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How to motor on with your computing curriculum
QA Education editor Victoria Galligan asked Servo Socks creator Dan Kitchen about his clever little cases for motors which promise to put paid to cries of “I can’t fix this to anything!” in robotics lessons…
Computing Q&A with Servo Socks
Could you explain what Servo Socks are?
Servo Socks are both a product and a philosophy. As a product, they solve the ever-frustrating task of mounting motors (more specifically servo motors) into projects. They are a recycled plastic case that snap over a servo motor providing material that can be cut, drilled, sanded and shaped using regular tools and hardware just like wood. As a philosophy, the idea is to get students picking up real tools and inexpensive (or free) materials to make awesome stuff that moves. STEAM education is great and a necessary evolution in education but we feel that it’s critical that we also provide fun opportunities to develop basic hands-on skills.
How did you get the idea – why was there a need for such a product?
As a kid I loved making things, especially things that moved. Without question, mounting a motor in my projects was not only something that slowed me down, at times it discouraged me from seeing fun ideas come to life. I also was never into the whole kit concept, I just wanted something that could connect the motor to the stuff I liked to build with. I could never find something that fit this need so I finally came up with Servo Socks.
The timing happened to work out perfect with the education system so strongly adopting STEAM education.
How easy are they to use for children – what ages would you say they are suitable for?
If compared to the snap-together options out there, I won’t argue that Servo Socks are easier but that’s also the point – easier often sacrifices opportunities to learn. That being said, we package them up with everything needed to get started including our laser cut bits and simple control boards.
With this, all that is needed are some screws (included) a screwdriver and maybe a drill. I personally feel these tools are safe enough for kids as young as 6 to use or whatever age parents and teachers are comfortable with.
At the secondary school level, students can take it much further in environments such as wood shops where they can be creative while still learning to respect the tools and machines that are certainly too dangerous for primary school kids.
We just launched in Canada in May 2019 and we have built lots of projects including our sock robot, simple cars, a robot hand, an animatronic skull, a fun ping pong ball basketball game and more.
The feedback we have received from parents and educators especially at Maker Faire Bay Area was very encouraging.
Do you offer lesson plans to make teaching with Servo Socks easier?
We are working with teachers to develop lesson plans to accompany our project kits. We are also building relationships with school boards to not only insure the kits we develop cover the educational requirements and benchmarks of the various levels of education but to help teach the teachers how this all works through professional development days. We have chatted with many teachers and the common statement is that this is all as new to them as it is to the students.
We don’t want to drop off a box of kits without helping to make sure the teachers can be comfortable too. Servo Socks focus on movement so they are a great way to start into the world of robotics without too many hurdles.
How much do they cost and is there a bulk discount?
The average kit comes with a few Servo Socks, a control board, power wires and the parts necessary to build with. Kits like this typically retail for approximately $75 CAD. We package these up in classroom bins with enough of these kits for a classroom of students to work in pairs to build something. These kits come at a discount and when we are looking at rolling out across multiple classrooms or even schools the pricing gets even better.
See servosocks.com to find out more.