Christa Flores posted this on Twitter after Tiana, Lucas and Everett—then ages 7, 9, and 10, respectively—finished their presentation at the FabLearn 2017 conference at Stanford University. Christa has been one of the conference’s chairs for the Educator’s Track for the last few years.  

With clarity and confidence Tiana, Lucas and Everett presented:

  • An AI (Artificial Intelligence) neural network, which the students programmed to recognize and identify student’s faces.

  • A light projector , which the students designed themselves, using a combination of laser cutting and 3D printing.

  • Wooden rings, which the students designed and laser cut themselves, with three scenes from rainbow myths they wrote.

  • An example of one of the contemporary rainbow myths they wrote

  • A computer simulation which the students programmed using Netlogo, explaining how the pepper moth evolved during the Industrial Revolution from a population dominated by white pepper moths, to a population dominated by black pepper moths, as dark pepper moths were camouflaged by the pollution of the industrial revolution

  • An invention —created with a Gogoboard, moisture sense, and LED lighted interface—that can tell us if a Guinea Pig home is clean or not.     

During FabLearn our students also got the chance to meet Aarnan Sipitakiat and Prof. Paulo Blikstein, the creators of one of their favorite robotic tools, the Gogoboard. They took pictures and asked questions about the creation and future of the Gogoboard. Lucas, Everett and Tiana also visited the Transformative Learning Technology Lab, where they felt at home, recognizing most of the machines and tools from what we have at our school in TriBeCa.

A key goal at Portfolio School is for our students to become “adaptive experts,” able to use their learning and experiences in complex contexts, to solve real problems, to adapt their expertise to new and completely different situations and to share that expertise within a community outside of a school setting. Creating the opportunity for our children not just to see a community of experts sharing their experiences and practices, but be a part of it is one of the many rich learning experiences we have designed that are provided and used to achieve this adaptive expertise.

Each project unit at Portfolio ends with an Exhibition Night, where children share their projects (as well as personal project and ideas) with the families, friends and the community.

Conferences like FabLearn take this to the next level. For Everett, Tiana and Lucas suddenly the idea of sharing one's work, practicing their presentation skills and communication became a goal which applicability extends beyond the school.

Our children now know that what they are creating and learning is interesting and people will want to learn from it; that their knowledge is worth sharing not just to the school community but to the world.