A new toolbox for a new generation of students

According to Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest, the mistake is the world-shaping force in charge of determining the evolution of the species. It is only thanks to some deformed, long-necked giraffe that giraffes as we know them still exist. Nature is a machine powered by chance, through a random, perpetual trial and error.

Students are no different. They are not empty vessels, passively waiting to be filled by the teacher. We now live in a different society from the world of our fathers, where distrust towards great narratives is the paradigm and “the smartest person in the room is the room”. And the more we evolve into a Post-Fordist world, based on soft skills, flexibility and lean production, the bigger, more complex challenges we have to tackle in order to prepare the next generation of students for the future. But as nature does, we cannot rely on positive facts and previous knowledge. We have to make mistakes.

UDOO Neo has been built exactly to address these new challenges. It is an open source Android-GNU/Linux mini-PC, embedding an Arduino-compatible micro-controller, equipped and expandable with several sensors and actuators. It is a complete, all-in-one toolbox designed to be used in the educational context for tangible programming experiences, Internet of Things applications, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) exercises. “We designed UDOO Neo as a pocket lab for high schools and universities students, to jumpstart their hidden capabilities, both in the STEM field and for humanities and social studies,” declares Antonio Rizzo, Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Siena and co-founder of UDOO.

Through UDOO Neo students explore the complexity of nature as a scientist and as a child at the same time. They can base their understandings on experiments, moving from a knowledge-driven to an experiment-driven approach: this is what is called “tinkering.” Also, many projects are already online on the corporate website, so that the classroom doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the times, but instead can unleash its creativity, working first on small changes to the code, and on new, bold projects afterwards.

“We believe that it is essential to play with technology” states Massimo Banzi, creator of Arduino, “exploring different possibilities directly on hardware and software — sometimes without a very defined goal.” Practices like this one finally put the students in the same hermeneutical perspective of a kid who breaks a toy to discover the mechanics inside. They are the basis for the new generation to develop computational thinking skills, and an amazing chance for the educators to build personalised learning environments, finally designed for people and not for machines.