Skip to Main Content

In this edition of Pedagogy 2.0, I’d like to focus on a quiet revolution that is less about gold-plated iPhones and more focused on wonder, excitement, and just plain fun. I am referring to how a new generation of dreamers will change your life through a combination of daring, design, and development. The projects below suggest just how much our students can learn through an integrated multidisciplinary curriculum formulated around their outcome-oriented ventures.

Old FashionED

As a junior high-school student in 1973 I toured local and regional science fairs with my scale model of a human-powered plane engineered to win the Kremer Prize. What made this design unusual is that it was an ornithopter, and like certain birds, the wings produced upstroke lift through sinusoidally-articulated airfoil subsections.

Doug Hersh with Scale Model Human-Powered Ornithopter, 1973 New York City Science Fair (Which is worse: the shirt or the hair?)

Since lightweight composite materials were not readily available at the time, since students did not have access to 3D printers to fabricate their own components, and since Internet crowdfunding through sites such as Kickstarter was not even science fiction back then, this and many other projects never got off the ground. But things are different today.

In fact, back in 1980 the American Helicopter Society (AHS) established a prize for a human-powered vehicle to “fly for 60 seconds, rise to an altitude of at least 3 meters, and remain within a horizontal area no bigger than 10 meters by 10 meters.” This prize and the accompanying $250,000 award remained unclaimed until this June 13th, 2013 when Canadian startup AeroVelo built their human-powered quadcopter with $35,000 in Kickstarter funding.

 "There's a thousand joints in here, and if a single one fails, it all falls apart."

—Todd Reichert, Atlas Co-Designer, AeroVelo

Watch this video at YouTube.

 

"The AHS HPH Competition isn’t about creating a practical machine. This is a multi-disciplinary project that harnesses technical skills and teamwork to overcome what many have said for three decades was an impossible challenge."

—American Helicopter Society Executive Director, Mike Hirschberg

DreamED Up

Here’s another way to get the same altitude adjustment. Just a day before Canadian Todd Reichert pedaled his Kickstarter project to Aviation history, a European group headed by Technodat in the Czech Republic teamed up to build an electric bicycle that can lift off in traffic and fly over cars like a helicopter.

Design Your Dreams - Flying Bike Website

 

“When growing up, most of us had dreams and ideas that originated in reading books and watching films. The purpose of the web page you are looking at is to document the project and support a discussion about fulfilling one of such dreams – designing and creating a prototype of a “flying bike”.”

—Aleš Kobylík, Managing Director, Technodat

The design team had two basic requirements for this project: that the flying bike should possess the full features and functionality of a normal bicycle and that the rider should then be able to launch it vertically and fly it in a controlled manner for approximately five minutes. Have a look at this YouTube video to appreciate the team’s progress to date:

Watch this video at YouTube.

The designers neglected to mention that this bikopter will also keep pedestrians walking beneath it quite cool!

HomeschoolED

For those who are having a tough time getting around, there’s the VGo telepresence robot. According to the Nashua, New Hampshire company:

For some students, attending school isn’t possible. Injuries, extended illnesses, immune deficiencies and other physical challenges prevent a student from physically being able to attend school. Now, they can participate in classroom discussions and share in the social aspects of locker-side chats, lunch period and moving from class to class.

VGo. Robotic telepresence for healthcare, education and business.

Take the case of Lexie Kinder, profiled in the New York Times’ education section about a week before the Canadian and European groups took to the sky. According to the article, “Born with a chronic heart disorder that weakened her immune system and made attending school risky, Lexie, 9, was tutored at her home in Sumter for years. But this spring, her family began experimenting with an alternative—a camera-and-Internet-enabled robot that swivels around the classroom and streams two-way video between her school and house.”

Through a pilot program at San Antonio Independent School District, Miranda Garcia also attends class through a VGo robot. A third-grader at Foster Elementary School, Miranda has been unable come to school in person due to a severe case of Lupus that weakens her immune system.

Watch this video at YouTube.

”I am a robot, that’s the fun thing. It’s good and it helps me a lot when I am too sick to go to school. I feel a part of the class."

—Third Grader Miranda Garcia

What ties these stories together is not simply the concept of mobility or how modern technology makes possible things we could only dream about a generation ago, but rather, that—as the title of this article suggests—the fuel is cool. When we set inspiring goals, we also set into motion the search for practical methods to attain those dreams. And that, I believe, is as essential an element of education as it is an essential human drive.

So what do you think is cool? Blog back and let me know.