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Real Life Debugged » 2009 » March

Archive for ◊ March, 2009 ◊

I wrote before about Siftables - the toys that think. Taco Lab Blog explores this kind of creative thinking from all angles including emerging technology, education, and product design with international perspective.

Some recent posts:

» Advice to kids interested in technology including the “basics” - take stuff apart!

» Technology-based art: “[H]ow artists use dynamic, interactive technologies to reveal the logic, structure, and beauty inherent in experimental, non-traditional applications.”

» Ideas and products based on gestural input (like the Siftables)

And the concept of Chinese Shanzhai and China’s tactics to slide into the gaping price gap between high cost American goods and the inexpensive American DIY (Do It Yourself) culture.

Taco Lab was founded by MIT grads who have a great mission:

We won’t give you a design that can’t be made, and we won’t build you a solution no one wants to use.

Siftables - Toys that Think: I Want ‘Em!
Sunday, March 22nd, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

Mixing paint with cans of blue and red

Mixing paint with "cans" of blue and red

Hi tech toys are pretty cool. Hi tech toys that think are beyond cool!  And what if they also secretly foster learning and problem-solving?  Sign me up!

When I originally started this post musing how we learn problem-solving skills as kids. Like neat toys that promote creativity. Or just wandering around in the woods. Tying Hot Wheel’s orange track sections to our shoes to go “skiing.”

But nahhh. Let’s jump straight to the chase. I found a toy I want for Christmas.

“Siftables” - One part of me instantly tries to dissect them in my head - little micros, a low power wireless links like Zigbee, oh the algorithms! Another part of me just wants to lay them all out on the table and muck around for hours.

Siftables - the Toys that Think - ” … cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands. These future-toys can do math, play music, and talk to their friends, too. Is this the next thing in hands-on learning?”

Watch the movie and don’t miss the end! I want ‘em!

Subtitle: Another digression about talking with those silly customers

I had a discussion with a good friend the other day - we’d spent years fire-fighting embedded systems gone wrong. During many all-nighters and several 110-hour weeks, our deepening ire became sharply focused on the idiocy of using zillion-line industry standards as product requirements.

On that project, there was no “customer need” or requirements document. I’d never met a customer. That was 12 years ago. It hasn’t changed much, he admitted. Now, as it was then, buggy products are still late.

Then I was approached by a university to redo their senior design program. Cooool - I got to indoctrinate brand-new engineers to the entire industry-standard process: starting with customer needs and requirements. “Back away from the keyboard,” I told them. “TALK to the customer.” And you know what? They got it!

To my delight, my best teams delivered beyond the customers’ expectations, and one won a national design award for their work. (Their story is below)

If graduating engineers can do it, why can’t we?

more…

The stereotypical learning style for engineers is that of visualization - we learn through seeing. Pictures and diagrams, watching facial expressions, doing practical projects. The other two learning styles are auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (feeling). Since ~65% of the population are classified as visuals, proposed changes in education include adding more visual elements to improve learning.

And here it is in practice! While searching for a recipe online, I found Cooking for Engineers. Lemmee jump to the punch line - here’s the summary for Shrimp Scampi.

more…