Learning Circuits with Minecraft Homeschool and littleBits
My son’s first class (and mine, since I also learn alongside him) with Minecraft Homeschool (MCHS) for 2015 is Redstone Academy. He has taken several classes with MCHS before, but this is his first class that is technical and is focused on becoming more skilled in using redstone in Minecraft.
The Redstone Academy class in Minecraft Homeschool is proving to be more challenging for my 9-year-old son than his previous classes (before enrolling, he told me he wasn’t very good at building with redstone). Three weeks have passed (two more to go), and when we would watch the instructional videos at the start of the weekly lessons, we kept repeating some parts till we understood. My son has been a Minecrafter for about two years now, yet he still got confused at times.
Imagine poor old me, the mommy who doesn’t play Minecraft, watching these videos and trying to remember how the location of redstone dust affects output and the difference between an inverter and a repeater. Terms that I used to only occasionally hear were becoming weekly lessons for me: sticky pistons, redstone dust, wool blocks, etc. I am of no help to my son in this class, so I bought him the Redstone Handbook with the hope that it will help him in his builds.
After many classes where he learned about animals, architecture, and world history and culture, this Redstone Academy is something familiar yet new, challenging yet fascinating. When my son had to build a redstone door for his spy base build, he decided to try building it first in his own Minecraft world – practice before building it in his class server. I heard sounds of frustration again and again. But after some minutes, I was so happy to hear him exclaim with pride and satisfaction! “Yes! Mom, I did it!”
I realized that using redstone in Minecraft is essentially about building circuits, with power sources, inputs and outputs. Today, I suggested to my son that he build a real-life circuit using our littleBits kit. Following instructions from the kit manual, he built a simple yet cool ArtBot (a littleBits robot that draws circles). Looks like we’ve found a fun offline activity to complement Redstone Academy!
I’m guessing that at the end of this class, I will be the one feeling so proud and satisfied that my son has not only improved his redstone and circuit-building skills, but more importantly, his patience and perseverance.