12/16/2011 – Jamaican students traveled from Jamaica to Worcester, MA for the FIRST Lego competition as part of the Lego Yuh Mind after school club run by Marvin Hall. Hall runs a company called Halls of Learning which provides high quality educational experiences for young people.
In addition to participating in the FIRST Lego competition, the group visited Harmonix, the creator of Rock Band, and the Revolving Museum. Adam Norton, artist educator, gave an Artbotics workshop to the students at the Revolving Museum. Artbotics is a program where students work with robotic technology to create art. The group from Lego Yuh Mind worked with the Cricket, a small robot with wheels, to draw patterns with markers on paper. Cricket is a good educational tool because it is easily programmable and therefore was well suited for the hour-long workshop given to the Lego Yuh Mind middle school aged students.
Hall received his undergraduate degree in computer science and had an interest in teaching programming to children. That idea evolved into Halls of Learning which runs five different courses as part of the Lego Yuh Mind program. The courses are tailored toward different age groups, between 3 and 15 years old. In addition to the courses, he runs the after school club for students who have a more in-depth interest in robotics. The club has an international trip every year. The students visiting the Revolving Museum are part of that club.
Artbotics attracted Hall because it fuses art and technology. He would like to have more girls participate in his programs, so he is interested in how the art aspect of the Artbotics program might attract more girls to Lego Yuh Mind. He described the concept of a “head fake”, the idea of introducing educational topics in a fun or interesting way so the hard work required to learn a topic in-depth will continue to be fun, even after the introduction stage. The art aspect would provide the “head fake” to learning about computer programming and robotics.
Halls of Learning has also done some charitable work by teaching workshops in under-served communities. Scholarships were given to these students with some of the money generated from student tuition. The Lego Yuh Mind program provides all the necessary equipment for students to complete their courses, including net books. The net books were especially important in teaching the classes in the under-served communities where electricity was not readily available.
Hall feels the international travel aspect of the robotics club is important because it expands students’ horizons in ways that might not be possible in Jamaica. For example, Jamaica does not have a science museum, so he took the students to the Boston Museum of Science on their trip.