Community Service at the Museum of American Heritage

05 Nov 2009

MOAH is a Palo Alto museum with the theme "Creating innovators of the future through inventions of the past". My family has been helping the museum for over seven years, and my father is on the Education Task Force.

Profile of MOAH

We combine elements of history, technology and design to illustrate the evolution of technology, how and why it has influenced society from inception to the current time, and a glimpse of future expectations.

Exhibits, classes, lectures and family-friendly events appeal to students of all ages, with many MOAH classes providing middle school students hands-on learning opportunities not readily available elsewhere.

MOAH was founded in 1990 by Frank Livermore. Frank began collecting in 1960. As his collection grew, he encountered other collectors with similar interests, and eventually this group became the nucleus of the Museum's founding group. Frank was active in Museum affairs until his death in 2000. The Museum occupied two previous sites in Palo Alto before settling into its current location.

With my father, I have created the following classes:

Introduction to 3-D Modeling for Games

This class is the only one of its kind in Silicon Valley! After learning an easy-to-use 3-D modeling program, students will create 3-D Models with lighting effects. We will discuss how scenes and characters are created for computer games. Then you will design a game using an industry-leading gaming engine and incorporate your models. Then play it!

No prior 3-D modeling experience is required, but students should be familiar with drawing programs such as Visio, Illustrator, Photoshop, or PowerPoint.

Design for Superheros

This class is about "why do things look the way they do". Beginning with some of the first industrial designs, such as for cars and trains from nearly 100 years ago, students discover the continuing influences of design in today's world. We will find that many of today's videogame designs and superhero characters were created some 70 years ago. Class projects are design challenges for objects such as banks, lunchboxes, bridges, and secret enemy bases. One of our most popular courses!

Amount of time has been about 15-20 hours per class given, including prep time, and I give 2-3 classes per year, including those which are part of the MOAH Summer Camp.

One of the classes teaches the history of design and technology. We give the students an understanding of challenges of designing things such as cars, chairs, and cell phones, and relate objects and trends from the 1930s (one of the classic eras of design) with more modern designs today. It is a project-based class, meaning that we give the children tasks to design various products from the supplies we provide. Another basis of this course is a quote by Thomas Edison: Innovation takes 'a little imagination and a pile of junk', as we start from leftover supplies from other museum activities, and the students end up creating some amazing designs, like an aerodynamic lunchbox made from paper plates!

I have learned a great deal about people, personalities, and ways of learning from this teaching experience. A particularly interesting student was an autistic student, named Elliot. The museum prides itself on creating opportunities for 'special' children to learn and have fun. He started out very shy in our class, not making many friends in the earlier classes offered. His parents had specifically enrolled him in the museum's classes because they were having trouble finding things for Elliot to do and learn. But by the second weekend of our class, he had opened up and was very outgoing. At the end he said 'This is the best Saturday I have ever had!'. This quote quickly became the Museum's informal tag line and led off their next fundraising brochure. Helping Elliot make some new friends and learn about technology and design while having fun was one of the best parts of supporting the community.