Invention class at the Kimball Art Center to teach problem solving
March 30, 2012
British writer Roger Burrows wears a lot of hats.
He is the CEO of i x 2 Innovations, LLC, a company that develops interactive learning products for young students. He invented Questron, Magnix, Booktronics, and Photo Q interactive technologies and authored both the "Images and Altair Design" and the digitally interactive "Geometry Through Time" book series.
Burrows is also an invention-class teacher at the Kimball Art Center.
His next sessions will be part of the five-day Young Inventors class that will start at the KAC on April 9. The class will be offered to children ages seven to 12.
"The idea of the class is to bring the opportunity of innovation and discovery to kids and to create small vehicles," Burrows said during an interview with The Park Record. "I’m a great believer of the idea if you can take kids to the point of discovery, they can better understand and become motivated by the concepts.
"It’s like saying if you were there physically in Thomas Edison’s laboratory and saw what was going on, you would have received a much better idea of the inventions than if you studied them from a textbook years later, and I want to take kids to the point where they are putting things together and seeing how they work."
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To do this, Burrows provides an array of materials for his students to experiment with.
"I have a bunch of power sources such as batteries, solar cells, rubber bands, anything I can think of that will generate power," he said. "I will also take in transmissions like propellers, gears and different types of wheels, and there will also be materials to create structures such as wood and things for the vehicles’ chassis.
"We don’t use glue, because sometimes glue won’t bond and things will simply fall apart," he said.
The trick with the class, Burrows said, is to give the students materials they can combine easily, quickly and safely to come up with inventions.
"I want to give them the opportunity to build one thing and then change and improve it," he explained. "That’s critical, to me, for the whole inventor process. They’ll be able to do a lot of problem solving."
For example, Burrows will show the children how to connect a battery or a solar cell or how to harness the power of a rubber band and give them a few ideas of how to connect things together by using electrical tape or plastic nuts and bolts.
"Once I give them a few concepts to think about, I let them do things on their own," he said. "Some will work with others, and some will work alone, but the idea is to give them the space to make mistakes and try to correct them."
Burrows hopes the students will come up with a vehicular framework, put wheels on it and then want to power it.
"As they create, they will find some of the power sources may or may not work for them and they’ll change them," he said. "I know the kids are game for it and will be in an industrious atmosphere. They will drive each other, and it’s something to see all these little contraptions running around the ground."
Burrows’ fascination with inventions started from his desire to be an airplane pilot.
"Unfortunately, my eyesight was not for it, and I stumbled into civil engineering and then got involved with math," he said. "From then, I got into geometry and began designing patterns."
His coworkers would take the patterns home to their children, who would find start filling them in with color, which mimicked the paint-by-number concept.
"That caught on with kids and eventually, the London Times discovered what I was doing and ran a nationwide competition with my designs," Burrows said. "That’s how I became an author. It’s a tangled tale."
Burrows and his wife, Lauren Nadler, moved to Park City after 20 years in Connecticut, nearly two years ago.
"Our kids were in college and my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t need to be here anymore, so we moved here for the skiing," Burrows said. "I love it here."
Nadler, who served as an art director for various publishing companies, talked with KAC education director Jenny Diersen, about book designs, and mentioned Burrows.
"Jenny roped me into this and asked me what I could do," Burrows said. "And that’s how it began.
"In the summer, I will also be teaching a Teen Inventor class," he said. "I have to come up with some more complex works, but can’t bring in an internal combustion engine, if you know what I mean?"
Roger Burrows will teach the Young Inventor class at The Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Ave., from April 9 through April 13, from 10 a.m. until noon. Tuition is $150. Registration is available by visiting http://www.kimballartcenter.org . Burrows will also be at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St., on Saturday, April 7, for a book signing from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.rogerburrows.wordpress.com.