A Special Place

by Andrew – Robotics and LEGO enthusiast who comes to our after school classes.

Today you will be reading about a special place in the city the Imagination Station. It is a fun place, a good place to meet friends and have great courses

Firstly the Imagination Station is really fun because of all the Lego I estimate around 50 thousand bricks. There is also Duplo for the little ones

Secondly the Imagination Station is a great place to catch up with friends

Thirdly they have great courses there like stop motion and programing ev3 robot to do stuff (like fighting or cleaning)

Use of a Documentation Tool at Imagination Station in New Zealand

by Susan Bitetti – Volunteer Researcher from Tufts University – Masters Student in 2016

Through my work at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, for the month of January 2016, I was given the amazing opportunity to do volunteer work and research at Imagination Station, a LEGO-centric, not-for-profit education and play center in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since the major earthquake that struck in 2011, major efforts have been made to rejuvenate the terribly damaged downtown area of Christchurch. With the support of nonprofits and generous supplies donated by LEGO, Imagination Station was opened by Dr. Christoph Bartneck, a professor at the University of Canterbury, in January of 2015. Imagination Station offers both free play and highly discounted LEGO robotics, technics, and stop-action animation workshops to the families and schools of Christchurch.

DSCN0196With Imagination Station located in the high foot traffic area in the city downtown, it receives visitors ranging across a huge spectrum of demographics. One of my goals was to conduct interviews with caregivers in the space to gain a better understanding of their perceptions of this unique educational play setting and their overall experience. Aside from perhaps some of the more obvious intentions of giving their child fun, hands-on activities to design and new sensory experiences, other common themes arose from my interviews. Many found the space a chance for growth in social learning, and saw it as an open community where children of various ages could seek out others for both collaborative efforts and to engage with those of different expertises, from EV3 robotics design to computer troubleshooting to creating basic LEGO brick structures. Themes of both cultural pride and tradition also became apparent, especially among many of the grandparents who identified New Zealand as a strongly independent country of self-sufficient people and builders. People of all ages recalled LEGO from their own childhood, and wanted it to be a shared experience with younger generations; and many of these caregivers could be found in the LEGO pit themselves, whether engaging with their child in a project or taking up a completely different one of their own.

DSCN0197It was also obvious from both interviews and observation that children took great pride in their creations and both them and their parents wanted to capture these moments of achievement. With support from the staff, I set up a basic “documentation station” which consisted of a simple point and shoot camera, flattering lighting, and a white board prompting name, age, and creation. As advertised, the photos are uploaded weekly by Imagination Station staff to their Facebook page. This provides not only the chance for visitors to feel a sense of ownership and permanency towards their projects, but also offers this nonprofit an easy source of publicity. In fact, the staff has reported that on several instances children and parents will even patiently form lines at the documentation station to have the chance to officially document their work.

After witnessing a lot of spaceship and tower building in the LEGO pit, I was excited to see the documentation station service a far wider range of projects and demographics than I initially imagined. Through the various photos that were posted, we can see children, oftentimes alongside friends and parents, take up designs from cafes and “French palaces” to elaborate pirate ships and more abstract endeavours. Aside from helping foster a sense of ownership and shared knowledge, documentation can be an incredibly valuable tool in engineering as a mechanism for capturing design planning and iterations, reflection, and collaboration. It is hoped that starting children in the habit of documenting sooner than later, they will grow even more as learners and young engineers. I highly recommend you visit Imagination Station’s Facebook page and see all of the great projects visitors are creating!