Making fun: how Kids Invent Stuff changed the game
Take a bunch of five-year-olds, two engineers and a dash of the old razzle-dazzle, and what do you get? Kids Invent Stuff’s toilet-cleaning robot and a musical extravaganza!
You may be familiar with the work of Ruth Amos and Shawn Brown; they’re the dynamic duo behind the brilliant Kids Invent Stuff YouTube channel. The premise is simple enough: every month they invite kids to send them invention ideas on a particular theme; at the time of writing, they’d just finished accepting entries for a winter-themed challenge. Ruth and Shawn (who are both real, adult engineers with real jobs) then turn the winning idea into a real product. Past creations have included a wearable air bed, a motorised magic carpet, and a saxophone that fires glitter. Check it out for yourself.
One day, the pair decided to do something different. They’d take the original idea that works so well, and add a musical element.
“The whole point of what we do is to show kids that they can be engineers,” the pair told us. “We’ve not been going long enough to have inspired a six-year-old who’s now studying engineering at university, but we have had lots of feedback from teachers and parents, telling us how kids have been inspired to try more things. And it’s not just that – it’s great for kids’ confidence too, coming up with ideas and having them taken seriously by two adults who build them as they describe them to us.”
Kids Invent Stuff has been going for a while, but recently, they had a go at something different: a musical. “We both love musical theatre, and it seemed about as far away as you can get from the stereotype of what engineers do. That made it seem like a good way of reaching people we wouldn’t otherwise be talking to. We took our inspiration from Horrible Histories, or the Hamilton musical – yes, it’s fun, but it’s also a subtle way to get information over to a new audience about what an engineer does.”
They kept the structure the same – the idea for a toilet-cleaning robot came from Erin, a five-year-old Reception pupil at a school in Cornwall, which Ruth and Shawn built in segments and assembled for the filming. The builds are usually a logistical challenge at the best of times, but for this build, the pair had to add singing, dancing, music, lyrics, and the dangerous element of smashed toilet seats.
“We recorded the questions with the kids, then sent the kids’ answers over to Seamas Carey, a musician we know. It was a lot more work to incorporate the extra elements – someone had to film and direct it, someone else had to write the music, sing, and dance – but it was also refreshing to share the creative process with other people.
That’s the musical taken care of: how does the robot perform?
“It does work; it’s pretty brutal actually. Your toilet would be clean, but it would have the enamel worn off it pretty swiftly”.
Watch the whole thing, and admire Shawn’s dog, Luna.
Wear your (poopicorn) mask
We thought it would be fun to celebrate Kids Invent Stuff Day to acknowledge all the work our friends at Kids Invent Stuff do to inspire creativity in young makers. Join us on Twitter today using #KidsInventStuffDay to share your stories, makes, and high-fives for Ruth and Shaun. We’ve even made this mask of their iconic Poopicorn, which currently lives and poops at the Raspberry Pi Foundation office.
Why do we love Poopicorn so much? Well, it has a Raspberry Pi in its belly, of course!