Used to be, we had chemistry sets, and those sparked the minds of generations of young scientists. Where are the DIY, at-home science-fair kits of the 21st century? Change Observer has a piece up about an amazing project along those lines: BigShot, a built-it-yourself digital camera for kids. As Julie Lasky writes:
Packaged as a kit of parts, Bigshot teaches scientific and engineeringprinciples along the way to assembly. Not only do kids have the fun ofbuilding a useful object from scratch, but as they manipulate thelenses, gears and dynamo (the camera is powered with a hand crank),they learn about optics, mechanics and energy. A companion Web site designed by [Shree] Nayar and several of his Columbia graduate students offers lucid tutorials in each concept.
Design wise, the camera itself is kind of genius: Rather than having a complicated, internal system for changing lenses, there’s an external wheel that cycles through wide-angle, 3-D, panoramic, and standard options.
As for Nayar, who chairs the computer science department at Columbia University: He was inspired by the stunning 2004 documentary Born into Brothels, in which the film makers gave cameras to kids living in the slums of Calcutta, letting them document their own world. For Nayar, it was affirmation that technology could enlighten and transform lives.