Not that long ago, a Kickstarter project told us "Don't Go Back To School." Instead, the author proposed the idea of self-taught learning, profiling dozens of fascinating creative folk — programmers, historians, designers, and engineers, among them — who had built successful careers through the independent accrual of knowledge and skills. It certainly does seem that the future is bright for the homegrown intellectual (or architect, or business person, or journalist, or...) and a slew of recently launched projects on the site are helping point the way. On their own, each provides an interesting and alternative take on traditional education, but all together they provide a snapshot of the myriad ways technology, community, and creative minds are coming together to teach each other new, cool things — whether that be building robots, debating politics, or just cooking a good meal. Check 'em out!
Trade School started three years ago as a project among friends, but has since grown to global proportions. It's a barter-based classroom system where anybody can teach a class, and money never changes hands. Instead, students can offer their own skills: original art, homemade food, graphic design, gardening advice, or whatever else they've got. So far, they've hosted classes on "everything from squatting the condos (in exchange for a kombucha mother and research help) to making butter (in exchange for herbs and music tips)."
Roominate is an educational toy aimed at inspiring the next generation of female technology innovators. Composed of wooden building pieces and DIY circuit components, kids are invited to use their imagination to design, build, and wire unique and interactive homes. Girls can make restaurants, pet shops, hospitals, or their dream home (maybe that includes each of the aforementioned), but the DIY circuits mean that buzzers will really buzz, lights will switch on, and ceiling fans will churn. The toy's creators hope this exciting, interactive environment may just inspire girls to start building bigger things one day.
Bring it to the Table is a participatory online platform aimed at bridging political divides. Through a series of interactive webisodes, the series invites people from across conservative, liberal, and whatever other lines to speak openly to each other with direct, honest questions, and encourages viewers to really listen to what's being said. What you hear may be surprising, at times even shocking, but — more than anything else — is guaranteed to enlightening.
Panna aims to collect the best recipes designed for the home cook from the world's best chefs, and provide them for subscribers on a monthly basis. They'll be divided into handy categories like "Weeknight Meals" and "Classics" (lasagna, anyone!?), and the list of contributors already includes industry greats like Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in Chicago, and Anita Lo of Annisa in New York City. And with meticulously created, step-by-step video instructions to follow, you'll finally be able to master those simple, but crucial, techniques like how to roast the perfect chicken, or how to caramelize that onion just right. (Because, let's face it, even if we don't need to know how to make a killer eggs benedict, it sure makes life a whole lot more delicious.)
The Watt? is an interactive e-book to provide comprehensive, accessible information about where our energy comes from and where it goes, in the hopes of helping a new generation tackle our growing environmental and economic challenges. "Consider it a user's manual or primer or resource guide," the authors write in their project description. "Or maybe it's a 21st Century textbook. We're creating a complete and comprehensive Energy 101 education, in language and charts and graphics that we all can understand." By providing readers with a resource to reference their energy use, they hope to help people make more informed decisions about their small, everyday habits, and thus build toward a better future for all.
Colorimeters are extremely useful analytical devices commonly used in labs to measure the concentration of a solution from its light absorbing properties, but it has a wide-range of other fun and educational uses like testing water quality or measuring the activity of an enzyme over time. The Colorimeter Kit is an affordable, easily assembled, open-source version of this instrument made especially for teachers, students, and DIY scientists (like you!). Once you get going, a suite of specially designed software helps you track, map, and share your data, making the experience fully interactive and pretty darn fun.
There's still tons more to learn, of course, so be sure to check out our Staff Picks page for other cool projects.