Making learning for fun for kids.

I think one of the hardest things in advertising is figuring out how to market to kids. Picasso once said that he spent his entire life trying to forget what he learned so he could draw like a kid again. Getting on a kid’s level isn’t just true in advertising, it’s also especially true in education. As a parent, I know how frustrating it can be to kids to have to learn “by the book.” Somethings come easy to the grub and others don’t, which I am sure is true for all children. As a huge proponent of promoting STEM education in kids, I was thrilled to read an article by Nic Halverson on Discovery News about how Intel is promoting computer science to kids at their level.

The world of computers and electronics can be an intimidating place, especially for children. They may be curious about the technology, but loose interest over the complexities of circuit boards and microcontrollers. Intel wants to help by translating those complexities into an accessible language that kids can understand. As part of the company’s Start Making! initiative, designers created the “Sketch It! Play It!” exhibit at the 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire. The exhibit taps into a kid’s natural language of play and allows them to jam out tunes using paper and pencil instruments.

“The idea is to give tools to kids so they can start making things really quickly,” Jay Melican, a senior research scientist in Intel Labs’ Interaction and Experience Research group, told Discovery News. “They don’t have to get distracted by making circuits or robotics. Instead, the can make music and make noise.” Kids start by using a pencil to draw shapes for “buttons” on a piece of paper on a clip board. One shape, typically a rectangle, is drawn near the edge of the paper. Using dark lines, those shapes are then connected.

Two alligator clips, both of which are connected to a keyboard-emulating MaKey Makey board that triggers input, are attached to the clipboard. One clamps on to the clipboard’s metal clip and the other clamps on to the rectangular shape made near the edge of the paper. Because the graphite conducts electricity, after grabbing the clipboard’s metal clip, kids can touch the shapes and lines to make skronky beats and sounds. “Electricity’s conducted through the metal on the clipboard, through your hand, through your body to the other hand where you touch the pencil lines,” Melican said.

Kids can even be a part of musical duo. As long as the other partner is touching the clip board’s metal clip, a simple high-five will make a sound. “For some kids who are into art, performance and music, we’re trying to reach those kids without scaring them with the technology,” Melican added.