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Mind Lab Trip

On the 14th of May, myself and other Future Minds students from years 7-10 jumped onto the bus headed towards Petone, quickly escaping Wellington’s ever reliable freezing weather. On the bus, there was plenty of speculation as to what we might be doing when we arrived, as none of us had been to the Mind Lab before and weren’t hugely sure as to what to expect. When we arrived, we were all in awe over the crazy colours and cool room decor throughout the building- something quite different to our usual Marsden green.

We split into 2 groups, the younger year groups starting with stop motion animation, and us older girls starting with robotics. I’d done a small amount of building and programming of robots in year 8, during our course of digital tech however most of this time was spent building the robots. Luckily at the mind lab, the robots had already been built for us, so we got straight into programming. We were told the basics of how to give the robots instructions and make it follow commands, and then moved on to more challenging tasks where we had to sit and trial until we got it right. One of the more difficult tasks was to programme a robot to follow a course, which was marked out by black tape on a white mat. To do this, we had to adjust the sensors so that whenever the robot detected white (essentially being off course), it turned until it found its way back on course. Because of our experience with the imaginarium it made it easier to understand the different commands, meaning we could get onto it quicker and later experiment further. This was really fun, and satisfying to achieve the end goal. After this, we had free time to play around and experiment with different commands, though most of us ended up having races between robots down the corridor! I thoroughly enjoyed this activity because it was nice being able to sit down and trial before getting it right, rather than just being told how to do it. Everyone there was super relaxed, and they wanted us to get straight into the practical side of things- something we don’t often get to do at school Having free time to play with the robots was also really fun, as we could relax a bit after focusing for the first challenges. However, our fun activities took a turn for the worst- Wellington’s weather had kicked in, and the rain was so bad that already drains were overflowing and flooding the roads. Unfortunately, as the mind lab is out in Petone, we didn’t want to risk being stranded when the roads became too flooded for driving, so had to cut our trip short and leave early.
On August the 14th, we returned- hopeful that the weather would hold up and we’d be able to finish our activities. This time our group was doing stop motion animation. We spent a small amount of time discussing what it is, and how it is done. I’d heard of it previously, though had never tried doing it myself so I learnt a lot of new skills just from putting together the movie. For this activity, we put ourselves into groups of three and were given the task of making a short stop motion animation film. The best part about this was, we had no guidelines, and plenty of time to come up with the most creative films possible. The stop motion itself was pretty straightforward- We set up a scene with a backdrop and some characters, then took shots with minimal movement between each frame. There’s no set amount of shots you have to take, our group took 350 but some took 25. It was all about what you included in those shots and what story you were telling. Our group decided to use the animal toys to depict a story of a shark who deceived a school of fish. We didn’t give it a stereotypical happy ending however, as the shark tricked the fish into being their friend before eating them. It was quite entertaining putting it all together, and we were really happy with how it came out. Another group reenacted Shakespeare, whilst the other did a story on a birthday party. I thought this was really interesting because it shows how having no particular guidelines makes people think outside the box and trial new ideas.

Racing robots in and out of rooms, and sharing stories of sharks eating fish probably isn’t going to help me get a good result in my next test. Although this may be, the skills I learnt at the mind lab are very important, and ones I can use everyday. Being here showed me how vital creativity is, no matter what you’re doing. It allowed me to see how there’s always a new, more unusual, more exciting way of doing something. I was encouraged to go out of my comfort zone and experiment, which although daunting at first, gave awesome results at the conclusion of both days. -Bella O'Meeghan