Thursday, March 16, 2017

16 On a School Night

Maria's school had a STEM Family Night, an evening of demonstrations and science-tech-engineering-math activities for some of the fifth and six graders and their families. It's not a program Maria has been participating in, but she was invited to be part of the group who exhibit. So, we brought Da Vinci out of semi-retirement (really, it was more of a sabbatical,) painted him blue, dusted off his drawing table, ran some diagnostics on his programming, and lent him a team hat. He was raring to go! So was Maria. She reviewed all the technical aspects and systems that operate Da Vinci, our drawing automaton. She's got it down... that he runs on Inkscape, the opens source app that allows our Egg-bot circuit board to direct three motors to move magnets along the x and y axis, plus the up and down motion of Da Vinci's pen hand. And she can discuss vector vs raster, or pixel illustrations, how she develops original art in Scratch, up loads it in Inkscape and Da Vinci can reproduce her drawings.

And one more thing... we get a surprising number of people that stand before our creations, scratch their heads, and ask, "Why? What's it for?" This question, and also the implication that our pursuits are pointless, can be frustrating for us, and have dismayed us, too. Geoff and I tend to get a bit defensive, even incredulous, because we think the answer is so obvious! The answer we often proffer is, "Why not? But we know this doesn't do much to achieve outreach, to help someone who doesn't get it to appreciate the elegance, beauty, purpose of making strange things. It's not always easy to maintain our energy and message when demonstrating at a fair for ten hours, two days in a row, but Maria shared her thoughts on the question,"Why? What's it for?" and I think her words are going to do a great deal to help us feel like we have a thoughtful and succinct response.

So... the next time someone, with a puzzled expression, asks incredulously, doubtfully, "Why? What's it for?" We can reply, in Maria's words, "We are here to demonstrate what we've made, which are things that might not seem 'practical,' but which show the principles of science, technology, engineering, art, math, music. The skills and knowledge applied, and taught, in making our creations are practical skills, which can be applied to 'real life' challenges and objectives, invention, innovation, and fun. We learn how to make, we share what we make, and we inspire more making."

Nice.

Happily, most of the time, people totally get it, and that's what we love about bringing Da Vinci out, on a school night... sharing our love of STEAM is fun.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

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