Bigshot is a build-it-yourself camera that aims to demystify cameras and the science and engineering concepts behind them. It also has features not found on other cameras: a "Swiss Army lens" for taking regular, panoramic, and 3D photos, and a hand crank for capturing photos on the go when the battery is empty. By building Bigshot, learning how it works, and expressing yourself by taking pictures with it, you can become a Bigshot too!
Rather than merely being a black box, Bigshot comes packaged as set of building blocks that can be assembled by kids and adults in roughly thirty minutes to an hour. Each component in the kit (such as the lens, battery, gearbox, and circuit board) is labeled on Bigshot's transparent back cover, and each corresponds to a different science or engineering concept. For example, Bigshot's lens is used to teach about optics, and Bigshot's hand crank is used to teach about gears and electromagnetism.
Bigshot's Web site (www.bigshotcamera.com) has interactive lessons on the science and engineering concepts that make each of its components possible, and each chapter is tied to a specific component. Through these lessons, kids and adults are exposed to concepts in optics, mechanics, electromagnetism, electronics, image processing, and even the physiology of the human eye. In addition, there is a comprehensive curriculum planner for teachers and an extensive trivia game that puts users science, photography, and geography knowledge to the test.
One of Bigshot's major goals is to draw young minds to the creativity inherent in science and engineering. To this end, we conducted field tests (in the form of educational workshops) with children in the U.S.A., India, Vietnam, and Japan, with a special focus on girls and children from underserved communities. In addition, a portion of Bigshot's sales are used to donate Bigshots to such children. The photo gallery here and the brief video above show the remarkable photos children can take if only given the chance—this was the first time many of them had ever used a camera!
Hands-on kits offer great ways to learn about science and engineering. But the joys of making a small robot or a crystal radio set have long eluded those who can't get past Step 2 in the instruction manual.
What could be cooler for an aspiring scientist or engineer than a hands-on project working with and learning about electronics and optics? How about one where each student ends up with his or her own digital camera[?]
"By putting the Bigshot cameras together and taking artistic photos the children combine arts, science, technology and engineering in ways that really haven't been possible before," said Jerry James, the centre's director of teaching and learning.
"It's to use the camera as an excuse to expose [the kids] to as many science and engineering concepts as possible," says [Shree] Nayar, a professor of computer science at Columbia University.
It comes in parts, ready to be assembled (by kids, but I can't wait to get my hands on one), and teaches you along the way how these things work.