Sunday, February 15, 2015

Using Kickstarter for teaching material

I learned about Kickstarter through finding information about innovations that would be interesting for my students to read about and discuss in English. In January 2014 I had two posts about innovations that were funded through Kickstarter (Device for home automation, January 5, 2014; Desktop wire bender, January 27, 2014).

Kickstarter is a global crowdfunding platform that describes itself as "a home for everything from films, games and music to art, design and technology."


The project areas (in the "Discover" section) are:
  • arts
  • comics
  • crafts
  • dance
  • design
  • fashion
  • film & video
  • food
  • games
  • journalism
  • music
  • photography
  • publishing
  • technology
  • theater

For my students, the technology section is the one I focus on. Some examples of current projects: 
  • The Dronekill ICeU Spectres: a carbon fiber, twin engine, tilt rotor, vertical takeoff and landing manned aerial vehicle. 
  • Wireless Embedded Computer: coin-sized, powerful, affordable, open source wireless computer running Linux — created for professionals and enthusiasts. 
  • The KaliPAK: an incredibly lightweight, portable energy generator that uses folding solar panels. 
  • Goodnight Lad: augmented reality children's book. 
  • Qmote: water-resistant internet remote for smartphones. 
  • RoboCORE: a cloud-powered device and development platform that is the heart of your new DIY robots for professional or hobby use.

In the section "Start" there are guidelines to follow for submitting a project for funding.

Students - alone, with a partner, or in teams - could follow these guidelines for preparing a presentation on an idea (real or imaginary) that they have for something "people could use." If possible, they could instead make a video, as instructed on Kickstarter.

Other ideas for using material on the website is to have students choose an innovation that interests them, read the information written about it, and describe it to the class. Perhaps the class can do a ranking exercise to decide what they think are the most useful / most interesting / coolest projects - or which they would choose to fund, and why.

The descriptions themselves are good sources of model texts to use for description - in my case I've used them for technical descriptions.

To make the idea of innovation on a personal scale more realistic for students, a project proposed by someone in your own area can be focused on (if there is one). There was one project funded in 2013 from the city I teach in, and it was proposed by a student who was 23 years old at the time, and in a bachelor program for Business IT. So the idea that this student's project was successfully funded made my students realize that they, too, could be innovative and make their idea a reality.

This seems like a great way to motivate engineering students to believe in their creativity and ideas. And, who knows? Perhaps they'll develop an idea to propose as a project on Kickstarter!

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