Coaching the MIT Way (2 of 2)

Continuing from the previous post on how Computational Thinking has been one of the most valuable skill I learned from taking classes at MIT, this post shares a key perspective I gained from completing the thesis — Teamed Computational Thinking!

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What’s Actually Required from the Thesis?

Every Master’s student in Mechanical Engineering at MIT needs to complete a thesis to graduate. The thesis is basically a book that the students need to write based on the research they do.

My thesis was titled “The Effects of Temperature and Carbon Nanotubes on Conducting Polymer Mechanical Performance.” THAT was never given to me. I had to create it.

How?

To graduate from my research advisor’s lab, very simple, the only requirements were to:

  • DEFINE a problem
  • FIGURE OUT how to solve it using all the tools available in the lab: the machine shop, hardware, and software
  • DESIGN experiments
  • Conduct the experiments
  • Collect data
  • ANALYZE and COMMUNICATE the data

THAT

WAS

IT!!!

This list was never officially announced by my advisor or the department, but that was what every student HAD TO DO to produce a mature thesis.

How did I “Pass” the Requirements?

I graduated with an A+ on my thesis. That means I completed all the requirements listed above.

How did I do it?

  1. Practice computational thinking, again and again
  2. Practice Teamed computational thinking, again and again

Research is work that has never been done before. That means the problem being solved has not yet been asked or solved (completely). And that means: FIGURE, IT, OUT.

The process of breaking a big problem down into manageable pieces, to be completed in two years, was an ongoing skill development.

What really surprised me, though, was how helpful all my labmates were. Opposite from what I expected MIT students to would be like, they solved their labmates’ problems like their own. We would form a “circle of procrastination” twice a day to just chat about each other’s projects (and about life).

When science is discussed in a group, there’s no ownership. There’s no personal feelings. The focus is on facts and evidence.

It was computational thinking on steroids. Because I couldn’t follow all the technical details they were discussing, I just listened most of the time.

Surprisingly, even just listening to them chat rewired my brain to be a much stronger thinker! The power of computational thinking grew exponentially.

Coach Your Children the “Thesis Skills”

Besides the suggestions from the previous post, the most efficient way to develop your children’s computational thinking skill is to immerse their mind in it. Either surround them with teachers with the right mindset, or lead your children to do activities or have playdates that can stimulate them to challenge each other’s problem solving skills.

I work with my students using computational thinking all the time. Not only that I see improvement in their math, they start to own their work because they start to understand the WHY in all they do and HOW they should do it.

Remember, when like minds gather, they bond. When computational thinkers gather, they make wonder.

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