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LEGO Balance: Initial Prompts and Starting Points

29
Dec/16

To continue sharing thoughts about #LEGOtinkering balance explorations, I wanted to focus on the initial starting points and prompts that we tried out for the activity.

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One thing that we all appreciated about the balance workshop was the low threshold to entry. There were no complicated battery packs and motors to explain initially, and the idea of balancing an object on a point is nearly universal. Much younger kids could get involved and excited about the activity. When introducing the activity, we often began by asking participants to physically feel it balanced on their finger letting them get engaged with the objects in a different way than other activities.

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Additionally, we build several types of stands, but something that they all had in common was that they allowed people to see what others were making by elevating their works-in-progress off the surface of the table. In all tinkering activities we feel that it's often important to be able to borrow ideas from others sitting around the table and the stands make that easier in this case.

However, one question that we had about the initial prompt was what might happen if we switched from 'can you make a balancing object?' to 'can you build a kinetic scupture'. Although we appreciate when activities allow for an early success, we don't want that moment to be the end of people's explorations. In several participants we noticed a feeling of 'doneness' once they accomplished balancing an object on the stick for the first time. Maybe shifting the emphasis to building a kinetic sculpture would encourage people to work on the movement, precariousness, or unexpected qualities possible in the creations.

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Additionally, we think the initial set of examples can go a long way towards encouraging wide walls and complex creations if they are varied and demonstrate different aspects of the phenomena. While I don't think we got to a perfect set of examples these are a few ideas of ones that we felt were the most generative.

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While specialized parts like the tripod axle piece or the little truck hitch provided good initial starting points when paired with other axles and joints, we also wondered if they took away from some of the exploration by creating too compelling of a place to build off of. In some of our original balance activities, some participants could work on making a sculpture and then find the point where the object balanced with offered another way in. There's probably no right answer, but it's interesting to look at the way that the first steps define the rest of the experience.

If you try out #LEGOtinkering balance explorations, please let us know what set of materials and initial starting points seem to work the best for the activity.

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