I spent yesterday watching my kids, along with eight others, learn the basics of building a circuit and programming an Arduino micro-controller. The course was well-thought through and engaging. It’s a complex undertaking fitting fiddly wires into breadboards and understanding code, for the first time in most cases. The two tutors were just great, their enthusiasm was absolutely infectious and their patience was extraordinary. I just hope that there will be follow-up courses offered to build on the foundations.
While my kids were immersed in circuits, other groups were learning programming using Scratch or working on the Powerhouse’s own modified Minecraft server. Thinkspace is offering an imaginative range of courses which, if the Arduino one is a representative example, have a refreshing depth of meat to them. Often these types of holiday courses do no more than scratch the surface of their subject. These seem to offer some depth for interested children as well as a great opportunity to experiment to see if they really understand what they have been shown.
This is the closest thing we’ve found in Sydney to the wonderful Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco. Here’s hoping that the Powerhouse will foster and grow this, because it has the potential to be really special. What is particularly needed is some way to be able to participate outside of a course. Being able to drop in and create like in the Children’s Creativity Museum would be a great start, but there are possibilities beyond that. For example, the Powerhouse would be the perfect spot for a hackerspace where a community could come together around the skills and facilities in Thinkspace to use technology to demonstrate what “science + design” in Sydney is really all about. Oh, the possibilities when there’s something like this to build on!