Posted by: crudbasher | November 13, 2012

The SparkTruck: A Glimpse Of Effective Learning

I took yesterday off for my birthday (and to watch the new James Bond film). Both were very good. 🙂

In getting back into my research I found this story in Wired magazine about the SparkTruck. This is a project started by group of students at Stanford where they took a truck, filled it with 3d printers and other rapid prototyping tools and hit the road to visit schools. They stopped at 73 schools and let 2,679 middle and elementary school students play with them.

What caught my eye was this focus on process rather than results.

as the summer progressed, the SparkTruck team learned an unlikely lesson. The most rewarding part of the trip wasn’t introducing the kids to new technologies. Instead it was something far more basic: watching them struggle with design problems.


Some teachers were skeptical. “One teacher told us, ‘My students are so conditioned to thinking that I’ll give them the right answers,’” Korsunskiy said. She didn’t think the group’s approach, which Korsunskiy summarized as “giving [kids] the space but not giving them the answers,” would work.

Sure enough, the SparkTruck team noticed kids’ resistance. Presented with a design problem, students would get stuck — and as the teacher predicted, they would come to the facilitators and ask, ‘How do I do this?’ They would beg, plead, and get frustrated. The SparkTruck team would withhold answers, instead asking a kid with, for example, no idea how to keep her robot from falling over, ‘How do you think it cold be done?’

Eventually, the hard-nosed approach paid off. “After an interaction like that, you see a gear shift in [a kid’s] head,” said Korsunskiy. “Once you make it clear that you’re not there to provide the answer, they completely rise to the challenge.”

What a concept. You notice that the technology was just a way to get the students interested? What they were actually learning was critical thinking, problem solving and persistence in an atmosphere where there was not just one right answer.

The motto of the SparkTruck seems to be “Fail Early To Succeed Often.” This is exactly what innovators like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel seems to be preaching also.

I might not yet be able to tell you exactly what the future of learning will look like, but I bet it’s similar to the SparkTruck.


(cc) SparkTruck



  1. Yes, the art is in finding the right project that draws out exactly what you need. Looks like you found a good one.

  2. […] The SparkTruck: A Glimpse Of Effective Learning ( […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: