Cambridge Inventors Club

Starting in August of 2016 we partnered with Pivotal Labs on what started out as a "learn to code" program but has since expanded to include more hands-on engineering and an focus on invention.

Moving forward we'll be supporting students in exploring creative problem solving using technical skills such as coding and engineering. We work with them on the creative process, rapid prototyping, and reflecting on the challenges, their solutions, and the overall environment in which they are working.

The Goal

The primary goal of the Cambridge Inventors Club is to create a safe, healthy, interesting, and fun environment for young people to explore creative problem solving through the lens of technical skills such as coding and engineering.

We bring together volunteers from the technology community in the general area around Kendall Sq and Cambridge to both support students in their work and to connect students with a variety of adults working in various technological fields.

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The Approach

Within this program we would focus on a number of ideas that we want to explore with The Puzzle School:

  • Exposing students to a variety of challenges and interesting problems that can stimulate their creative problem-solving abilities.
  • Having students test resources and provide feedback in order to find the best resources students can use to learn at their own pace.
  • Having students engage in a variety of design exercises to help foster ideas, techniques, and skills such as rapid-prototyping and team communication.
  • Running retrospectives at the end of each sessions to get feedback from students around what worked and didn't with regard to the challenge, their work and solution, and the overall environment they are working in.
  • Supporting students toward independent and small group projects (inventions) they design themselves and will continue working on at home.

Some of the resources and activities we've had success with include:

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Charlie is really enjoying himself. He said what he likes most about it:

  • The one on one help
  • The mentors don’t tell you what to do, but they work with you to help you figure it out yourself (YaY)
  • Really enjoys the connection with the tutors/mentors

Charlie is finding communicating and learning easy in this environment. He does not have a lot of opportunities to interact with adults who inspire him the way the mentors in the program have so far. He loves that connection and he always leaves Monday night feeling so good about himself and his time at the open space. Before he went to bed he asked me, “Why can’t school be like coding class, I would be so excited to go in the morning."

Mary (Charlie's Mom)
The Results So Far

We've now run the program for two eight-week sessions and we continue to evolve and improve the design. What started out primarily as a coding program has evolved to become more hands-on and creative with a focus on invention.

Most importantly the students are increasingly taking ownership of the environment, reflecting on everything from the challenges to the rules to the overall environment and providing us with feedback. This allows us to continue evolving the program in a direction that better meets the needs and interests of the students.

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“So this was the big secret historians keep to themselves: historical research is wildly seductive and fun. There's a thrill in the process of digging, then piecing together details like a puzzle.”

~ Nancy Horan

“As a kid, I was into music, played guitar in a band. Then I started acting in plays in junior high school and just got lost in the puzzle of acting, the magic of it. I think it was an escape for me.”

~ Michael J. Fox

“When you write non-fiction, you sit down at your desk with a pile of notebooks, newspaper clippings, and books and you research and put a book together the way you would a jigsaw puzzle.”

~ Janine di Giovanni

“I tell people all the time, as I was going through my process of being a comedian or being an actor and a writer at 'SNL,' I tell people that everything you do is all a piece of your puzzle to determine where you're going to end up at.”

~ J. B. Smoove

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