Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cool Toys For Teaching Software and Engineering

I’m attending the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference this week and spentlogo_CMTC the morning in the exhibit hall. Most of the hall is stuff I’m not that interested in. I’m not looking for student management systems or projectors or smart boards. Just not my interest. But I did find some cool stuff that was a bit different and may be interesting to computer science, ITC and technology teachers. I thought I would share some of what I have found.
WP_000598One really cool thing was a relatively affordable 3-D printer. This printer runs about $1300 and comes complete and runs right out of the box. Probably not that sophisticated but will create objects up to 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches in size. It’s called the Cube and I will be looking into it some more. BTW I wrote about the disruption of 3-D printing in this blog recently.
On the other side of the price range is the NAO robot. It’s about ten times the cost of the 3-D printer. It’s a very capable robot though. WP_000593 It’s programmable in a variety of languages including C++, Java, Python, MatLab and the .NET languages. Also cross platform for Windows, Mac and Linux. I don’t see that many schools getting one without getting some grant money of course. There is a simulation environment that lets you write and test your programs before you send them to the robot itself. So one is probably enough – fortunately!
WP_000596For lower cost robotics stuff Lego is here as well.
Who doesn’t love Legos! I know I love them. Lego’s educational offerings seem to be growing all the time.
Acer and some others are here showing off their latest hardware as well. I like this little touch capable convertible laptop from Acer. It's called the Iconia W5.
WP_000594 The keyboard is easily removable so that you can use the screen as a slate device. It’s small and light and seems ideal for a computer on the go. They have a larger screen version that comes with a larger BluTooth keyboard as well.
Last cool thing to share isn’t new technology but a nice conference feature. There was a charging station that had a power strip (as you would expect) but also had a USB charger connected so that multiple USB powered devices could be connected for recharging. This is something every conference organizer should think about doing these days.


Anonymous said...

I'm really intrigued by 3D printing. It's definitely a trend to follow. I agree with you.

Alfred Thompson said...

I think we are very early in discovering what 3-d printing can do. Wrote about that recently at

Unknown said...

The folks at Make have an Ultimate Guide to 3D printing on the news stand now.