Sparktruck: creativity and design on the road



I have been doing a lot of online research recently into the subject of creativity and innovation. I found that one of the most dynamic and interesting places where these subjects has been looked at and researched is at the Stanford University D School.

I would need a separate post about the  approach and studies going on at this fascinating place. In this post though I am going to be concentrating on a group of D School students who had a simple idea of bringing “making and designing” to Elementary and Middle school students.The way they were going to do this was by purchasing a truck that looked something like a Library Bus and then filling it full of equipment (a mixture of state-of-the-art technology like 3D Printers as well as craft materials like paper, cardboard, felt, pens, paper and lollipop sticks!

They raised the money for the truck by putting out an appeal and then set about equipping it with the materials. They then toured around the Bay Area to try their ideas with local schools.

The initial visits were so successful that they decided to take this experiment on the road and during 2012 they have traveled 14000 miles making 73 stops  treating 2,679 elementary and middle school students to hands-on workshops covering the basics of electrical engineering and digital fabrication, and giving a chance to make cool stuff in the process, like small robotic creatures and laser-cut rubber stamps.

During the course of this “adventure” they found that the children had great fun but found the process of problem solving difficult. This is covered in some detail in an excellent article by Katherine Sharpe in Wired Magazine called  “SparkTruck’s Surprise Lesson: Using Design Skills to Build Kids’ Character”.

The whole enterprise is explained in the following  presentation that the students made at the D-School:

I loved the style of the presentation and the way that the students combined older and new technology in an engaging manner. This whole project has raised questions about the need for creativity and problem solving in education and the need to allow children to have access to make,design, collaborate and investigate in order to get skills that they will need if they (and we) are to survive an uncertain future.




About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
This entry was posted in creativity, Digital Technology, The 21st Century school. Bookmark the permalink.

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