Two Bit Circus Launches Kickstarter Campaign for New Maker Kit That Combines ART and STEM to Inspire Creativity in Young Inventors

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Two Bit Circus, an engineering entertainment company, today released a new survey report highlighting the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)-based activities for children, revealing art as the key entry point to STEM, especially for girls.

Two Bit Circus recently surveyed an audience of more than 500 parents to understand gender differentiators in how children play and learn in relation to STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) activities. The report uncovers key insights on children’s educational interests and preferences for extracurricular activities and also shows a lack of awareness for STEM/STEAM in general. In fact, 47 percent of parents are unfamiliar with STEM/STEAM toys such as chemistry sets, microscopes, Arduinos, etc. And surprisingly both boys and girls share similar levels of interest in science and math in school, but girls are far more likely to prefer arts and crafts inside and outside of school than boys. This points to why there has been such a strong push for STEAM in order to help close the gender gap in STEM.

Additional key findings from the STEM vs. STEAM: The Gender Gap report include:

  • Parents of both male and female children equally report that their child’s favorite STEAM subject in school is either math (26%) or science (30%)
  • 41% of parents with boys say their child shows the most interest in technology/computing activities outside of school compared to only 18% of parents with girls
  • 45% of parents with girls report their child shows the most interest in art outside of school compared to only 10% of parents with boys
  • 62% of parents say that their child never participates in STEM extracurricular activities outside of school

To drive momentum for the STEAM movement and blend creativity, curiosity and critical thinking to inspire the next generation of inventors, Two Bit Circus is launching a Kickstarter campaign to support the creation of Oomiyu, a paper craft and technology kit. By allowing beginner inventors to build a fun, customized and interactive paper craft robotic owl, kids get hands-on experience with basic mechanical principles, electronics and programming that combined creates a unique STEAM experience. This maker kit is designed to bring art alive through creative innovation, combining art with STEM for a well-rounded and engaging creativity platform.

“Not only does Oomiyu foster a sense of excitement for STEAM by building creative confidence and curiosity in children, it also helps develop critical thinking skills and makes technology more appealing for creative and analytical thinkers alike,” said Two Bit Circus CEO and Co-founder, Brent Bushnell. “By creating this holistic STEAM-based kit, we hope to bring out the makers we know are hidden in every child.”

Oomiyu, a customizable platform, allows children to build, design, customize and program a paper creature to move, respond and emote to various stimuli. A companion mobile app and open source software extend the possibilities even further. Simple connectors make it easy to add new features and the included Arduino 101 packs powerful features like Bluetooth low-energy (enables easy connection to other devices and the internet) and machine learning (enables other pattern matching behaviors).

Also included in the maker kit are off-the-shelf components like LEDs, motors and paper patterns. The new Oomiyu maker kit offers a unique balance of design elements combined with more technical aspects of personalized programming for a craft that lives beautifully with technology.

This crowd-sourced funding campaign hopes to reach its goal of $72,921 USD* within the next 30 days, or about 500 units sold. The cost of Oomiyu is $150.

For more information about Oomiyu visit the Kickstarter campaign page.

About Two Bit Circus

Two Bit Circus is a location-based entertainment company creating the future of fun. The team of artists, inventors, educators and performers builds social games and experiences that aim to inspire, engage and reinvent the way people play. For more information, visit www.twobitcircus.com or follow @TwoBitCircus.

Enhance Your Makerspace!

It’s no secret how exciting the trend of makerspaces are for schools. While this movement was started quite some time ago, it seems to have gained particularly great momentum in the past 5 years.

Built on the idea of ‘constructionism’, makerspaces are a very obviously translated idea, where a space is dedicated within a school or educational facility for students to create and ‘make’ things.  There is shared resources and networking that takes place and provides a different structure of learning for students. Ranging from woodworks to robotics, these spaces are extremely important in fostering creativity and problem solving in students.

Where Will Makerspaces Work Best?

Makerspaces also range from elementary schools to college campuses, so their versatility is extremely useful.

According to Educause.edu, on their article 7 Things you Should Know About Makerspaces,

“….certain materials and tools are emblematic of makerspaces, such as microcontrollers called arduinos and 3D printers, valuable for fast prototyping. As the notion of providing space for project design and construction has caught on in education, such places have acquired other accoutrements, from paints and easels and impromptu stage sets to cooktops and candy molds. Used by students, faculty, and staff, makerspaces have become arenas for informal, project-driven, self-directed learn- ing, providing workspace to tinker, try out solutions, and hear input from colleagues with similar interests. “

It’s places like these that encourage a different type of learning to take place, perhaps a more ‘open-range’ type of environment that differs from the structure of a classroom being led by a teacher.

Some supplies for a makerspace are less available than others, such as 3D printers and robots.

If you compare sharing a robot amongst a class of 20 students to them all sharing a computer to learn from; you can see how the essence of learning is diluted. The experience is completely different and likely not nearly as effective or beneficial to the students until it’s their “turn” to use the computer.

The same can be said for robotics. We know they are extremely useful for teaching many STEM concepts and early mechanical engineering, and LEGO robots are very popular for schools and competitions but start around $400. For most public schools, one robot may be more than is affordable so to effectively teach an entire class by sharing; the students are not receiving the best quality experience from their class.

Here is another example where the Virtual Robotics Toolkit can provide a solution to hundreds of schools and thousands of students, where each student is able to individually use the simulator. They can build and control their own robots using the exact same controller and concepts as the physical robots. In fact, if they’ve already learned how to use a LEGO EV3 MINDSTORMS or NXT robot, they will seamlessly navigate the VRT.

Pilots use flight simulators to learn to fly for the same reason students can learn robotics with one; costs and training purposes.

If students are given access to the VRT in addition to the makerspace of sharing a physical robot, their skills and overall experience will be greatly enhanced and at a fraction of the cost of a real robot.

It’s a win-win for teachers as well, since they’re able to help their class all get to the same level.

Where can this movement take students and educators?

The Educause article says, “One key demand of a makerspace is that it exist as a physical location where participants have room and opportunity for hands-on work, but as these environments evolve, we may see more virtual participation.”

This is such a great point, because of global networking the opportunities are truly endless. Again, here is a great window of opportunity for the VRT to be a part of your school’s makerspace.  The software already encourages users to interact and even compete with other robot enthusiasts across the globe via the internet.

This capability allows students to learn from eachother and share ideas and challenges that they would otherwise not have had the access to.

All new Little Robot Friends Wrap STEM Principles in a Tiny, Adorable package

Launched this morning on Kickstarter, Little Robot Friends (LRF) are an exciting addition to any modern learning environment. Cute and programmable, these robotic characters serve as a novel entry-point for learning code and electronics along with crucial STEM/STEAM skills.

Geared towards children aged 8 and up, LRF’s are available in 4 models – Spikey, Curvy,
Ghosty and the all new Crafty. Each model features a distinctly shaped body, various
sensing modules and a unique, customizable personality. Spikey, Curvy and Ghosty are
available pre-assembled or as DIY kits for those looking to build their soldering skills. Crafty comes as a kit with all the same components as the other robots, but those components are modular and reusable. This provides an endless combination of interaction possibilities for modelling STEAM topics. Little Robot Friends characters evolve organically through play or can be customizable through coding.

Children can transform Crafty into custom creations with any conductive material such as
alligator clips, wire or using conductive thread or yarn. The kit opens up the potential for
children to create an LRF in a myriad of materials including paper craft, felt or 3D-printed
objects. Little Robot Friends bridges the gap between the technical and non-technical skills in a playful way by utilizing soft skills such as teamwork, collaboration and critical thinking.

Little Robot Friends purpose extends beyond physical play. Students and instructors can
also program LRF across several platforms, each suitable for a different skill level. The LRF App introduces programming concepts without the need for coding. Through the app,
children can upload tricks to their robot, customize its personality, teach it to sing robot
songs and play games. In the Little Robot Friends visual programming language, beginner
coders can use drag-and-drop elements to create and run functional programs for the
robot. As students become more confident in their programming, they can move on to
using the LRF library for Arduino. Each of these platforms introduce children to computer
programming in a creative, exploratory way and help them build a solid foundation in
computational thinking. This will put them at a huge advantage to becoming effective
problem solvers in a increasingly technology-dependent world.

Integrating computer literacy into the curriculum is a vital issue in modern education. Little
Robot Friends provides illustrative educational materials meant for both classroom learning and individual exploration. Instructors are aided by the easy-to-follow lessons plans that support core curricular items such as math, science and language arts. The robots friendly persona and tactile design encourages experiential learning, either independently or in groups. Little Robot Friends have been designed to facilitate learning across subjects and disciples to make technology more accessible and fun.

“We feel the best way to teach technology is to make learning casual and rewarding” says
Mark Argo, founder and principal technologist at Aesthetec Studio. “Developing characters
and stories is common across all ages and cultures. With Little Robot Friends we encourage children to creatively experiment with technology to make their characters expressive and unique.”

Little Robot Friends can be purchased on the campaign website until May 27th, 2016 at
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aesthetec/all-new-little-robot-friends

Rokit Smart: Build and Program Robots the Easy Way

On May 14, 2015, Robolink, Inc is launching a campaign on Kickstarter for Rokit
Smart, an innovative and affordable robot kit that teaches kids how to program and
build robots in as little as one hour. With Rokit Smart, kids as young as 8 years old
can program these robots to autonomously follow a track, be controlled by remote
and many other exciting tasks. Rokit Smart includes instructions to build twelve
different robots, but the only limit to what kids can build with this kit is their
imagination. Until now, there has never been a robotics kit with so many potential
options for such a low price point. Rokit Smart will bring the excitement of robotics
to kids who never before considered the idea that they could build and program
their own robot.

Thousands of elementary school students across Southern California have tested
prototypes for Rokit Smart and they have all been amazed at how easy it is to build
and program their own robot. “When I see how much fun kids are having as the
robot they just built dribbles a ball or navigates a maze, it always brings a huge
smile to my face,” says Hansol Hong, Robolink’s CEO. Discovering how the
motors, sensors, linkages and software of a robot interact with each other has
proven to be a fantastic way of introducing young students to science, technology,
engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM education.

After building and programming the out-of-the-box robots, kids will be able to apply
what they learned and make their own robot. Rokit Smart is compatible with
Arduino, a programming language designed for robots that they can download for
free. “Learning to program our robots is a perfect stepping stone into languages like
C and C++. That’s going to be an incredibly valuable skill as these kids get older,”
says Hong.

The Kickstarter campaign for Rokit Smart has a goal of $50,000 by June 16th. The
money will pay for the manufacturing of the first run of Rokit Smarts. The first 100
backers will have the opportunity to secure a Rokit Smart for $99, a savings of 32%
off of the retail price.

For more information, visit the Kickstarter page here.

The Robolink community has already posted some very helpful resources for robot
builders at robolink.com/community.

VEX IQ – A STEM Education Revolution

What is VEX IQ?

VEX IQ is a robotics platform designed to transform STEM learning for young students and their teachers. Students as young as 8 can jump right in and snap robots together using the intuitive, toolless platform while educators can utilize the free VEX IQ Curriculum to help teach students valuable lessons and skills that are needed in today’s changing world. Complete VEX IQ Starter Kits start at $249.99 and contain everything needed to build a drivable robot. The VEX IQ Super Kit, at $299.99, includes everything found in a Starter Kit plus a full array of sensors.

What is the VEX IQ Challenge?

The VEX IQ Challenge, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is a brand new STEM program for elementary and middle school students (ages 8-14). Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, will build a robot using the VEX IQ robotics platform to solve an engineering challenge presented in the form of a game. VEX IQ Challenge teams will work together scoring points in Teamwork Matches, and also display their robot’s skills individually in driver controlled and autonomous Skills Challenges.
In addition to building robots, the VEX IQ Challenge encourages students to actively learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics with a STEM themed research project that consists of a written or media presentation. Registration for a VEX IQ Challenge team costs $100. Additional teams from the same schools can register for $50. Tournament entry fees vary by event.

What software & programming options are available for VEX IQ?

VEX IQ robot kits come pre-programmed with built-in default functionality. The Robot Brain contains a Driver Control program that allows students to drive their robots as soon as they’re built, and each Smart Sensor will perform a default action when plugged in to any of the Robot Brain’s Smart Ports. For example, the Gyro Sensor will always keep the robot facing forward, which creates a great learning opportunity for a curious student – how does a gyro work? How else can we apply this technology?

For advanced opportunities, the VEX IQ Robot Brain can be programmed using one of two software options from VEX partners. Robomatter’s ROBOTC 4.0 is a C-based programming language supported by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Academy, and the free Modkit for VEX is a graphical dragand-drop programming environment inspired by MIT’s popular “Scratch” language. Autodesk has also created a design package, VEX Assembler, that brings the modern principles of computer-aided design (CAD) into an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface.

How can educators use VEX IQ?

In addition to the VEX IQ Challenge, educators can access a free online curriculum designed for classroom use and mapped to US national STEM standards for grades 2-8 (NGSS, STL, and Common Core). With student handouts, teachers’ guides, and custom projects, the flexible VEX IQ curriculum can be scaled for everything from an after school STEM club to a dedicated class period. By exciting and inspiring students through robotics, the VEX IQ curriculum instills proper engineering practices from an early age, while maintaining the fun and excitement that comes from playing with VEX IQ.

Is VEX IQ available internationally?

Yes, VEX IQ is available worldwide.

For more information, visit:

www.vexiq.com

www.vexiq.com/compete