May 16, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
Having just wrapped up by 17th and perhaps final school year, I can say very honestly that the despite much of my time being spent there, some of the most meaningful lessons in my life have not come from classrooms. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in schools, which absolutely have their place in the learning process. There are, indeed, many lessons that are well-suited to be learned through the relatively uni-directional, top-down structure of learning that’s become the norm in every level of academia. I believe, however, that learning cannot be achieved through lecture alone, and that while providing a suitable resource for information and principles and a basic starting point on a personal journey towards comprehension, classrooms aren’t fit to complete that journey. Independent learning is something that’s both very old and yet rather new. There was a time before education became industrialized – manufactured and distributed – a time when learning was a more engaged and practical in nature. Modern education institutionalized and provided a platform for teaching to millions of people, but sacrificed engagement, more and more so as it aged. Modern education enabled great things in human history, and I’d be shortsighted to ignore the impact that grade schools and universities have had on creating a more educated, empowered, enabled humanity. I believe, though, that it may now be time for something new: a creative humanity. A curious humanity. A more self-motivated and engaged humanity. A humanity hungry to learn and not content to stop asking questions when the lecture is over, and to explore on its own accord, for its own interests, to satisfy its own curiosity; one of independently curious thinkers and tinkerers and explorers. How can we become that humanity? How can we inspire mass curiosity and enable mass exploration? Maybe the curiosity is already there, lurking within quiet note-takers; lingering in daydreams and whimsical ideas that get pushed aside when the ScanTron forms come out. Maybe the trick is to enable. Maybe if we provide the resources for exploration – the tools to explore and search and try to cultivate and propagate that curiosity, and push to satisfy it until more questions arise to spark new exploration – maybe then we’d have an alternative to the box in which we’re thinking and learning today. Today’s project is just such a tool.
IO Rodeo is making a tool for home-brewed science: a DIY Colorimeter. What good is that? Satisfy your curiosity here:
The goal of this kickstarter is to raise $8,000 to fund the manufacture of an affordable scientific colorimeter kit for educators, students and DIY scientists. The colorimeter kit is an open source hardware project.
Colorimeters are a nifty little devices that schools and institutions seem to have the market cornered on. But what if you have questions to explore on your own? Renting lab time at your university ain’t cheap, and if you’re still in high school, you can forget about getting your hands on one for yourself. Until now, that is. With tools like this, to help experiment, examine and explore on your own, the barriers to independent learning crumble and collapse while curious indie investigators in kitchens, basements and garages the world over step into their own laboratories.
Even if you can’t think of a single way in which a colorimeter could be of use to you (and if that’s the case, you’re probably just not thinking hard enough), I hope you’ll join me in appreciating the overarching mission of this project and the movement its propelling. It’s that movement that I hope you’ll commit to, and you can start here and now by backing The DIY Colorimeter Kit on Kickstarter before June 1.