Guest Post by Jordan Snyder

I was forced to join the T.E.C.H. Playground via telepresence robot, due to my geographical position and I’m certainly glad that it played out that way. I was greeted by Toby, who guided my rolling tour of the facility. I was instantly jealous that I wasn’t there in person to play with the 3D printer and the gaming station, but was treated to a Q & A session and a demonstration of the flight simulator with my host.

The main impression I had was how awesome the telepresence robot was. I had expected a rather bulky machine, not dissimilar to Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. When I utilized the floor view camera for the first time, I saw how maneuverable the robot really was. As I navigated the room, initially going too far and crashing into a table, I got a great feel for the raising, lowering, mute/unmute and other robot functions.

My favorite part was the conversation I had with Toby about his professional development dissertation. Our conversation was about the EdCamps and the grassroots, teacher-led professional development world. Having heard little about EdCamps, this was fascinating to me and I could instantly see the inherent value to a more informal and collaborative approach to growing as educators together. I thought about how cool it would be to have an EdCamp in a place like the TECH Playground, and think that should be something that is explored. Toby and I also connected on NASA education opportunities as a great connection to EdCamps in that teachers could use EdCamps as a garden for resource and opportunity needs assessments, stimulating NASA educator professional development that could meet those needs. We are hoping to connect when Toby visits Washington, DC later this month. I think the grassroots professional development scene is an audience that is motivated and seeking engaging resources, something NASA has plenty of. I look forward to the potential collaboration with Toby and/or his EdCamp contacts.

I thought the telepresence robot was an effective, albeit inferior, way of experiencing the TECH playground. I thought the treadmill desk was awesome and could see the TECH playground as a model for how a teacher/student lounge should look in schools. A place where everyone can work, play, discover, connect, facilitate learning and learn.

I think the one piece of the telepresence robot that I would improve, and it may be as simple as changing a setting, is the inability to hear the discussion in the room when the individual connecting from a distance is speaking. There were times when I was talking and I couldn’t hear Toby’s reactions until I completely stopped speaking. Maybe we shouldn’t be interrupting each other so much…but there were good ideas flowing and it was impossible. Can this be changed?

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and thought the flight simulator was my favorite piece of technology. I look forward to an opportunity to travel to Stillwater in June or July and get some hands on experience

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