I’ve recently discovered Stanford professor Tina Seelig. I love her work on creativity and the way she’s mapped out what you need to be creative in the below graphic, the “Innovation Engine”. It reinforces what we are doing at Fire Tech Camp perfectly.
Seelig’s view, paraphrased, is that opportunities to be creative are all around us, but that certain internal resources and external structures make the process much easier and more fruitful. Attitude, knowledge and imagination are the internal resources. We need to to feel confident that we can get creative, with all the bumps in the road that that entails, and will eventually come up with something new.
This is a big part of our process at Fire Tech Camp, as we help kids through any roadblocks they come up against and move away from a performance- or assessment-driven school-style thought process to a creative one. We need knowledge – a toolbox for creativity. In our case, that’s the programming platforms that help our kids express themselves. And you need imagination. Our kids have that in spades! We get them imagining their games, apps and robots before they know any of the limitations of their tools and timeframe, to get those creative juices flowing.
Interwoven with that is the external environment that supports innovation. Resources run parallel to knowledge, because the more you know, the more resources you can access. We acquaint our kids with where to find resource – online, from peer networks, and from experts – and how to pose the questions to unlock those. In her diagram, habitat is parallel to imagination. We believe that habitat is very important – we hold our camps at our flagship location Imperial College and at other premium locations, with university tutors and experienced educators. We believe that this is a habitat that is aspirational and inspiring and challenges our campers to think big. Our rooms are flexible and the kids are encouraged to move around, get up from their chairs, set up their environments in whatever way facilitates the best interactions for them. It wouldn’t be the same feeling if we were in an ill-equipped computer lab in a run down building somewhere would it?
Finally, Seelig believes that culture is an important support. The culture that we foster at Fire Tech Camp is critical to the kid’s success and the feeling of empowerment that they get. Our culture tells them that experimentation is good, that what feel like dead ends are opportunities to pivot, and that creativity is its own reward. Our intention is that this external environment becomes a structure that leaves our classroom with them, and that they can call on it when they have opportunities to innovate in other environments. The specific toolbox that we use at Fire Tech Camp is computing, but the end goal is that each of our participants finds the keys and the support to crank up their own personal innovation engine.