Technological tinkering develops skills

A Warkworth educator with a passion to equip students with vital technological skills for the future has teamed up with the Men’s Shed to turn his vision into reality.

Mike Izzard is the inventor of the Tinker Cart – a mobile, powered workstation featuring a range of equipment to develop students’ abilities in STEAM subjects – science technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Tinker Carts vary but can typically include a 3D printer, 3D scanner, a laptop, Wifi connection, computer-controlled cutting tool, a solar panel and a digital projector.

In addition, the carts store a variety of materials (such as wood, metal and paper), electrical devices (such as motors, switches and lightbulbs) and tools (such as soldering irons and glue guns) to assemble projects.

Mike says the carts can be wheeled into any classroom, and projects using the carts can be developed to meet curriculum goals.

Materials used in one project can be recycled for use in another project.

Mike got the idea for the Tinker Carts while teaching at Tokyo International School in Japan.

“I’m very interested in the direction education is taking and am truly concerned that my grandchildren need to be properly prepared to face a very different world,” he says.

Mike set up the company Super Humanics and has built four versions of the carts over the last three years for use in Tokyo classrooms.

He says the carts proved a hit with students, and teachers value them for the creativity, independence and collaborative behaviours they foster.

One Year 8 class succeeded in building a driveable solar-powered car from scrap material and old office desks, which was proudly displayed during Tokyo Design Week.

Mike returned to New Zealand last September and settled in Warkworth. Super Humanics has joined forces with the Warkworth Men’s Shed in a non-profit venture known as The Tinkercart Project.

It’s anticipated Men’s Shed volunteers will construct the cart shells, while Super Humanics plans to work alongside schools, sponsors and suppliers to design and equip the carts and develop a database of projects.

Mike already has strong interest from Hobsonville Point Primary School and as Mahurangi schools return from their summer break, Mike will be contacting them to gauge their interest.

He anticipates most interest will come from primary and intermediate schools since they often lack the specialist facilities a Tinker Cart can provide.

“There is so much that can be done with a little adventure and forward thinking,” he says.