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Education News Schools STEAM

Experiencing VR with EduKits

So who wants to try Virtual Reality? That was exactly the question we were asking at this year’s Science Week and the answer is pretty much everyone!

Over a period of 6 hours the EduKits team gave over 300 curious people from the Riverina their chance to check out virtual reality using the latest Pico VR headsets.

If you are curious about hiring a set of 9 for your classroom or own community event, get in contact with us. The headsets come in a protective hard case with inbuilt charge dock.

The benefit of the Pico headsets is they are an integrated unit with 50 VR experiences able to be pre-loaded, meaning no messing around with inserting mobile phones.

To ensure the fun continued after the experience, we had cardboard viewers available courtesy of Wagga City Library, which we gave out with an instruction sheet we designed navigating people to some of the best VR apps available.

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Education News STEAM

And that’s how to do Science Week!

Over the weekend EduKits was proud to be involved with our local Science Week events running what was dubbed the VR Headset Holodeck in the Historic Council Chambers of the City of Wagga Wagga.

At the Holodeck we had 9 VR headsets with around 50 different experiences loaded for community members to experience what VR in education looks like. The headsets had something for everyone, from exploring physics, maths and medical sciences, to the arts including works of Van Gogh and our natural world including volcano’s, jungles, the arctic and space.

The staff at the Wagga City Library have to be commended for yet again pulling together one of the best community science events in all of Australia.

To give an indication of the experiences they brought over a weekend, all with low or no cost to attendees, included the following:

  • Emmersive Science III with SciVR
  • Twisted Science Shows
  • My Mad Scientist Mummy with Dr Rina Fu
  • Augmented Reality Sandbox
  • Future World – Guitar Apocalypse
  • Rosie Deacon’s Foam Fantastical Fabulous Fun
  • MBot robotics run by TRAC
  • Marvelous Microbes with CSU’s John Harper
  • Space-O-Rama with Jeremy Kruckle
  • Design a Parasite with Dr Rina Fu
  • VR Headset Holodesk with EduKits in the Historic Council Chambers

With this year’s science week over, we can’t wait till next year. For your diaries, 2020 Science week is on 15-23 August.

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Education News STEAM

Building Rockets with NASA JPL

The team at EduKits have just come off a mega weekend of STEM where we ran bottle rocket workshops as part of an initiative that saw a team of NASA JPL scientists land in the regional NSW city of Wagga Wagga to inspire our next generation of big thinkers and doers.

Organised by One Giant Leap Australia the weekend was an extravaganza for space, science and engineering enthusiasts featuring 12 concurrent talks and workshops along with a fantastic drone racing display.

Some of the features of the weekend included talks by:

Tom Nolan – Earth and Climate Scientist who ran two prsentations, one of moonwalkers and the other on climate literacy, where we were challenged to always remember “this planet is on loan to us from our children”.

Todd Barber – Senior Propulsion Engineer who presented a history of propulsion with NASA JPL, introduced us to what’s happening with the Cassini Mission to Satury and also gave us insights into the two Voyager Spacecrafts on which he has expert knowledge.

Deb Brice – Marine Science Educator also gave two excellent talks on both science exploration in extreme environments and ocean acidification and coral reefs.

Rachel Zimmerman Brachman – Outreach Lead for Radioisotope Power Systems was on hand to deliver presentations on NASA’s Mars program along with helping us to understand what happens to the human body when an astronaut goes into space.

Dr. Michael Malaska – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Astrobiologist delivered sessions on the exploration of Saturn’s moon Titan, and also ran a virtual tour of some extreme environments and extreme life on Earth, and some places where life might exist on other planets in our solar system and beyond.

In additional to the above international superstars, attendees also heard from Jackie Carpenter from One Giant Leap about the great work they are doing opening opportunities for the youth of Australia.

Locally, we also had school student Meg Emery present a session on her highly acclaimed astronomy works and Michael Nixon from EduKits ran a rocketry workshop.

Rocketry Workshop with EduKits as part of NASA JPL weekend.
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Uncategorized

Digital inventory and 3D printing – let your students explore the possibilities

One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing technology is the ability to print on demand. Traditionally when making a product demand is estimated with quantities manufactured to meet the sales projections.

This type of manufacturing invariably results in waste with more products been made than is able to be sold. Printing on demand can alleviate this problem, with products being printed on an as needed basis. In addition with the distances to move product eg country of manufacture to warehouse of country of purchase, warehouse to retailer, retailer to end user, there are also significantly reduced net transportation costs. 

On the Printlab lesson plan platform teachers can take their students through a case study involving digital products. Through the lesson titled “Organic Homeware” students will embark on a creative journey to create an online digital store of organic homeware by editing provided 3D scan data (included in the lesson package) or they may scan their own 3D objects where your school has a 3D scanner available. 

Want real world application for 3D printing in your classroom. Try Printlab today. You can sign up for a free trial here.  

Categories
Design Food for thought

Learning from Ive’s design genius

Sir Jonathan Ive is one of the world’s most well-known and critically-acclaimed industrial designers. You’ve probably heard his silky voiceovers during Apple’s minimal product commercials. The designer has spent years working for Apple, some of his most notable designs including the iPhone and iMac.

However, earlier today, it was reported that Ive would be moving on from Apple in a surprise move that caused the company to shed billions in market value. Actually, his move wasn’t really that surprising, as people have been speculating he’s been going to leave for years. He was just kind of on a roll at the moment, after the release of the new iPad Pro and Mac Pro.

There is certainly a lot to be learned from Ive and the way that he does design. In this article, we explore some of his design philosophies and practices that have helped shape the most iconic technology products of our age.

A high value is placed on physically building prototypes.

Many designers “don’t know how to make stuff, because workshops in design schools are expensive and computers are cheaper”.

The ‘digital trap’ of design is very easy to slip into, especially in our increasingly-digital age. It’s not just that it’s cheaper to design things on the computer than in the real world; it’s also much easier and faster. But digital designs and renders can only give you a feel for a design to a certain extent. One of the most undervalued components of a product’s aesthetic and ergonomic function is the way it feels in your hands. This tactile experience just isn’t available digitally.

“CAD software can make a bad design look palatable! … People who are great at designing and making have a great advantage.”

So take it from the master himself: one of the most crucial skills to develop as a designer is the ability to physically make things. It’s going to help you design better products and have a better understanding of how they feel in the real world.

Ive regularly rejects ideas throughout the design process so that he can find the best idea.

Failure’s not a bad thing.

“There are 9 rejected ideas for every idea that works.”

He notes that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to fail – if we are not failing we are not pushing. 80% of the stuff in the studio is not going to work. If something is not good enough, stop doing it.”

In his work, Ive strives to be different, but also better.

One of Apple’s most famous slogans was “Think Different”. While this is an extremely important vision to have when trying to foster innovation, Ive demonstrates that each point of difference should be intentional. That is, designers should strive to be different in order to improve, not just to stand out.

“We won’t be different for different’s sake. Different is easy. Make it pink and fluffy!”

It’s true that making a product different can be done with incredible ease. The challenge comes in implementing radically different solutions in order to create something better. Gimmicks have a very short life, while solutions are more timeless.

He is also deeply philosophical about material and manufacturing.

One of the reasons Ive sounds so good in his commercials is that he really knows what he’s talking about.

“Unless we understand a certain material — metal or resin and plastic — understanding the processes that turn it from ore, for example – we can never develop and define form that’s appropriate.”

Categories
Education Food for thought

Tech talent crisis – impacts for regional Australia

There’s a crisis coming for parts of regional Australia with declining interest in IT careers set to have significant impact on economic growth for the regions. 

The need for people with IT and coding skills was evident at last weeks Jobs for NSW Regional Pitchfest event held in Wagga Wagga NSW, where pitch after pitch the ask was for people to come on board with web or app development skills. Unfortunately the reality is without the IT skill set embedded into these businesses there is little ability to turn great ideas into revenue and then revenue into local employment. 

The situation in the Wagga region is dire.  We attended the 2018 TAFE graduation ceremony and noted the smallest number of IT graduates for many years. It would be an absolute shame for this course to be shut down due to lack of numbers. Certainly from a student perspective wanting to get into a technology career the integrated TAFE/CSU program is one of the best in the country in terms of graduating with industry ready skills and a minimal student loan!!!

It’s often forgotten that people with the technology skills in our community are the enablers. They are the conduit between idea and reality. Certainly EduKits could not have grown to become the business it is today without the significant technology skills that it has available in-house. 

Attending events like the Jobs for NSW Regional Pitchfest certainly validates our mission to get kids, especially in regional areas, excited about technology and to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.

Categories
Food for thought Robotics

Just how destructive is automation?

In this powerful thought piece, Michael Nixon considers what the future will look like in a world becoming increasingly dependant on robotics, artificial intelligence and automation.

In early 2018, many rejoiced in what they believed to be a glimmer of hope for humanity in the face of rapidly-rising automation. Tesla, the world’s largest electric automaker, had reported extreme difficulties in the manufacturing of its newest car – the Model 3. The company for a long time had touted its push towards complete automation on its manufacturing lines as one that would put them at an extreme advantage, but it seemed this effort was failing. CEO Elon Musk eventually conceded that “humans are underrated”, and “excessive automation was a mistake”.

We’ve all heard at least something of the threat of automation, and this threat isn’t something that’s new at all. In fact, trouble has been brewing since the Industrial Revolution when machines first became part of the workforce; it’s only now that fear of them replacing us completely is becoming more rational to consider. A recent report estimated that up to 800 million workers globally will lose their jobs to robots by 2030 (McKinsey Global Institute). Considering that is just a decade away, these are quite troubling numbers if they are to be believed. That will leave a group 30 times the size of the population of Australia unemployed.

Tesla isn’t the only automaker to have made headlines with its automation technologies. The word ‘automation’ can actually be attributed to the Ford Motor Company, from which the term emerged in 1947 when it established an automation department. That was more than half a century ago. The big difference between Ford’s now mature manufacturing processes and Tesla’s controversial ones is that Tesla ambitiously attempted to automate everything – not just parts of the line that was better suited to robots than humans. Many experts believe that this is where the company’s troubles stemmed from feeding robots tasks that they technologically cannot complete. You see, robots were brought into manufacturing in the first place because they are extremely good at doing the same task over and over again with high accuracy. But at the moment, you still need humans to do tasks that involve reasoning, or where the task may change slightly on each repetition.

So it’s great news then, isn’t it, that there are some jobs that robots just won’t be able to do, even in manufacturing. They aren’t good at dealing with small discrepancies or unforeseen circumstances, and that’s where we have the advantage.

Despite what some experts have been saying, Tesla’s automation woes really centred around the issue of machine vision.

Unfortunately, that’s not really the truth at all. Despite what some experts have been saying, Tesla’s automation woes really centred around the issue of machine vision. Essentially, because Musk’s robots couldn’t see, they weren’t able to interpret the world around them and respond to changes in the way that humans are so effectively able to. And this is not a new problem in robotics.

This is where AI comes in. A lot of people think that Artificial Intelligence is just a chatbot, else an evil talking robot in control of the devices around it. In this case, it’s referring to the ability of a machine to learn. Currently, in manufacturing, robots complete the same task in the same way, over and over again. The problem comes when something moves on the production line, and the robot needs to adjust its position to account for the slight change in orientation of the object. Very recent advances in image processing AI has meant this hurdle is going to be overcome surprisingly quickly.

The power that Artificial Intelligence can bring to robots is something that we should all be afraid of. It gifts machines that are already faster and stronger than humans the ability to ‘think’ for themselves and adapt to changing conditions. Humans have survived for thousands upon thousands of years as a weaker species than our prey, but one that always triumphs due to our ability to think and work together. Despite this, we still choose to create something that possesses both these qualities and we fear only losing our jobs.

The truth is, automation isn’t really what we should be worried about. The nature of the workforce has been changing and evolving since the workforce first became a thing. The evolution of technology has brought many new jobs and caused countless other occupations to evolve along with it. Many jobs have disappeared rapidly because of technology, but careers the brightest minds failed to forsee took their place. It is not unreasonable to expect that things will happen in a similar manner this time around.

What humanity should ultimately fear is its quest to make itself redundant. As we have raced to make robots faster, stronger and smarter, we seem to have forgotten why we are even doing this. Most manufacturing occurs because people in the developed world want to buy things; most of which they do not actually need. Automation has risen so quickly because people want to consume faster and quicker and in increasing amounts. The price shed as a result of this shift only encourages a faster flow in the river of spending. And all of this is to fuel our own laziness, our own desire for comfort, and a desire for status which can now seemingly be earned only by buying the right things. We have become short-sighted materialists.

At some point, it has got to break.

We fight for a shorter work week. We fight for lower prices. We fight for free education and healthcare. We fight for more affordable power prices. We fight for low interest rates on home loans. We fight for high interest rates on our savings accounts. We fight for lower taxes. We fight for welfare for those experiencing adversity.

This is not a self-sustaining cycle. As much as we hate to believe it, society is not built to maintain all these things simultaneously. At some point, it has got to break.

Automation is a symptom of this dysfunction and imbalance. There has always been an instinct to make things better and to improve, and manufacturing is no exception to this. But there was a point when we stopped making things we needed, and pumped these things out at increasing speed for the sake of ‘progress’ and ‘the investors’. Having a job to go into isn’t going to be a problem in the future. The bigger problem is that this goes against our push to work less and less but for more money. Robotics and automation will lower costs to transform this sort of poor-luxury lifestyle from a dream into a reality.

And what happens then? We’ve already watched how badly we can destroy a planet. Next, we’re about to see how badly we can destroy ourselves.

In the near future, Tesla will again try to increase its automation efforts on the production line. This time, it is highly likely that they will find success. Artificial Intelligence is just beginning to develop, and it will continue to lead change in every industry. Together, the two will wipe out jobs in an unprecedented manner, but one that we will have already predicted. More jobs will open to fill the void left after this purge, and people will still work.

We’re about to see how badly we can destroy ourselves.

This article is one that will leave many strings untied. I can’t tell you when robots are going to start killing humans, or if they even ever will in the first place. I’m not able to predict when society is going to finally realise that it can’t have everything it wants forever. And you won’t hear from me how long society will be able to retain its identity. The truth is, with the same power that we can predict the future, we also have the ability to shape it.

It is extremely important that as a society, we consider not just what we do, but why we do it. Automation is going to be just as destructive as we let it be, and take just as many jobs as we hand over to it.

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3D Printing Coding Education STEAM

Youth Week Workshops

Our Youth Week workshops in Leeton have just wrapped up, and what a success!

This year Youth Week was held April 10 – 18 with events held across every state and territory around Australia. The EduKits team were only too happy to be involved, providing a technology learning opportunity to kids living in in a rural and regional area.

Coding Kickstart

Our coding workshops using The Amazing Annoyatron were popular with kids and teens. Participants built all sorts of gadgets, gizmos and pranks during the workshop and were able to take the kit home for further learning and tinkering.

During the workshop we had a special visit from Leeton Shire Council’s general manager Jackie Kruger who called in to check out what an Amazing Annoyatron workshop was all about, and also to let the kids know how proud the community was of them taking steps to learn about technology as ultimately they are the future of the town.

3D-Printed Bag Tags

In our 3D printing workshops, held at the Leeton library, we had kids aged 4 – 17 years call in to see what 3D printing was all about. Participants were able to design and 3D print their own bag tags which they could take home after the workshops. It was exciting to see the creativity and imagination that was brought through into some of the designs.

We’ve shared above images of just one of the bag tags that was designed during the workshop.

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3D Printing News

World’s biggest 3D printer giveaway for schools – have you applied?

On the back of a successful roll out of 600 free 3D printers globally during 2018, the GE Additive Education Program is open again for applications. EduKits is pleased to help share the news of this program which opens the doors for many students to gain experience with additive technology who without such a program may not otherwise have that opportunity.

The program is open to schools globally, and last year Australia’s dedication to STEM learning was recognised with 103 schools benefiting from the program.

What the program does is provide schools with hardware (3D printer and rolls of filament), software (including a range of learning and Tinkercad software from Autodesk) and relevant curriculum to deliver learning experiences using 3D printing across science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics subject areas.

Applying for the program is a process that will take approximately 2 hours. Applications are reviewed with selections based on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Geography.
  • Leaders. Preference to schools that commit to drive student access, engagement and to showcase student & classroom works on the GE Polar Cloud platform.
  • Talent. Preference to schools that commit to participate in Program Challenges and other Program activities aimed to reward student and classroom performance.
  • Potential. Preference to schools that lack 3D printing equipment but have a strong commitment to STEM and the resources necessary to drive student access and engagement on the platform.

Applications for the program close on 1 April 2019. Your school can submit it’s application via GE’s website at https://geaep.polar3d.com/

This is a fantastic opportunity for schools, and a great initiative by GE Additive. EduKits is happy to further support schools and teachers with access to some of our free classroom 3D printing resources.

Categories
Education News Schools

EduKits workshops give regional kids their first experiences with VR.

Over the recent school holidays, we ran a Virtual Reality experience and education session for kids from our community in conjunction with the Museum of the Riverina’s STEAM program.

For the benefit of other educators, we thought to share some of the activities and equipment we used to run a session of 2.5 hours in duration.

Starting with the equipment. For the session, we chose to use the VR Go foldable headset from Austec VR. There were a number of reasons we went for this headset over others that were available on the market. Big on our list was because the kids were going to get to keep their headset from the day we wanted something that was good quality, not just some cheap throw-away. The VR Go foldable fitted our needs perfectly, and Austec VR was very easy to deal with. If you are looking at different headsets some considerations to definitely think about include what is the phone holding mechanism like (ie the likelihood of the phone coming out, or kids accidentally dropping their phone while loading it in) and also make sure that the VR headset has a little button on the top, otherwise the headset will be pretty useless for anything where you need to touch the screen. A word of warning there. Many VR headset options do not have the capacitive button.

Austech VR Go Foldables. Note the capacitive button on its top left.

In terms of introducing kids to what VR is all about, there’s no better way than to let them experience it first hand. There is a range of Google Cardboard experiences on Youtube. Just make sure you try them first! Before you let the kids loose, decide whether the kids will be sitting or standing to experience the VR world. If they are standing make sure it’s a clear and safe area with no obstacles as the kids will be turning around as well as looking up and down. In a previous VR session we had access to an egg/pod chair and with it being on a swivel it worked a treat.

Once kids had experienced first hand what VR is about we gave them a demonstration and then let them loose in CoSpaces Edu. Our session had a range of kids on both BYOD and our loaner equipment. We like to bring a box of USB mouse with scrolling wheel functionality to lend out as navigating around applications where you need to pan or zoom can be difficult where you only have a laptop trackpad to use.

Kids of the Minecraft generation find navigation a breeze and were quickly familiar with the CoSpaces environment. From a teaching perspective within CoSpaces setting up a class is straightforward, and once in your class kids can share with you their various worlds or experiences they create. This makes it easy to then share what someone has created with the rest of the class from your teachers’ computer hooked up to a smartboard or similar.

Our session had kids attending in ages ranging from 9-14 years with a number of creative challenges. Below are some examples of the work produced on the day.

CoSpaces virtual scene challenge

CoSpaces maze challenge complete with moving walls.

CoSpaces Game Challenge