::Extending Access to STEM Empowerment::

Welcome to the EASE Lab

This Lab focuses on projects at the intersection of Olin College and the maker movement


The EASE Lab is based at the Olin College of Engineering

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EASE Lab members actively collaborate with members of the MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group - where Amon Millner is a Research Affiliate.

Read More about LLK


EASE Lab activities that bring together arts, sciences, and engineering for communities spanning a range of ages, interests, and neighborhoods occur in the East Meets West Bookstore in Cambridge.

Read More about EMW

Platform: Modkit

Modkit is a startup building upon EASE Lab research. The cornerstone of the platform, Modkit Micro, is a graphical programming environment for microcontrollers. Microcontrollers allow programmers and engineers to add behaviors to everyday objects and electronic gadgets. Modkit Micro helps almost anyone to make almost anything smarter through a simple, yet powerful visual programming interface (that builds upon Scratch).

Program: Make-it Market

The Make-it Market is a monthly gathering (hosted by EASE Lab, Modkit, and EMW Enterprises) at the East Meets West Bookstore on 934 Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge. The event brings together people who make things in order to meet other makers and promote the do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit to the general public. Walk-in customers are encouraged to purchase items of all types made locally - and have opportunities to make/modify some of the things they buy in the market. Example DIY goods have ranged from do-it-yourself buttons or bracelets to custom computer joysticks. Locally-made products for purchase have ranged from stylish t-shirts to foldable musical instruments. At each event, roughly 5 tables are available for makers to exhibit their goods and table space is also available for customers to do hands-on building before buying. Each event offers a featured maker, a mix of new and returning makers from the Boston area and occasionally beyond.

Program: Programmable Park

EASE Lab members teamed up with the Community-based Programs team at the Boston Children's Museum (BCM) to offer a pop-up DIY interactive exhibit called Programmable Park. Once a week during the month of August, we enlisted collaborators (from Olin, Harvard, NYU) and the BCM's Teen Ambassadors to make programming and making more visible to BCM patrons. On a designated Programmable Park date and time, my team would bring out materials out of storage to an empty space on the museum floor. Once there, we would set up an existing or start a new activity area in the park. We started by building up a bee hive (described below) from large water bottle caps. Each subsequent week of the Park, we would use the first of our two hour session closed to the public, but visible to visitors as we set up the established activities and collaborate on a new activity (listed below). We used the second hour of each session to invite visitors into the Park to play with functional parts of the Park and help define new programs for the park. We could reprogram the Park features to change according to the desires of the visitors or staff. The exhibit activities evolved in public - showing visitors and the Teen Ambassadors how programs could make dynamic experiences.

  • Core Park Attraction - The Bee Hive (Week 1 - 4): By adding photo-interrupter sensors and servo motors to a set of connected large water bottle caps the hive, we were able to write computer programs that made the bee hive's queen bee dance under different conditions. Visitors twisted black and yellow pipe cleaners into shapes that represented bees to them. They would place their bees in the hive - occasionally interrupting one of the photo-interrupters and triggering a dance from the queen bee. The range of behaviors exhibited by the bee hive over the Programmable Park weeks involved fast queen bee dances, slow queen bee dances and dance triggers needing one or multiple bees to land in the special landing spots on the hive.
  • Core Park Attraction - Monarch Mountain (Week 2 - 4): Visitors create butterflies in multiple shapes, sizes, colors, and capabilities add to Monarch Mountain. There are large butterflies that attach to the mountain in ways that let visitors move its wings to see another butterfly move along with it. There are smaller butterflies that flutter in the wind when a visitor stops and smells a flower.

Program: Computer Programming Tools in Schools

Computer Programming Tools in Schools (CPTS) is a multi-language curriculum that uses Scratch, StarLogo TNG, and Etoys to teach fundamental computer science concepts and programming skills in the context of homeland security-relevant topics including food safety and risk models. These three tools are beginner-friendly programming tools developed by different labs at MIT and University of Illinois but share a drag-and-drop graphical interface. The CPTS curriculum is designed for use in an introductory course for middle or high school students with no prior programming experience, with the goal of engaging students' interest in computer science and preparing them for further studies in this and related fields. All the activities are project-based and student-centered, using a variety of formats, including games, simulations, and interactive media.

Platform: KIWI (now Kibo)

The "Ready For Robotics" Project is led by Professor Marina Bers from the DevTech research group at Tufts university and funded by the National Science Foundation (grant # NSF DRL-1118897). The work focuses on the components of STEM, the "T" of technology and the "E" of engineering, that have been the most neglected in early childhood education. At the heart of this work is a robotics platform and curriculum for kindergarten classrooms. Robotics can provide a playful bridge to integrate academic content with personally meaningful projects. The research aims to: make the technology developmentally appropriate, low-cost, and easy to administer.

The work involves piloting professional development institutes to investigate models and strategies to better prepare early childhood teachers in the areas of technology and engineering. The work involves providing modules that address content and skills mandated by the state of Massachusetts.

Key to the project is the platform development - code named Kiwi. The current Kiwi prototype uses materials that lend themselves to wooden blocks with sturdy parts that stay securely in place. The platform extends a tangible and graphical programming language. The CHERP language provides children with ways to arrange physical wooden blocks to reprogram robots - or an onscreen graphical blocks environment.

EASE Lab Members

Amon Millner
Director, Visiting Assistant Professor of Computing Innovation.

Susie Grimshaw, Brian Liebson, Alison Berkowitz, and Myles Cooper

Past Members.

Lifegraph Lab Team
Students of the EASE sublab called Lifegraph included: Tim Ryan, Jialiya Huang, Margaret-Ann Seger, Paul Booth, Jon McKay, and Shane Moon. Now at Technical Machine.

Andrea Cuadra