Are children really more creative than their parents? Sure! But now what?

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If you search the first question on-line, you will see hundreds of sites concluding with a resounding, “Yes!” There will also be countless sites telling you how to encourage creativity in your children. (Here, one answer seems to be less schooling!) My questions then become: Why aren’t we taking more advantage of this creativity? Why aren’t there more child inventors? If a key characteristic in certain creative industries, like product design and IT, is to maintain a child-like imagination, then why can’t we just ask actual children?

Chester Greenwood (Age 15) – Earmuffs

Before you hit back with child labor laws, etc., here’s a story showing “10 Great Inventions Dreamt Up by Children.” Here’s another story with the title, “Crazy Kids’ Inventions Turned Into Real Products” with the video version here.

Cassidy Goldstein (Age 12) – Crayon Holders

WHY children are more creative

Out of all the research explaining WHY children are more creative than adults, the one I found the most compelling was by Alison Gopnik, psychology professor at Berkeley in this TED talk. She refers to the work of evolutionary biologists. Humans have an exceptionally long childhood to resolve the “intrinsic tension” between the need to finding the simplest, quickest solutions (adults) versus the need to explore to find alternative solutions (kids). (Any parent trying to get socks on their children will know what Gopnik means.) In short, evolution has designed humans to give them a chance to explore as children before maturing into efficient, problem solving machines as adults.

The next step

But getting back to my earlier questions, why aren’t we working more with children in the creative industries? (Wikipedia notes these nine but there are more.) In my view, one answer is likely the cost of innovation. R&D budgets can be a real drag on profitability for companies. They fund research staff as well the proto-typing. But I think you know what I will say next: 3D printing technology is lowering proto-typing costs. Now, anyone, including children, can also explore new design ideas.

Parents! It’s time to bond with our kids to see where their creativity can take us in the creative industries! Your child might be on a list of inventors in the near future.

More to come in upcoming blogs.

 

 

3D printing + licensing deal = ticket into a top university?

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OK this topic about licensing will likely result in quite a few blogs, so I’ll start with a series of questions to set the stage.

  1. Are children really more creative than their parents?
  2. Can we parents work with them to invent a new product using 3D printing to prototype?
  3. Would a manufacturer really accept our idea and how do we protect it?
  4. Can my child really earn his own college fund?
  5. Would a licensing deal help if and when our child applies to university?

Out of this list, I think most of you will agree that the final question is the easiest to answer. Of course a university admissions board would welcome a child who played a leading role in a product idea that has been successfully sold to a manufacturer. They might even offer the child a scholarship based on ingenuity and leadership. Universities are centers of cutting edge research and advance thinking. If your child can demonstrate creativity that’s also proven commercially viable, universities would certainly embrace him or her with open arms. It’s a natural fit.

The other questions, however, will need more time to answer. I’ll explore the world of licensing in the coming blogs and report back to you. (What I’ve seen so far seems promising!)

Before I end this blog, let me say this: 3D printing can play a big role in this process because you can design as many prototypes as you want using freely available 3D modeling software. (We just added the very powerful Fusion 360 into our Starter Kit.) If you want your design 3D printed but don’t have a printer, just search on line for the nearest 3D printing service bureau. You can send them the file and they can send you your prototype in a few days or even sooner. This is the WHOLE POINT of 3D printing; the power of creating new products is now in the hands of the people, not necessarily controlled by big corporations. More to come!

How to design your own 3D printable fidget spinner

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Sure you can download a fidget spinner design from Thingaverse, but what’s the fun of that?! It’s quite easy to design your own using, for example, an entry-level 3D modeling software like Tinkercad. Here’s how I created a very simple but very personalized spinner.

We’re going to make this fidget spinner.

1. Under Basic Shapes, grab a solid Box and give it these dimensions.

W: 75

D: 30

H: 7

In its Inspector box on the right, give it a Radius of 3.

2. Under Basic Shapes, grab a Hole Cylinder and give it these dimensions.

W: 22.1 (Spinner bearings are 22mm in diameter, so we are making the hole slightly larger, although it might need to get as much as 0.5mm depending on the 3D printer used. The bearing should fit snuggly in the hole.)

D: 22.1

H: 10

In its Inspector box on the right, give it Sides of 64 to make it smooth.

3. Use the Align tool to center the Hole with the Box.

4. Duplicate the Hole and move it 25mm to the right. Duplicate the first Hole and move it 25mm to the left. Group the three holes with the box. It should look like this when you are done.

5. Grab the Text tool, use your name and give it these dimensions.

W: 65

D: 5

H: 3

6. Rotate your name and Align it with the spinner body. Remember to align it with the center of the spinner’s height.

7. Duplicate your name and repeat it on the other side. Group everything and you are done.

8. Remove the bearings from your store bought spinner and enjoy your own customized fidget spinner!

 

(Yes making a tri-fidget spinner is also possible with Tinkercad although, it will take many more steps. Start with this easy one for now. Enjoy!)

 

 

Five ways to find quality time with your children

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How is your work/life balance? Do you have difficulty finding quality time with your children? I’m far from being Elon Musk-busy, but I am involved in three separate start-up businesses, serve on three school committees, run weekly as well as weekend 3D printing workshops and have finally found time to begin learning a martial art. I work 10-11 hours a day, averaging about a dozen calls or meetings each week. So how to I find quality time for my daughter? Here are my own top five ways for your comparison.

  1. Use a calendar. I’m quite surprised when I meet people, especially some business owners, who don’t use calendars. Even if you don’t follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methods exactly, calendars help because you’ve unloaded that appointment onto a storage system, which frees your mind up for other things like your son’s football game.

  1. Practice the Two-Minute Rule. Also from GTD is the Two-Minute Rule, which states that if you can perform a task in two minutes or less, then you should do it immediately. It’s not going to take you off course by much and you need to do it anyways. This rule made a big difference for me, as I was surprised how many tasks don’t need more than two minutes of my work time.

 

  1. Use One-on-One meetings at work. This one is huge! Thirty-minute, One-on-One meetings, where you discuss your keys issues at work, are effective because they put you on the same page with your partners, staff and associates. You work together to solve problems, which reinforces your relationship with them and boosts efficiency. When your work runs more efficiently, it’s just more time for your child.

 

  1. Explain when you can’t make it. Of course, sometimes you run across the proverbial monkey wrench at work and your family plans go out the window. One thing that I’ve found that works is to take a deep breath and explain as much as possible the reasons why you need to cancel your plans. It will teach the children how the “working world” works and because they generally enjoy learning new things, they will understand. This in itself is a type of bonding experience.

  1. Exercise and eat right. This is another big one because children are just more energetic than adults due to their faster metabolism. When adults exercise and eating right, we accelerate our metabolism, boosting our energy so we can keep up. In our house, dad and daughter just started learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu together so I certainly need to keep moving!

These are my top methods for creating quality time for my daughter. What’s yours?

Five reasons why learning 3D printing today will help children prepare for the future

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In my earlier blogs, I covered the advice of education leaders Salman Khan, Founder of the Khan Academy, and Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, founder of the Centre for Bits & Atoms (CBA) at MIT. They both encourage discovery and creativity. Dr. Gershenfeld specifically noted the expressiveness of 3D printing. Now I want to add my own five reasons why learning 3D printing today will help children get ready for their own technology infused future.

  1. Getting a head start as the tech will “mature” about the time our children enter the workforce. 3D printers are just beginning to make usable parts. HP’s long awaited Multi-Jet Fusion technology just hit the market this year. Its thermoplastic material, which you can see in this video, is strong enough to pick up a car. In 10-15 years time, 3D printers will be far more advanced, likely linked to AI software, but still in need of the human touch. This is where and when our children will take the controls.
  2. It will be used in many different industries. Automotive, medical, electronics, toys, even food are just a few examples. Let your child design something today from any of these industries and perhaps they can find something they love for a lifetime! If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

3D Roundhouse’s Family 3D Printing Workshops

  1. 3D designs help children think out of the box. Children are naturals at creating pictures with crayons and paper. Imagine how much more creative they can be if that design is in 3D instead. On top of this, they can realize their designs on a 3D printer.
  2. It can promote teamwork. While I really enjoy reinforcing the bond I have with my daughter whenever we corroborate on a new design, I believe she is also learning about teamwork. I have my own strengths and weaknesses and she has her own. We try different ideas until we get to the desired result. (OK I admit most of the 3D prints end up in her favorite pink color, but I think it’s just a phase!)

Elizabeth’s pink bow

  1. It helps them define their own likes and dislikes. 3D printing is all about customization. As children grow, it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s favorable to them and what’s not. Using a computer to design an actual object, children can run as many trials and errors as they want, until they find their very own sweet spot. Self-definition is a key part of growing up. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true!”

Love them or fear them, we parents need to keep an eye on them robots

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My six-year-old daughter will likely join the workforce in the next 15 years or so. Of course, it’s not a good thing to over-manage neither her life nor her career, but what’s a parent to do when we see recent headlines like these about robots?

Economist magazine: Will robots displace humans as motorised vehicles ousted horses?

BBC: Robots to affect up to 30% of UK jobs, says PwC.

 

Love them or fear them, robots are here to stay and their abilities are growing exponentially. We are already seeing early versions of self-driving cars, delivery drones on land and in the air, and, yes, robotic baby sitters.

The PwC report provided some details with these statistics.

– 30% of existing jobs in the UK were potentially at a high risk of automation, compared with 38% in the US, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan.

– Jobs at high risk from automation:

Transportation and storage – 56%

Manufacturing – 46%

Wholesale and retail trade – 44%

Administrative and support services – 37%

Financial and insurance – 32%

Professional, scientific and technical – 26%

Construction – 24%

Arts and entertainment – 22%

Agriculture, forestry and fishing – 19%

Human health and social work – 17%

Education – 9%

Source: PwC

 

Both reports and articles stressed the importance of educating the workforce to ensure future workers can find jobs. But as a parent of a six-year-old, here are some simple actions that I’m doing, for and with my daughter in the coming years:

  1. Keep an eye on the latest developments. Wherever you source your news, spend at least a few hours a week looking through the science and technology section. If you have not been doing this, you will be very surprised what you come across!
  1. Attend STEAM events with your family. Family friendly STEAM fairs are now available in cities around the world with hundreds of thousands of attendees during these multi-day events. One of the biggest is the Maker Faire, but many schools run science fairs as well. Kids love the hands-on workshops. (In fact, we at 3D Roundhouse will have another booth at the Hong Kong Maker Faire this Saturday and Sunday April 8-9, 2017!)
  1. Take some STEAM workshops with your child. Whether it’s coding, robotics or 3D printing, there is no reason why parents can’t also learn along with their children. Over the past year, 3D Roundhouse has hosted dozens of workshops where parents and their children learn 3D modeling for 3D printing together. You can learn more about our workshops here.

Personally, I believe our children will find peaceful ways to coexist with robots. But as parents, we need to ensure our children can develop the wisdom to use this new technology in a proper and responsible way. The best way to do so is to understand what robots are and how they work. Working with your children to become more knowledgeable about the STEAM fields is a really great way to do so.

“3D printing can be as expressive as painting.”

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So says Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor and founder of the Centre for Bits & Atoms (CBA) in this SCMP article.

Parents! Please take a moment to consider this extremely profound statement by one of the leading technology thinkers of our time. (The New York Times has dubbed Dr. Gershenfeld as “the intellectual godfather of the maker movement.”)

CBA

Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Our children spend countless hours engaged in various forms of painting – first finger, then brush, on paper, canvas, pottery, toys, etc. Why? Because painting has been an excellent and intuitive way for children to define and express themselves. In fact, this has been the case since our ancestors lived in caves!

But with 3D printing, we now have a more streamlined tool to help us move beyond 2D to “paint” in 3D. It’s a huge change! First, just by adding the third dimension, 3D printing allows our children to extend their imagination beyond the two dimensional limitations of a typical flat sheet of paper. Second, as 3D printers improve with lower costs and newer materials, children can consider material as well as color in their creations. Here, 3D printing even surpasses sculpting, which is mainly in one material. Finally, we have already witnessed 3D prints that cannot be made by traditional manufacturing methods, such as this sculpture in the photo below.

A woman stands behind the a 3D printed sculptur ‘Myrstaw’ by Belgian designer Nick Ervinck during the international fairs FabCon 3.D and Rapid.Tech in Erfurt, central Germany, Wednesday, June 10, 2015. 145 exhibitors from all over the world present their products until June 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Given this, can 3D printing be EVEN MORE expressive than painting? How can we use this new tool to help our children reach their full potential? And most importantly, how many of those paintings hanging on refrigerators can be replaced by even more intricate 3D prints? 😉 We should wholly support our children to see!

How are your child’s “portfolios of creative works” coming along?

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Quora, the website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, recently sent a series of questions to Salman Khan, Founder of the Khan Academy, on the very important issue of education. Here is one of the questions I found the most relevant to my own situation, as I have a six year old child, where he mentions “portfolios of creative works.”

How will education change in the next 10 years?

Competency Based Credentials

Today’s high school and college diplomas are based more on how much time you spent in class rather than what you are actually capable of. This is why colleges and employers see so little information in traditional diplomas/transcripts and, instead, turn to things like standardized exams, peer assessment and portfolios of creative work.

I think that in 10 years, you will have globally recognized credentials that are independent of any individual academic institution. In order to achieve them, you need to prove skill competency, have great peer reviews, and have an impressive portfolio (I believe that you should have a portfolio regardless of what you want to do in life).

 

Building “portfolios of creative works” makes a lot of sense to me, particularly the “creative” part. I think most parents, myself included, hope their child can develop into his or her own person. There should be a strong sense of self worth and independent thinking as he or she builds some type of career. Given this, I also think 3D modeling and 3D printing could be an excellent tool to create such portfolios!

Imagine how a college or job application would stand out if a child has a portfolio of 3D printed product prototypes, which she has worked on for the last 5-10 years. Each item would have its own evolution story where the child could explain herself. The items can be from different industries – for a school application – or one specific industry – for a job application. If the job is in a service industry, the creative aspect of the portfolio can be reviewed. But ultimately and most importantly, this “portfolio of creative works” would be an excellent tool for both interviewer and interviewee to see if they are suitable for each other. Thanks Mister Khan for your excellent idea!

 

Can the Off switch be the best way to deal with rising technology?

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Over the holidays, I proposed this idea to a friend of mine who has a six year old daughter as I do, “If robots are going to take over our childrens’ jobs in the future, we should make sure our children maintain their sense of creativity to stay one step ahead. 3D printing is one great way to do that because anyone can express their creativity through the 3D models.” She replied, “When I hear you say that, my initial reaction is to turn all the machines off and revert to farming!”

Thinking Robot — Image by © Blutgruppe/Corbis

In a sense, she is correct. We’ve already seen the Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence published in early 2015 when Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and many other leading thinkers in the tech field publicly voiced the opinion that AI could provide great benefits, but could also end the human race if used unwisely.

Fortunately, the letter resulted in the October 2016 funding and opening of the Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) at Cambridge, where its researchers, including Hawking himself, will strive to this goal: “to work together to ensure that we humans make the best of the opportunities of artificial intelligence as it develops over coming decades.” Hopefully, they can set the guidelines that can help us avoid those worse case scenarios that they raised in the prior year.

Getting back to our six year old daughters, perhaps the best strategy is a little of each. Our children obviously need to get familiar with the STEAM subjects, because their livelihood could depend greatly on their grasp of these subjects. But there’s nothing wrong with just turning off the machines every once in a while to understand something as simple and important as how we get our nutrition. It’s a balance and that balancing act is one of the most important lessons we should give our children. I think even the researchers at the new CFI would totally agree.

Why 3D printing is a powerful learning tool for your child

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A young student came up to me as I hovered over a 3D printer when it was churning out a model of a London double decker bus.

“This is a 3D printer?” she asked. “Yes, it is,” I replied.

“What’s it for?” she further asked. “It’s to exercise your brain!” I said.

Out of all the possible functions for a 3D printer, many of which are still undiscovered, I am firmly in the camp that believes 3D printers are a powerful learning tool for children, and for many adults as well.

I’m not talking about 3D printing geometric shapes, so children can better appreciate math formulas. Nor am I talking about 3D printed sculptures for art history, nor dinosaur fossils for paleontology. Of course, holding any of these 3D printed objects does add to the learning experience. But what’s even better than touching? Doing.

In fact, I always tell the children, as well as the adults, in my classes and workshops, “After you make this – fill in the blank- I want you to find a way to make it even better.”

reverse_engineering

To engineer and reverse engineer

When anyone makes anything, they can build it from scratch or reverse-engineer an existing product and improve upon it. In both cases, the more detailed the object, the greater the need for clear and deep thinking. When my student began to 3D model his London bus, he actually struggled to even explain its shape to me. What do you call that indented area of the bus next to the driver? But after a review of a photo, we created a plan of action and decided which 3D tools to use to create that section of the bus. We learn by making.

96b85a7fd1e5b0304d640e0f8a74bbdb

To test and re-test

Has there ever been any product in history that was created “perfectly” on day one? Of course not! The ability to run repeated tests is one of the great advantages of using 3D printers. Creating proto-types takes days, even hours, not weeks nor months. We can test and re-test our ideas much faster than traditional proto-typing methods. And with each re-test, you learn what works and what doesn’t work.

To think and grow

I believe the main users of 3D printing technology will be our children, just 10 to 15 years in the future. I also believe usage of this technology will be designed based, just like there are so many more creators using computers than computer manufacturers. Therefore, the time to educate ourselves, both adults and children, about design and the potential for 3D printing is NOW.