Creative Children and their Dream Machines

Published Nov-03-13

A self-made bed and a recycling robot are two of the concepts designed and built by children and students in an open innovation project that lets them create their ‘dream machines’. It is a unique collaboration between primary school children, higher education and technical graduates.

MyMachine, Belgium

The Story:

Creative Children and their Dream Machines Children are often creating, dreaming and imagining. Theirs is a world of endless possibilities, but rarely do they get an opportunity to turn their wildest dreams into reality. Until now that is, and an innovation project called MyMachine. It encourages children to think out of the box, to devise and develop creative solutions.

Creativity and Innovation

Primary school children (6-12 years) in Belgium are invited to write and draw their perfect ‘dream machine’, and anything goes. It could be a machine to help tidy a room or one to unwrap chocolate bars. The main criteria of this IDEA phase is that the concept must be relevant to the child.

In the next stage, higher education students such as product design students propose a number of design solutions, and the best ones are selected by the younger children. Then technical drawings and plans are given to Secondary Tech Students (12-18 years) who then build the prototypes. At all stages of this innovation process, children can tap into the knowledge of participating local companies and organizations.

MyMachine allows children to witness the entire product making life cycle from ideation and design to prototyping and product creation.

This open innovation project, drawing on the diverse skills and talents of children and adults was originally set up by Howest University, Intercommunale Leiedal (Intermunicipal Association) and Streekfonds West-Vlaanderen.

One of the inspirations for MyMachine was a TED-talk on creativity in education (‘we are educated out of creativity’) by Sir Ken Robinson PhD, a renowned thought leader on creativity.

Project MyMachine in Zuid Afrika: De Slotshow from Joscha van Bree on Vimeo.

Meet the Dream Machines

There have been numerous MyMachine success stories. Six-year-old Matisse came up with an idea for a machine that would chase away ghosts from under his bed. He did not believe assurances from his parents and other adults that ghosts don’t exist. His concept appealed to higher education students who built a machine on tracks that ‘erases’ ghosts from under his bed. It even prints out a status report.

The Self Bed Machine was imagined by a 6th grader and is a bed that turns down itself with the simple press of a button. The concept was designed by a Howest team and built by the Maritime Institute of Ostend.

MyMachine has been so successful that a spin-off concept was introduced (‘MyMachine 1+1=3’) that saw cooperation between schools and organizations in Belgium and South Africa.

One of the fruits of this endeavour was a recycling robot called Scrappy. Children from both countries discussed and exchanged ideas and regularly met via video conferencing so they could discuss developments face-to-face. Technical schools in Belgium and South Africa built their own robots based on the same designs and technical drawings. Scrappy is made from three bins and recycled car parts.

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