This Chinese New Year, among many routines, we did some geeky activities at home with Zenn and Hugh: we explored 3D printing, Pokemon TCG, and a Dash and Dot design contest! Zenn was especially happy to geek out in Pokemon.
3D Printed “Pikahugh”
Back in December 2016, when we had the chance, we signed up the boys, now six and four, for tech camps. Zenn went for an engineering camp learning concepts like drift and aerodynamics, and also picked up 3D printing. He did not actually do the printing, but used 123D Design to design the case of his own “F1” remote racer. He did not say much about the camp afterwards (Zenn is actually more performance arts inclined). But he has a strong interest in learning about Pokemons. So I gave him the challenge to design a new Pokemon for his beloved brother Hugh, called “Pikahugh.” If Hugh is happy with the design, I will buy him a Pokemon deck.
You never know what sort of motivation may drive a kid. But to use 3D modeling on our own computer, Zenn spent a lot of time with me learning how to start a PC, switch from my account to his account, enter his self-chosen password (and actually remembering it!), start Chrome, and surf to TinkerCAD. I was impressed with his patience! Once we started TinkerCAD, he could used some of his familiarity with 123D Design to figure out the functions, and painstakingly using the shapes to put together Pikahugh. Hugh gave comments now and then while Zenn did the adjustments. For example, the exaggerated head size was Hugh’s major feedback. I helped make minor adjustments to align parts of the model.
Finally, I took the STL file and printed a simple 3D model at my university. Yours truly had zero knowledge of 3D printing at that time. So I took some time one late afternoon to figure out the Makerbot at my school with the help of my students Aegis and Andy (thanks a bunch)!
Once the model was finished, I did the sanding just to touch up Pikahugh a little (Zenn dislikes sanding since it is monotonous and takes a long time). We asked Hugh what color is Pikahugh, and he chose yellow and black ears. And Zenn worked earnestly in between our rather packed new year visits to get Pikahugh done (I already bought Pikachu and Lugia decks by now so he was not painting to get the decks). As he watched me writing this blog, he told me his favorite part of the process was to spray paint the primer. We learned many things like yellow is a primary color and we could not mix our existing paints to get yellow.
Do not look down on kids’ interests!
We really need to remember that every interest can blossom into a hobby, an expertise, a profession, and even an industry. The same goes to Pokemon, which already has a huge market on its own. I saw how Zenn played the Pokemon TCG with his classmates, and they pretty much drew a card randomly and compare who had a card with the highest HP. I wanted to teach Zenn the real and challenging way of playing Pokemon TCG (and I actually learned the game rules from scratch too >.< ). I introduced both boys to card sleeves as part of TCG practice. Before this, Zenn’s school mates were destroying card faster than they were buying them!
When we got home, both Zenn and Hugh eagerly help inserting every card into the sleeves. I did not expect Hugh to help, but he volunteered himself!
When we finally completed the Chinese New Year visitations, we finally got a chance to sit down the try out our first Pokemon TCG battle while following the rules on the Internet. Dad won the first battle narrowly with my Pikachu deck! We actually got many rules wrong, so we got to try again next time.
Dash and Dot Contest
Hugh was a little too young to comprehend most board game or TCG rules, or operating the PC on his own. So he was mostly an observer in the Pokemon and 3D printing activities. But one thing he really loves was Dash and Dot by Wonders Workshop, which we had for more than one year. Hugh practiced Dash and Dot again at the tech camp. (He is also crazy over The Foos, which he could play forever.)
And I saw the design challenge organized by Wonder Workshop. I wasn’t sure if Hugh was keen. One time while we are in the car, I casually asked if both boys were interested designing new toys for Dash and Dot; we didn’t talk long before we were distracted. But at night, before bedtime, Hugh voluntarily went to pick up the templates printed by Mom and started to draw his ideas! Zenn followed Hugh soon after. We did realize the design challenge does not allow non US residents to participate; but the boys agree we should still participate, and even without the prizes, hopefully we could get some feedback.
Bringing up geeky kids means engaging with them – learning with them – challenging and intellectual activities. We can make use of their natural motivation to explore technologies and fantasies — to learn the wonders of how artifacts are designed, made, and come together through collaboration and peer feedback. When left alone, kids may not play 3D printing, robotics, or TCG the ways that make them challenging and rewarding. So it was a wonderful Geeky New Year to be able to accomplish so many things!