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Experience of the second FabLab workshop in Moscow!

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The second FabLab Workshop based on "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI" was successfully held in Moscow on November 21-24, 2011.

Moscow’s SEED FabLab is a partnership between former Schlumberger chairman D. Euan Baird, Schlumberger, and Stanford University, in collaboration with the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The goal of the workshop was to teach students how to use a laser cutter, a milling-engraving machine, 3-D modeling devices, a 3-D printer with a scanner, and how to write programs in NetLogo for a robotics tool called a GoGo board. Based on bifocal modeling (which integrates computer modeling with the real world), attendees had the opportunity to understand and learn different scientific phenomena of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and engineering.

During four days, students and teachers of the Lyceum, together with the SEED team in Russia and the Stanford University team (Professor Paulo Blikstein and graduate students Claire Rosenbaum and Daniel Greene) reproduced different physical phenomena in different projects.

One of the tasks of the workshop was to learn the NetLogo program, with which it is possible to create a simulation of practically any physical or chemical phenomenon on a computer. At "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI" it is possible to enhance the learning experience using these real models and all the equipment.

For me as a teacher it was very interesting to compare the results of students' presentations of scientific phenomena before and after starting the detailed learning. Their understanding became better.

The First Day

Eighteen students of Lyceum 1502 MPEI were impatiently waiting the start of the second FabLab workshop. Unfortunately many more students wanted to participate than could be safely contained in the Lab. 

Nadezhda Alekseeva, SEED coordinator in Russia, introduced all the participants to the main concept of the SEED program, shared the knowledge of the FabLab project, which has spread all over the world, and congratulated everybody on this first FabLab school in Russia. She also introduced the Stanford University team--Professor Paulo Blikstein and graduate students Claire Rosenbaum and Daniel Greene--and thanked all the SEED volunteers for their support and interest to the project.

Paulo Blikstein started the workshop with a short presentation about the projects which have been done by children in different countries. At first glance these appear very simple, but they are at the same time very important. They include a model of accumulating energy using "lying policemen" (speed bumps) and an automatically device to swing babies. These examples inspired the students very much. Before the workshop began the students answered the following questions regarding an imaginary experiment in which a sphere is moved from one place to another:  

1. Write down everything you know about the experiment--formulas and ideas.
2. Let’s push a ball for 3 seconds.
3. If I put twice as much force on the ball, how much time it will take?
4. Write down all the variables that should be taken into consideration for this experiment.
5. Now think even harder and list more variables that should be taken into consideration for the experiment, even small things.
6. Now list all the variables and rate each of them with the number from 1 to 10, "1" means that the magnitude of these variables is really small, "10"  means it is very significant.

Before the workshop started, I, Irina Krasnova, chief of the Lab, read out a set of safety rules and requirements while working with the lab's high tech equipment at "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI." Under the control of the Stanford University team and lab researchers, the students split into 3 groups and started to learn how use a laser cutter, a milling-engraving machine, 3-D modeling devices,and  a 3-D printer with a scanner. The administration and teachers of Lyceum 1502 MPEI convened a meeting for the SEED and Stanford University teams with all students of the nine grades (120 participants). Principal of Lyceum 1502 MPEI Vladimir Chudov congratulated the students on the beginning of the second FabLab workshop and thanked all the guests for such a great opportunity to hold the workshop, expressing hope that such events will become a good tradition. 

SEED in Russia showed the attendees a movie about the first FabLab@school in Russia, based on the workshop and Inauguration ceremony that was held earlier in 2011 at the Lyceum. Professor Paulo Blikstein spoke about the possibilities of "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI", which will allow different projects using equipment. "But what is made is your ideas, not machines," said Paulo.
During the workshop teachers and students learned how to get started with the GoGo board (a programmable device that is designed for sensor-based and control projects). It is suited for building robots, data loggers, and devices for human-computer interaction.

Next the group work began. Based on bifocal modeling research the students discussed the physical phenomena that they were interested in developing. Next these ideas were developed into computer models using NetLogo programs and compared with real models that were prepared at "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI." Each group chose the scientific phenomena that they were interested in, discussed the devices, and chose the materials they would use. At the end of the first day students shared their ideas of the projects, told what difficulties they faced while working, and presented plans for further development.


The Second Day

The workshop started with a survey of the students consisting of two tasks:

1. Think of the project started yesterday. Indicate the three minimum parameters necessary to measure.
2. Name all the variables that will influence the experiment and write down all the variables that should be taken into consideration for this experiment.

Each of the three groups was supported by teachers, SEED volunteers, and lab researchers while the students were working on their experiments. After that training was held by Paulo Blikstein on how to work with the NetLogo program.
The goal of this workshop was a comparison of how the students understood the scientific phenomena before and after the experiments, so it was necessary to have a lot of student surveys before and after. The other task that each group had to perform was to advise another group on how to improve their experiment and how to improve the precision of measurements.

At the end on the second day, some of the students had a real model of the experiment, prepared using a laser cutter and router, while others had started to create computer models using the NetLogo program. 

The second day was very interesting and passed quickly, a lot of new knowledge was learned not only by the students but also by the teachers. So again, at the end of the day, there was writing work, which was not boring. Everyone reported on their projects.  So, what could be more interesting?

What are the most important things to measure?
What are the less important things to measure?
How does one make a real-world model with NetLogo? How can the comparison be made as precise as possible?

For home the Lyceum students have the task of learning more about the NetLogo program and trying to write programs for their own experiments!

The Third Day

The last day of the workshop started with a new task. Each team had to prepare real and computer models of their experiment. It was recommended that they think about how to optimize the project? It was necessary to focus on the computer model, which has to present the simulation of the phenomenon with mathematical explanation, not just a picture. So each of team aspired to create the project as best as they could and at the end, all of them were very interesting, useful, and striking.

Egor Busyrev and Ivan Shamaev, first team with project "Diffusion":

We have made a device in which we were learning the diffusion effect of two liquids. different in color and temperature. For our project we used photo resistors, temperature sensors, a GoGo board, measuring cups, and connecting tubes. In the computer model you can see the simulation of cold and hot water (blue and red circles). The NetLogo program created the graphs and shows the dependence from temperature, color, and time.

Mysnik Koroll, Chertok Nikita, Chertok Vitaly, second team  with project  "Ice melting process":

Our goal was to measure the time that will be necessary for ice to melt depending on a fixed temperature. We froze the temperature sensor into the ice. This piece of ice we placed in a heat conducting cup and put in the microwave, the surface of which was heated up while working.

By changing the temperature we changed the time of ice melting. The graph of dependence temperature from speed of melting you can see on the computer at the same time as the real model is connecting with the computer. Based on the results of the experiment we can calculate what temperature will be needed to make the ice melt.

Vedeneed Pavel, Koltsov Dmitry, Chirkin Dmitry, third team with project "Energy save car’s suspension":

We got this idea after studying the car’s suspension, where the electricity is produced from the oscillations of the car’s suspension. We thought that we could make a model of electricity generation that consists of syringes that imitate a car’s pistons and make the dynamo machine move.

Koretsky Maksim, Podobrazhnukh Anna, Lyzhov Alexander, fourth team with project "The phenomenon of resonance on the bridge model example":

We decided to study the impact of resonance on bridge construction and to see in what conditions the construction can be destroyed. We built the bridge from cardboard. It consists of 5 parts and is bolted together by magnets. In the middle of the bridge we placed the motor and underbalanced wheel and on the top of it we have placed the GoGo board. Using the GoGo monitoring program we can control the motor and sensors for the magnets that show the placement of it.

Tikhonov Leonid, Trofimenko Pavel, Ignatyev Vladimir, fifth team with project "The phenomenon of convection and diffusion":

Learning the phenomena of convection and diffusion, we decided to compare the middle temperature of theoretical calculation with its practical equivalent. We added to a cup with cold transparent liquid a few liquid blue gel caps, previously warmed. In the math calculation we got the number 43.3 degrees; in the practical version we got 38.5.

Fonarev Nikita, Vorobyev Vladimir, Balashov Igor, sixth  team "Measurement of Archimedes' weight":

We created a model based on which it is possible to learn lined dependence from the density of liquid. Using the weight’s sensors and GoGo board, programming Gogo we created the graph on computer from weight to density.

Each of the young researchers received awards for their interesting projects from SEED, as well as diplomas and applause for all participants. Paulo Blikstein gave high marks for the students' work as a whole and each project separately. He mentioned that this workshop was maybe one of the most successful he had seen. The SEED and Stanford teams thanked all the students for the creation and realization of their projects.

The Lyceum, for its part, thanked the organizers, the SEED team and guests of Stanford University, for the excellent workshop! The teachers have been interested by the before and after surveys, showing the learning experience of the workshop.

For my part, I would like to add that the experience of such successful events increases the interest of the students, which in turn  attracts a lot more students to "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI." During the workshops three students asked about participation at the next workshop. After the event was finished 14 more students started to work on projects with the science leaders.

I would like to thank the SEED program and Stanford University team on behalf of Lyceum 1502 MPEI because students have a great opportunity to develoip their research skills "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI."

Irina Krasnova,
Chief of "Experimentarium 1502 MPEI"

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