We just want all kids to be successful and know that learning electronics doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s fun, creative and inspiring.
(PRWEB) June 03, 2015
How to make STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning fun brought together two education technology entrepreneurs — Tara Tiger Brown and Luz Rivas — to create KitHub, a new Los Angeles-based electronics kit company.
“We wholeheartedly believe that kids are capable and interested in working with electronics but may be limited by a lack of access and mentorship,” Brown and Rivas say.
That’s where KitHub steps in. Brown, founder of the nonprofit organization LA Makerspace, and Rivas, an electrical engineer who founded and heads the nonprofit DIY Girls, partner with toymakers, technologists and teachers to create and offer new kits monthly. They also offer classroom sets and include curriculum and step-by-step guides.
Often, parents and non-STEM educators are intimidated by STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) topics, thus don’t engage kids in such activities. That’s why Brown and Rivas team with engineers, toy makers and other designers to create easy-to-make kits, including simple robots, light-up Valentine’s Day cards and interactive games, among other projects.
Their new summer kits feature a “make your toys talk” project — which they designed with Eric Rosenbaum, creator of MaKey MaKey — and an “underwater microphone” project — designed with Shah Selbe, a National Geographic explorer. The toy kit lets kids record their own voices and sounds, create simple switches with common items around the house, and make their favorite toys come to life. The underwater microphone (hydrophone) kit turns kids into citizen scientists. They’ll be able to listen to the world beneath the sea, ocean, lakes and even their own bathtub, record their findings and share with scientists around the world to assist with conservation efforts.
“KitHub empowers parents and educators to help kids dive into hands-on, fun and creative electronics projects at home, in the classroom or at an after-school club by providing theme-based kits and easy to follow instructions,” Brown said.
"Indeed," said Angelica Perez-Litwin, founder of Latinas Think Big who became a KitHub fan after buying a subscription for her 9-year-old daughter.
“I decided to get this subscription for her because there aren't many options out there in terms of creative toys that promote thinking, problem-solving and interest in STEM fields the way KitHub does,” she said. “It’s an excellent way to engage young girls in the world of mechanics, physics and engineering in a fun and creative way. Ever since my daughter began receiving the kits, she's becoming increasingly interested in engineering, something she knew very little about. She's also become more confident making things happen, and solving problems.”
Perez-Lirwin’s daughter’s favorite kit so far has been the solar-powered flower she took apart and put back together, which encouraged her to take apart other electronics around the house and figure out how to put them back together.
The kits have had a similar effect on Brian Bettle’s 8-year-old son.
“I’m concerned that kids who grow up with technology know how to use it, but have no idea how it works or what's going on inside the box,” said Bettle, who dedicates a weekend a month to working on a kit with his son, Thomas. “The projects typically take 30 to 60 minutes, so they are perfect for shorter attention spans. Thomas and I make a bit of a production out of it.”
He captures the kit-making fun on video and posts the activities on YouTube. Their favorite project so far has been the botbot, a robot they assembled from a cup, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, LED lights and a motor.
“The biggest thing my son is learning is how things work, and how to make stuff,” Bettle said. “These projects are at the right level of complexity for him, so he's gaining the confidence that he can make cool electronic things. I really do not have the time, or creativity to come up with the great ideas that the KitHub crew comes up with, so it makes it much easier to have an organized pack ready to go. We enjoy the kits and will continue to have our monthly father/son maker days.”
Parents and grandparents are making dates with their kids and grandkids to make the kits, Brown said. “It’s empowering the adults and the children to gain confidence in building things, using technology. The value of the kits is that we’re giving them ideas that encourage them to imagine creating other things.”
A number of studies prove kids are not getting enough STEM education in school and some 20 million youths in the U.S. are on waiting lists for after-school programs, Brown and Rivas emphasize.
“This is a big problem,” Brown said. “When it comes to STEM, American students fall behind their peers in other industrialized countries around the world. Our ability to innovate and compete globally depends on doing well in STEM, so Luz and I are doing our part as social entrepreneurs with KitHub.”
The creative kits “challenge kids’ thinking and provide ways for us to create, communicate, and most importantly, spend time together,” said Omaha elementary school teacher Lynn Spady, who buys the KitHub classroom sets for her kindergarten through 6th-grade pupils and the other sets for her own children and nieces and nephews. “The kids can’t get enough of the hands-on creation projects that allow them to be creative.”
Educators are supported through a KitHub program that aims to empower them to teach children electronics, Rivas said. “It’s a community for educators interested in bringing STEAM to classrooms, libraries and other learning environments, and we provide free facilitator guides, online instruction and project ideas. We just want all kids to be successful and know that learning electronics doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s fun, creative and inspiring.”
More information is available at https://kithub.cc/.
Tara Tiger Brown, tara(at)kithub(dot)cc
Luz Rivas, luz(at)kithub(dot)cc