other game there are levels that children would have to work through in which they will use code to complete the path or direct the path of their chosen avatar through a challenge puzzle in the game. The block code to text code mechanism is specifically included and adapted to address the preferences of a user’s coding format.
--Nirmaliz Colon-Acosta

MyPlate Toy Kit

MyPlate Toy Kit

The constructionist toy kit that I made aims to help children develop healthy eating habits, as well as healthy relationships with food, through helping them design and cook meals with their parents. It includes a teddy bear that children can name for themselves, a MyPlate box with a set of plastic foods, a journal, and a guide for parents that encourages them to create healthy meals with their children based on USDA recommendations. Children feed the bear by filling its plate with items from each food group. If all five categories are satisfied, the bear will respond with positive feedback. Children can use the accompanying journal to keep track of their bear’s meals as well as their own meals side-by-side.
--Amy Ho

Knitting Visualizer

Knitting Visualizer

This project is a mix of the physical and virtual. The first part is a beginner knitting kit including yarn and tools to begin crafting projects. The second part is an online knitting visualization program allowing the user to do one of two things: first, they may program simple knitting patterns by specifying what to stitch in each row, resulting in a symbolic knitting chart indicating where different stitches should go in the overall pattern (a commonly used tool for knitters). The second part of the program is the ability to do the reverse: to fill in the stitches on a knitting chart in order to view a rough (automatically generated) version of the code behind it. The overall goal of this project is to help learners draw stronger connections between disciplines like computing and procedural activities and hobbies that are not traditionally thought of as technical, with secondary goals of helping novice knitters more easily create and tinker with knitting patterns with the use of programming.
--Stephanie Yang

My Panda Habitat

My Panda Habitat

The constructionist toy, My Panda Habitat, is an activity designed for elementary students to explore how to solve real world problems of balancing nature and population growth through designing a new city around a panda habitat. Following the premise of a story provided with the game, elementary students are enlisted by the Chinese government to create a design on their blueprint board provided with the game that protects the pandas and provides room for people to live. This game marries the computing and physical worlds through different design challenges that serve the ultimate goal of protecting the pandas.
--Elyse Warren

KnitCircle

KnitCircle

KnitCircle is an online community where users explore programming concepts (e.g. commands, loops, functions, variables) by knitting digital artifacts. Equipped with a digital scratchpad and a knitting machine, the user sets out to design garments of any shape, size, or color – be it Christmas stockings that sport the name of a loved one or a simple striped scarf. Users may reproduce their digital artifact in the physical world by hand-knitting their creations – which they can then upload to appear alongside their digital artifact. Lastly, users may share their designs and code with the community of KnitCircle members. Other users may begin at a different point of entry and instead start out by browsing the community page and by reusing and remixing a shared design.
--Marleen Villeroy

Fall 2015

E.T.

E. T.

My overall goal is to create a constructionist toy for young children to cultivate empathy. This toy will help students identify emotions by observing the behaviors of the toy while interacting with it. In addition, students will be able to express their own emotions through programing the behaviors of the toy. This toy will be ideally used in classroom and afterschool settings with teachers’ facilitation, because teachers can initiate discussions around the toy to help students be more observant of other people’s behaviors and be more explicit of their own feelings.
--Fang Yi

Embodied Number Sense Kit

Embodied Number Sense Kit

I am designing a constructionist kit that allows for the creation of embodied number models. The embodied number sense kit is a mixed bag of simplified, easily connectable “blocks” that students can use to construct number sense models. The units are powered by a simple battery with safely designed outputs to power a mixture of components. Several of the components available to young students are LEDs, dials, simple switches, sound-emitting devices, and motors. Once the units are connected, the student can switch on a low level current, which will then power their self-created device.
--Kevin Alster

GoGo Board Toolkit

GoGo Board Toolkit

The GoGo Board toolkit is a hardware-embedded curriculum designed to teach children aged 7-10 years old the concept of compassion through invention. The toolkit is inspired by stories that adults read out loud to their loved ones. Many storybooks are interactive but few engender proactive behavior from young readers. Storybooks in the GoGo Board toolkit aims to help young children observe and understand the problems of others. With support from adults, children can construct original inventions that help others solve their problems using the GoGo Board, scrap or prototype materials, and their imagination. The main objective is to inspire children to be active social inventors who can see the problems of others or themselves and be eager to solve them.
--Sawaros Thanapornsangsuth

Flipper's Stamp Collection

Flipper's Stamp Collection

"Flipper's Stamp Collection" is a prototype for a series of curriculum worksheets, and a workspace for planning a film with coin tossed randomized segments and pathways. It is intended to be an informal philosophical art curriculum for adults to share with adults or adults to share with teenagers and children.
--Rory Parks