2020(S09) Lecture:week 1

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Week 1 Tuesday

Challenge: Project Runway

Instructions: Today you will design, build (i.e. fold) and launch a paper airplane. Your goal is to make a plane that flies further than anyones. Working in teams of 3, choose one person to be the designer, one to be the builder, and one to be the launcher. You can talk to each other at all stages but be sure each person does the assigned job and that someone takes notes of your work together (decisions, uncertainties, disagreements, expertise etc). Your team may use the internet if you want. The designer has one dollar to spend and your team must keep track of costs. No refunds will be issued for parts you do not use. In the event of a tie, cost and aesthetics will serve as the tie breaker. Relevant materials cost:

  • paper is 30 cents a sheet
  • paper clips are 10 cents each
  • scotch tape is 5 cents per 1 inch strip
  • pennies cost 20 cents each
  • a pencil costs 10 cents
  • scissors are unavailable
  • a test flight before the competition costs 30 cents.

Your team has 20 minutes to design and build a plane for the competition. If you are not ready to launch at this time, you will forfeit.

Why are we doing this??

Once "project runway" has launched and the winning design team has been recognized, we'll work as a class to add more ideas, questions and thoughts to this list.

  • from 2008: "this was as an exercise in engineering. We had to solve a given problem with limited time and resources, while working effectively as a team."
  • from 2008: "We ended up using my design choice because I am more stubborn. This is not a great success story in terms of teamwork, but it did produce the best plane in the class."


Homework for tomorrow's studio session

Draft a letter. Address this letter to someone(s) you care about. Your letter should introduce and describe a real world problem or opportunity, one that you have inherited, identified, dreamed about, or otherwise encountered, and that you would like to solve or realize. Your letter should explain why you feel the problem or opportunity is important, and what the consequences of success might be. You can focus on more than one issue, but each issue needs to be explained. Please print and bring your letter to the studio tomorrow. Time to complete this letter: 1 hour MAX.

Why are we doing this??

We're looking ahead to the project you and your team will design this term...the first step is for you to decide what you'd like to work on. This letter should start you thinking about your areas of interest. The letter will also be a way to talk with others about things that interest them. Maybe you'll hear an idea you never considered and want to investigate it further. Maybe you'll find someone with very similar concerns.

Week 1 Studio

Part 1: Wednesday matinee

Instructions: Today you will have the opportunity to watch two videos showcasing completed iGEM projects. "iGEM" stands for the "international Genetically Engineered Machines" competition. It is a summer-long opportunity for teams of students working at colleges and universities around the world to design and build genetically engineered machines, many of which use standard biological parts from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. The videos will orient you to the kinds of accomplishments realized in a summer by teams of undergraduates and their advisers.
Our first featured presentation will be

  • the 2008 iGEM team from Heidelberg describing a genetically-engineered bacteria that will find, and kill pathogenic bacteria video.


Their project will allow us to focus on some relevant *BIOLOGY*--> themes that you may want to employ in your own projects. Specifically:

    • chemotaxis
    • sensing
    • genetic logic circuits

which everyone will watch. We will then talk as a group to describe what was done.

After the presentation, we will have 10 minutes to gather with your fellow moviegoers and discuss what you saw, using these "iGEM review questions" as a guide for your conversations:

  1. what was the problem this team chose to address and why?
  2. is this an important problem and why or why not?
  3. did they succeed in part or in total?
  4. if you could ask this team one question what would it be?

Part 2: Dear John

As homework you were asked to draft a letter describing a real world problem or opportunity you have inherited that could be addressed in the near term. You should discuss these letters at your team tables and make some notes about them on the white boards. For example,

  • who were they addressed to?
  • how many problems/opportunities did each letter address?
  • what areas were tackled?
  • how many also proposed solutions to these problems?

Part 3: Index of Learning Styles

From GELs: Index of Learning Styles and questionaire

For next week's studio session

You should revise your letter based on any feedback you received from your classmates today.

Week 1 Thursday

Challenge: Sexy on the inside 2

  1. Watch this video in which Gever Tulley talks about learning by doing.
  2. Watch this video of a person taking apart a MacBook Air
  3. Working in groups of 4, you will take apart a tape recorder. One person should work the tools, another should record the process (e.g. "began by taking off back panel), another should keep a parts list (e.g. "4 Phillips-screws 3 mm long from back panel"), and the last person should record the purpose of each component (e.g. "Phillips screws held back panel in place). Your team's goal is to disassemble the tape recorder into the greatest number of re-usable parts... note of the word "reusable" since next time we meet, the goal will be to reassemble your tape recorder into a working machine. As you work, you may find it helpful to describe what you think each component does and if it's made of sub-components that can be separated further without forever destroying the component's function.
    • "One of the problems of taking things apart and seeing how they work--supposing you're trying to find out how a cat works--you take that cat apart to see how it works, what you've got in your hands is a non-working cat," Douglas Adams
  4. If there's time, watch this video showing the inner life of the cell, an understanding largely achieved by scientific "take apart" techniques.
Why are we doing this??

Once folks have successfully disassembled their tape players, we'll work as a class to add more ideas, questions and thoughts to this list. What did you learn? What about this challenge resembled science and what did or didn't feel like engineering? Was the tape player build to enable this sort of work? What (else) has the tape player been built for/ optimized for? What are the chances you'll be able to re-assemble this machine next week?

  • from 2008: by taking the tape player apart, we learned in great detail how it worked.
  • from 2008: I think this activity was useful because it showed us that we needed to be really diligent about keeping track of each and everything we did.

For next week's studio session

  1. Read Adventures in SB. Using the problem or opportunity you described in your letter, draft a two chapter script for a comic book using characters from your imagination. In chapter 1, have the characters talk about the problem or opportunity. In chapter 2, have the characters brainstorm a way to solve the issue. Print these out to bring to the 20.020 studio time next Wednesday. Time to complete this script: 1 hour MAX.
    • For an example script, and making a comic background, check this out.
  2. Complete survey. Click here to start It should only take ~10 minutes. Please note that this is NOT the same survey that the Project-Based Learning Center might have asked you to complete.
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