A little “hands-on learning” goes a long way

Many students have been here over the years, making various handcraft projects, and I’m always eager to hear feedback about how the experience has influenced their lives or schooling afterwards.

While visiting relatives recently, I had some interesting feedback from my nephew, Kevin, who has spent several summer vacations here, making every project I had designed, and more. He had made something that he wanted to show me: this robotic arm made out of wood, and operated by a hydraulic system consisting of plastic tubes and syringe bodies full of water.


He proceeded to operate the arm by pushing and pulling the syringes, making it pick up a container of toothpicks. He moved it to several locations on the table, then finally dropped it off the edge of the table and onto the floor.

Very impressive!

How this project came about was even more fascinating to me. One day at high school, the teacher had been talking about machines and robotics. But as is common, he provided nothing for them to see or do – just words. Words in the textbook, words on the whiteboard, words from the teacher’s mouth, all to be laboriously memorized for the test. They were all feeling bored and frustrated.

Quite coincidentally, the scenario in his classroom was the exact example I used in my book, “Motivation to Learn”, in the section discussing the study barrier that L. Ron Hubbard termed “Lack of Mass” – an absence of the actual objects one is studying about, and the accompanying symptoms (such as bored, frustrated, etc. as above).

Kevin decided he could do something about this, and went home to do some research. He found several websites and youtube videos describing similar robotic arms, and using what he had available, he put it all together.

Well, it was an instant hit when he took it to school. Everybody wanted to make one! The teacher agreed, and working in several small groups, they all made hydraulic robotic arms. The atmosphere in the class was totally transformed.

Who knows… if more people catch on, students might actually start to like school!



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