Stanford grad students combine innovation and education

Stanford graduate students combine innovation and education at the Learning, Design and Technology Expo.
August 2, 2013 10:07:19 PM PDT
The graduate students at Stanford University's Learning, Design and Technology Expo are facing a Master's thesis like none other -- build a product designed to change education.

Danny Cochran is a Stanford grad student. His Strummify app is his final project for a Master's in learning design and technology. He's presenting at this expo with a host of other bright minds.

"We analyze if they're actually playing the tab correctly, and then give them feedback," Cochran said. "So it's kind of like Guitar Hero, but with a real guitar, and on your computer, for free."

Megan Chiou's team built a toy called Dr. Wagon. Users write computer code by arranging blocks.

"So this way, kids can get exposed to the basics of programming, but using tangible objects," she said.

The sheer variety of projects has the faculty impressed.

"These students have put together some really amazing things that have all got something to do with learning but in vastly different ways," program director Karin Forssell said.

All the teams presenting here have already gotten past the discerning eye of their professors. Now is their first chance to present to the general public -- an audience of over 150, including some Silicon Valley investors, and of course a lot of real life students.

"When we see it in the hands of users, real users, and they give us feedback that it's awesome or it's working or it's not working, that's the most rewarding part I think," grad student Kunal Chawla said.

That was key for Design Duo -- a kit especially for dads to build things with their daughters.

"We found that they wanted to spend time with their daughters, but they had no idea how to," grad student Kirti Patel said.

Not just for bonding, it teaches girls engineering is creative and social.

"We wanted to design an experience where the daughter can also teach the dad; an experience where they're building but also creating art together," grad student Laura Bruursema said.

You're never too old to learn -- that's the point of Make Tea.

"Couples spend quite a bit of time on tech, on their iPad on their iPhone," grad student Maria Molfino said.

Molfino's app comes with a real life tea set to bring them back together, with thought provoking questions.

"Facilitating connection, instead of decreasing it," she said.

And this expo, in turn, is facilitating connections for the students as they go on to change the face of education.


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