University students sending engineering kits to remote First Nations kids

Posted on Thursday, November 3, 2016

Danielle Taillon

Fourth-year mechanical engineering student Danielle Taillon demonstrates a "maker kit" in the University of Ottawa's Makerspace. Taillon has led a program that introduces kids in remote First Nations communities to 3D printing and engineering projects.

University of Ottawa engineering student Danielle Taillon is shipping a love of engineering to kids in remote indigenous communities – one cardboard science kit at a time.
Last July, Taillon flew with her friend Justine Boudreau to Winnipeg and drove eight hours north to the community of Cross Lake.
The two engineering students were organizing a week-long science camp for kids, introducing them to computer programming and engineering. They made jewelry with a 3D printer, mapped out the community and designed houses.
During the visit, Taillon met the community members in Cross Lake and had a chance to ask sensitive questions. In the past year the Cree community has lost six young people, in a situation that has been declared suicide crisis.
“It was a very honest conversation we got to have,” said Taillon.
Taillon and Boudreau know a solution to the problems facing remote communities can’t be 3D printed, but Taillon said her hands-on learning approach might make a difference.
“Self worth is a big issue. By building something, there’s a sense of accomplishment, it helps build you up. It’s also a great way to get kids talking. As we were stringing 3D beads one day, the kids just started opened up about their struggles.”
Back in Ottawa finishing her final year of school, Taillon is building light-weight “projects kits.” The self-contained boxes have everything needed for small science experiments and building projects.
For each of the $40 kits sold to a local school, another will be shipped off to a First Nations community. They come complete with instructions and teaching guides.
One of the projects includes everything needed to sew a stuffed Halloween ghost that includes LED lights for eyes that can change colour and blink with a little bit of easy programming.
A second project includes an Arduino board – a simple programmable circuit board that lets kids and adults experiment with electronics. The project is open-ended, allowing kids to reinvent with wires, lights and imagination.
“What I like about our approach to programming it that if the kids are hesitant, we’ll give them just enough tools and hints to be able to solve the problem. It’s dependent on each kid and we keep moving on to harder challenges, building up self-esteem,” she said.

By: Haley Ritchie Metro Published on Tue Nov 01 2016

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