It is very easy (but expensive) to teach using pre-packaged, easily integrated equipment and lesson plans. These are a great way to get started in planning the yearly student’s IEP (Individual Educational Plan), or its local equivalent but should not prevent or restrict education by their lack.
Many times, all that is needed is a trip to the scrap heap to find many opportunities for learning and further exploration. My original “Scrap-heap Supercomputing” experiments began in this same way when I discovered a wealth of possibilities teaching high-performance computing (HPC) to young learners using nothing more than equipment designated for transfer to the school’s surplus warehouse for disposal after its end of service life.
As I looked around at the options for workshop materials, I noticed that many years’ worth of old computer equipment had been accumulating.
Disassembling the older equipment allowed us to test each component, identify those that could be re-used from those that could be discarded to clear room for later generations of computers, and attempt to assemble a functional system from the various components.
Part of the requirements for the BSA Computers Merit Badge involves the identification of different parts of computers, which is much easier when the case is taken off and the “guts” of the computer can be exposed and explored directly without concern for the computer’s continued operation.
Together with quite a pile of outdated or surplus parts I had long since replaced in the working computers for workshops, the HPC grid, and controlling the various 3D printers from my latest book, we were able to add a new functional member to our grid computing team, which the participants in the weekend build workshop named “Obelisk“.
It might have started as a pile of old computers and electronic scrap from past projects, but has been repurposed to a new life in teaching and providing support to the search for solutions addressing global needs like disease management and resource availability. Whenever you need to find ways to excite young learners, you do not need to rely on expensive pre-prepared lessons and kits, just take a look at your local scrap-heap (using proper security measures) for inspiration. You might find operational “gold” hidden under the piles of detritus – a great way to start your own local makerspace even if you cannot yet afford a full setup or mobile configuration.