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Doesn’t this product already exist? a couple times over?

well, yes, no, maybe. A few links:

There are quite a few more.

There are 3D printed connectors in Instructables, free to copy.

Search “straw construction” and “straw building” on Amazon.

A deeper search will reveal even more.

Main differences:

  1.   STEMginery has a solid STEM learning mission – so does Cochrane’s. All others seem to be “toys”. STEMginery is more than anything a learning tool.
    It does matter. Even though it can be used even as a competitive game, STEMginery’s focus is not play but to build life and pre-professional skills, based on individual giftings. Yes, it can be a toy, just like I guess a book can be a toy? STEMginery is real, serious stuff. Kids can understand that, and it is important that they do – that principle is how good montessori and homeschooling environments remain safe and effective.
  2. STEMginery is the cheapest.
    And also CC (yes, nc for now, sorry, but hope we can fix that later). Except a few Instructables and Thingiverse, that is uncommon. Strawbees had said they would CC their stuff, it hasn’t happened yet.
    So, people can cut their own STEMginery, if they have the tools, or buy them from me, at bigger bang-for-the buck that any other.

  3. Strawbees is the most versatile in terms of angles, true. But you have to set those angles, which requires some dexterity. STEMginery is solid, with preset angles which make it much easier to get something done (meaning more inclusive in terms of age and skill). Just snap together. Parts are small enough that you can build huge complex objects without the connectors getting in the way (like the 10 ft Eiffel Tower – takes over 2,000 connectors!)

  4. One area where all other products have an advantage is in having their name pronounced STEMginery, alas, suffers from confusing people as to how to pronounce it 😉

 

What your $1 is for

STEMginerylogoI need your help – one dollar.

More than anything, please, please please, tell your friends and help us get one dollar from each one of them.

I want to reduce costs in making STEMginery. I need your help to make the first day of the Kickstarter extraordinary, hopefully on or about June 4.

STEMginery is a set of learning tconstructing01ools to build structures – anything from basic shapes that a very young child can build and learn from, up to very complex assemblies like a DNA model or major engineering trusses.DSCF0973

Follows lots of information. If busy, just get ready to give one dollar to STEMginery’s Kickstarter – all you need is to be able to pay $1 through Amazon. And, of course, tell eveDSCF0973ryone! That helps a lot, ebridgeven if you cannot use Amazon.DSCF0973DSCF0973

What and Wherefore

Meant to be a learning resource that many a child, youth or adult will enjoy exploring, STEMginery even can be played as a competitive game with friends and family.

The fact that it is cheap – and I want it to be even cheaper – makes STEMginery available to pretty much anyone who can enjoy or learn by using it.

Proverbs 22:6
Proverbs 22:6

I do not expect STEMginery to be the educational solution to the STEM needs of the nation (blog post with video of President Obama) – I will be well satisfied if it helps those kids that need construction and building as part of their Path, those kids that otherwise would either be limited to very expensive alternatives, or to nothing. So far I focus in homeschoolers and independent learners (link to my Etsy shop), though I will be happy when established schools see how STEMginery can help in their efforts.

Why $1? Why June 4?

kickstarter-logo-lightOf course I will take more than one dollar, really.
In Kickstarter you can contribute any sum – one dollar is simply the minimum. Please don’t feel that you have to put in more than one dollar.

Yet, please do feel obligated, for friendship and old times sake, to help me with just that one dollar, if with nothing else. (remember, helping me get the word out is also very important, but your dollar is essential)

June 4 (or thereabouts – I am waiting for their approval) is because it is very important in Kickstarter to have a dynamic, strong start. Lots of people coming showing up on the very first day, even better in the very first hour which would be starting right at 10 am.

Beyond the Goal

Several friends windmilland family have assured me already that their contributions will reach the basic goal, set at $650, though that may take several days.

Then, why do I want even more?

It works this way: STEMginery is the very best thing I’ve ever done, the best idea that I have ever been Gifted. You know me maybe as a teacher, hopefully a good one, or a hacker, or as a cook. Well, this is better than the best class I could ever give on sous-vide with a home toaster oven…

This.is.good.stuff

This Kickstarter will put STEMginery in more hands, hands that can use it.

Sure, that 3D printer patent I have pending might be worth a billion dollars, though it is unlikely I will ever see a cent of that.

Instead, STEMginery is a Good Thing. Good in the sense of ἀρετή of 2 Peter 1:5 and Philippians 4:8, or of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – ἀρετή is in many places! as it should be.

STEMginegeodome03ry is truly something new and better in terms of a construction toy / learning tool. LEGO is great – but it is expensive, and limited to square shapes – can’t do chemistry models easily, though with some of you I tried (and had much fun! It would have been so much better that we had STEMginery!). Erector/Meccano is maybe even better than LEGO, but it is really expensive!

STEMginery is quality, can be used to build even real-life structures or pretty much anything, , and it is also cheap!

Even free!

My goal is not the money that I will make from it, though that would be nice… What I really want to achieve is STEMginery reaching the many that can really benefit from it, even if that doesn’t profit me directly

I care enormously for STEMginery to be very affordable, because I do know for a fact how important it is to have the best learning tools – I saw that both as a learner and as a teacher. Cost has a lot to do with what you can actually have… Your help will make STEMginery be very, very cheap – so much that packaging and shipping will be the main limit. This is why I am offering the designs to be used for free, so even more people can get STEMginery even if they did not pay me for it.

Next steps

You will domeArminaget an email shortly before the Launch, with a link to the project’s draft page. Meanwhile, if you want, do contact me – ATXinventor at that g mail service. I would like to hear from y’all!

So, What is STEMginery, really?

You mean, what kind of an object?

At its core, connectors – both physical, as in bits of wood and plastic, and metaphorical, as in ideas that link other ideas together.

For ease in sorting things, we call some of the long one- or two-ended connectors “struts” or “beams”, and generally the others are just “connectors” or “hubs”.

Then we snap them together, and build awesome.

Conceptually

Building things is fun on its own, of course. However, the end goal being that STEMginery be a tool for learning, it so happens that “building” stuff with STEMginery can be quite educational.

A non-definitive list evidently includes,

  • principles of truss engineering – compression, tension. The shape of the network of struts and hubs is important. Triangle = good
  • breaking point of a certain material, or best disposition of that material in a network of connectors to achieve maximum strength with least material
  • Angles, patterns, symmetry. The hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle  is longer than the sides, while equilateral triangles have, well, equal sides. If you use right angles you will end up with struts of different lengths…

Going a bit deeper, concepts of crystallography and three dimensional shapes and forms get easier to comprehend. Geometric solids are easy and fast to build.

  • basic shapes – triangle, square, etc., “make sense”. An angle is two segments meeting at a point. One reason that angles have to wait until 3rd Grade is because we teach angles on the whiteboard or printed page. Sorry, that is not an angle – it’s a representation of an angle, thus adding another layer of abstraction to confuse the kids with. Working with soda straws and STEMginery connectors, a 4 year old (and maybe some 3 y.o.) can make sense of angles – what a segment is, what meeting at a point means, how certain angles are different from others and when put together they make certain shapes and not others becomes evident and simple. As my Dad used to say, we can always complicate it later. But at least it’s something easy to understand very early.
  • Next “notch”, let’s build and make sense of geometric solids. Also something within reach of many 4 year-olds. Yes, we run the risk of ruining their “schooling”, as they will be BORED when that “lesson” comes…
  • What about crystal shapes, molecular shapes, viruses, the frameworks of Life and physics and chemistry? easy! To the point that STEMginery might have a role to play even in high-falutin’ academia!

An example

Last night I invited a visitor to out The Robot Group meeting to try out STEMginery sClugs to build a basic truss with plain soda straws, the design with a square normal section. Then we placed a 2-pound XO laptop on top of the truss that was laying on its side. The truss promptly collapsed.

What was interesting of the event was the reactions. Some saw the collapse initially as an entertaining “fail”. Did I mention that the visitor was 9 years-old or so? His reaction seemed to be like a bit of confusion.

Now, I must admit that maybe I did expect the truss to hold. Maybe the kid assumed I knew what I was doing, and maybe what I saw as confusion had to do with his expectation of “success”. And it might be that I am old and mañoso (crafty) that I immediately segued into how we needed a crossbrace perpendicular to the main axis of the truss, and then guided him to do such a crossbrace – very briefly mentioning the issue of the length needing to be longer than the side of the truss.

Crossbrace added, the truss section did hold one XO, but the straws were buckling when a second one was added. This time the peanut gallery was engaged and focused in discussing the whats and wherefores of better design.

Now, I couldn’t have planned it better. I must admit it was serendipitous, but the fact is that the “lesson” went exactly where it should have gone. I totally loooove this thing about graceful failure being an opportunity and a motivator for learning! Maybe, maybe, someone doing this activity will feel inspired to experiment. Like in Real Life trying something out, figuring how it works, how it fails, then trying again (you can learn the fancy names for the Scientific Method later – but if you are doing it already, so much gained). Then getting motivated to research about how the Master Builders through the ages have dealt with similar issues. Then hopefully logging the finds.

That in itself would be worth many, many hours of “class” time.

Contrast this with a close ended “experiment” as seen in any school of the land. Either of, everything is designed to achieve “success” for a given project – a dry, recipe how-to of something, maybe with fancy and very expensive parts. Just like any theory-based cook, you’re shot if you don’t have the “right” ingredients – you never learned substitutions and creative hacking. Or, the structure is built with flimsy marshmallows that, besides being a shameful waste of foodstuff, at best is a representation of a truss as it is unable to actually reproduce issues of tension and compression. And is a total mess if the experiment “fails”.

Graceful failing = Good Thing

As I’ve said it before, it’s in the graceful failing where good learning often is to be found. It’s that “failure” and subsequent search for the “solution” where innovation is born. Responding to practical needs, even if simulated with a toy-like contraption, builds some of the skills and mindset – yes, “hacking” itself – that are at the core of the Scientist. The Mathematician. The Engineer. The Technologist.

And STEM becomes.

 

 

STEMginery, the basics

STEMginerylogo is

  1. relevant to the STEM fields
    (or at least to what STEM means to me). This includes being usable to develop abilities in a diversity of STEM and STEM-related areas and skills, especially in several at the same time
  2. affordable
    long story on why STEMginery needs to be cheap, short: failure is an essential part of the learning process. If something is so expensive that breaking it gets the kid in trouble, then it will not get really used. The ability of failing gracefully is part of a good learning tool.
    Being affordable includes the right to copy it under a reasonable set of terms
  3. simple, easy to use
    naked you were born, and there is that first approach to the tool – it has to be something that makes sense from day one
  4. capable of complexity
    as you grow in your skills the tool has even more to give
  5. real life-relevant
    the knowledge and skills acquired have a minimum number of steps from the “toy/learning tool” to something that makes sense in actual, practical, grown-up contexts.
  6. academics-relevant
    culture and education are all about “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Learning from books has its place. It’s called a foundation – good metaphor, do not forget it.
  7. fun
    certainly!

 

STEM, where it came from, where is it NOT going

President Obama goes on to tell us (link to complete video) how many billions and billions are going to be burned spent in a guaranteed failure effort at solving the STEM “hole” we are told that  America is in.

Bless their hearts. Throwing money at a problem will solve it, right? Like it has worked so well before, right?

Nope.

Reality is reality, even when ideology “owns” science and tries to reinvent it. Truth is, education today is reaching more people than ever before in history, has more investment that ever, is the bestest ever. In Science, Math, everything. Yet, it is true that one-size-fits-all schooling is not good enough, or, should we stop short? it is no good. Cannot be.

And the STEM fields – and innovation in general – are in decay.

The intention of making an effort is good. However, investment in one-size-fits-all schooling cannot produce quality. Goes against the laws of nature. It might work for the majority (ahem, not even that…), but, those kids who could and should develop the STEM fields as they grow up are not “the majority”. They are the few. They are different.
They are needed. We need them – whole, fit, able, not shell-shocked for surviving a hostile school environment where innovation is not welcome.

The STEM-able are badly served by one-size-fits-all schooling. It kills them, or at least leaves them by the side.

It’s not just about kinesthetic

I mentioned kinesthetic learning in a previous blog post. Score one more for those shameful simplifications that we teachers make, simplifications which rightfully earn us the scorn of the population that notices. Making schooling into a kinesthetic-based one-size-fits-all model would barely improve STEM development.

Facts:

  • Each student is an individual
  • Each teacher is an individual
  • Learning often has very little to do with from what is being taught
  • Learning is an individual thing.

The best that a teacher can do is the agricultural approach:
provide a fertile ground, light, a good environment, support.
And watch them grow and flourish.

And how they amaze us all.

The worst s/he can do is “teach”, as in, “I have the truth and you are ignorant and when I am done with you you will be ignorant no mo’.” Or its alternative “everything goes, you are validated, whatever, whatever. Now be social!”

Is STEMginery the solution?

Good point you make, ATXinventor. Should we then adopt STEMginery, and have it fix everything?

Won’t work!
Are you listening? There is no one solution.

Proverbs 22:6
Proverbs 22:6

Every child has a path – a nature, giftings, talents – hidden or not, whatever you want to call it. Grownups are supposed to guide the child on that path. And stay out of the way, except when maybe helping clear the road ahead.

What STEMginery can do (and so far it seems it can do it very well) is to be one among other useful tools that fit that individual hunger for the particular kinds of stimuli where building stuff is an important element of the learning process of some children. It might even best many other attempts or tools so far. As with anything when we are aware of reality, it will be a total disaster for some and so-so for most, but for some, the best.thing.ever.

It all depends – on the child, parents, environment, but more than anything on the individual child (or maybe on the grownup using it – STEMginery has no age limit).

While I would like to make a decent living out of it, I am not really looking for the established schools to buy it.

My goal is to serve those that can benefit from it. Do you have one of those? follow my Kickstarter!

I am reasonably convinced that a great proportion of those children who will make a difference in Technology, Math, Science and Engineering do benefit from building the kind of strengths that STEMginery reinforces.