Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sabin Elementary Magnet School Outreach!

Yesterday we held an outreach event at Sabin Elementary Magnet School with 66 students from 3 different 7th grade classes. We were lucky to have the director of the Invention Convention join us as guest speaker, Miss Anneliese Gegenheimer. Miss Gegenheimer gave an insightful presentation on the Cycle of Inventing and an introduction to patents. The students participated by guessing the steps of the invention cycle and walked through an example of a patented invention.

We also watched a short video Miss Gegenheimer picked up on her travels to Tanzania, Africa about an inventor and how he used the cycle of inventing to invent a bicycle powered cell phone charger.

After the presentation we did 2 activities with the students. In the first activity the students split into groups and each group was given a random object and asked to think of different ways it could be used. Our next exercise was "invention charades" where students chose a card with an invention from Chicago and had to act out the invention for the group to guess. The students really got into this one!

We would like to thank Mr. Lazio for helping organize the event. We would also like to thank the 7th grade teachers for helping out at the event. Finally, thank you to the students for participating and good luck to the inventors! Looking forward to seeing your inventions!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chopin Elementary School Outreach Visit

This past Thursday, Gina Cardosi (a project manager at IBM) and I visited Ms. Caraba's 8th grade social studies class to present City Forward, a free, web-based platform that enables users to view and interact with city data while engaging in an ongoing public dialogue.

To help break the ice, we started the visit off with a Scattergories game. Working in pairs, the students were - in a minute's time - asked to come up with as many Chicago street names, famous Chicago landmarks, and things to do in Chicago that started with a given letter. When given the letter B, for example, students came up with great inputs such as "Belmont", "(the) Bean", "(playing) baseball", etc.

The activity helped the students think about the City of Chicago - its different aspects and characteristics....and was a great segway into Gina's demonstration of the City Forward site. The students saw that - through the site - they could also gather all sorts of different information on a city: its GDP, population size, education attainment levels, etc. Additionally, they could compare different cities and city data.

Playing around on the site themselves (luckily, the students in this class had iPads!) and through Gina's demonstration, students saw that greater education attainment levels correlate with higher wages, Romania males generally receive more schooling than Romanian females, unemployment rates spiked during the 2008 economic crisis, and more.

It was a great visit and the students seem well on their way to being data scientists. We can't wait to see all their great inventions!

In the meantime, check out some pictures from the visit:

Gina passing out the Scattergories game 

The students are deep in thought thinking up answers for the Scattergories ice breaker

 The students are listening intently as Gina presents the City Forward site

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A.N. Pritzker School Outreach Visit

Mr. Dave Rook and I arrived at A.N. Pritzker School on a chilly Friday morning. School had already begun, and we slowly made our way to Room 309 to find Mrs. Schauer’s 8th grade class filing in and taking their seats.

I began the outreach visit by connecting the invention process to a topic that the students were familiar with, the scientific method. Using Oreos and cookies as incentives to participate, I asked students to walk through the scientific method step by step. Almost immediately, many eager students raised their hands and together we quickly put the steps into order on the whiteboard:
  1. Ask a question
  2. Brainstorm or do some background research
  3. Make a hypothesis
  4. Test the hypothesis
  5. Analyze results
  6. Write up a conclusion and share it
Mrs. Schauer's students thinking about the Invention Cycle

I explained that although students often learned the scientific method as a linear chain of events, it is really a cycle that repeats itself for each new discovery. I then showed how the invention cycle is analogous to the scientific method by asking students to walk me through how they would invent a product. Pointing at the first step of the scientific method on the board, I asked the students: “what is a problem you want to solve?” Two student in the back pointed out that cold floors in the morning are very uncomfortable, so we decided to find a way to keep our feet warm in the winter. Proceeding with this problem, the class found that heating each tile would be too inefficient, so we settled on heated slippers. With all of the input from the different students, we were not only able to go through the entire invention cycle, but also develop a new product along the way. Our invention cycle looked like this:
  1. Find a problem you want to solve – "Cold floors in the morning are uncomfortable"
  2. Do some brainstorming and market research – Heated tiles are expensive and inefficient, heated slippers are more practical and are a relatively novel invention
  3. Make a prototype – We could put some portable heaters or pads in the slippers
  4. Test the prototype – Make a physical product and have people test them out
  5. Analyze your product – Which aspects of the slippers should be retained or improved?
  6. Finalize, publicize, and protect your invention – How do you get from a prototype to a final product and how you can protect your invention through patents?

At this point, I introduced Mr. Dave Rook and his project City Forward. Going through his project, Mr. Rook emphasized the importance of data and how City Forward synthesizes public data into presentable data sets that anybody can use. Citing real-life examples, Mr. Rook showed the class that data can be used to see the relationship between education level and salary. He also talked about STEM careers and 6-year P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) programs where students can earn an associate’s degree upon graduation. Along the way, Mr. Rook provided thought-provoking questions that helped the students understand the value of public data (Example: What are some companies that have commercialized public data? Sample answers: local weather stations, Google, and and how data is used to inspire teamwork at events such as hackathons. Mr. Rook concluded his presentation by sharing some resources that students can access for fun.

Guest Speaker Dave Rook  introducing City Forward

I concluded our outreach visit by pointing out that although City Forward might not seem like an invention (as some students pointed out it is neither physical nor novel) it actually is an invention. First, City Forward solves an important problem in modern times - we have an excess of irrelevant data that we need to sort through. Second, City Forward does a better job of aggregating all of the important data into one location that is easily accessible. Lastly, I explained that City Forward is a project that demonstrates the cyclical nature of invention by pointing out that after people like Mr. Rook go through the invention cycle to invent City Forward, others can use City Forward to create new inventions of their own.