The Millennium Falcon circles Tech Tower.
Before closing out the last class that I would teach at Georgia Tech as a Brittain Fellow, I brought a great big container of LEGO bricks to class for my students to explore and enjoy thinking about science fiction with haptics. As I had done last year, I invited my students to think of something from their experience of science fiction that emblematized what science fiction means to them. Put another way, I asked them to build a model of the thing that first comes to mind when they think of science fiction. It could be a robot, blaster, rocket, cyborg, computer, spaceship, etc. Whatever it was, I wanted them to use the available bricks to build an approximation of the thing, present their model to the class, and explain its provenance. I would add to each presentation of a LEGO MOC (my own creation) with additional SF examples and historical relevances.
The challenge to this assignment was that 2/3 of the class were taking the course remotely online. While I invited students to build something and share it on Twitter, few did or were able to do so before class that day. One online student joined us for the on-campus class, which added one more student to the mix and was much appreciated by me and his peers.
After giving instructions and discussing haptics, I gave the students about 25 minutes to find bricks and build their models.
Collecting LEGO bricks for their MOCs.
Building their science fiction models with LEGO.
Then, students were invited to come to the front of the class, place their model under the document camera for the benefit of online students, and tell us about their creation and its inspiration to them.
Matthew and his model of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Jarad and his Jedi lightsaber from Star Wars.
Aditya and his moon rover.
Lauren and her planetary rover.
Tyler and his TARDIS.
James and his spacecraft.
Peter and his flying car.
Roxanne and her spacecraft.
James and his Daban Urnud ship from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.
Sang and his futuristic aircraft.
I was proud of the creations and connections that my students made during this end-of-semester exercise. Despite a number of same types of SF emblems (air/spacecraft), each student assumed a different approach and had different points of origin for their inspiration. Also, no two models were alike. Each one is a expression of the individual using a three-dimensional modeling art and design form–LEGO.
Besides drawing on different kinds and ways of thinking for this exercise, I know from students comments that they appreciated having a creative outlet in the class beyond their analytical final papers, which are creative in other ways (argumentation, research, prose writing, professional formatting/design, etc.).
Some of them choose to keep their models while others let me keep their models to show future students.
LMC3214, Summer 2014 Class Photo.
Finally, my Science Fiction class would not have been possible without the technical support of Ted Skirvin, who worked with me to use the affordances of the room with my teaching style while accommodating the needs of online students.
Ted Skirvin of Georgia Tech’s Global Learning Center.