There is an engineering toy for girls called GlodieBlox. A Forbes article in October introduced the business world to this great toy, invented by a female engineer. The education world has become hooked and now the toy is not only in production, but selling like mad. Check it out, you will not be disappointed!
Tag Archives: Design
Several years ago I was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I watched a movie about how engineers are using a concept called biomimicry, using nature as an inspiration for design (think Valcro). I wrote down the names of two scientists with the intent of skyping them into my classroom. It finally happened and the experience was amazing for Dr. Frank Fish, my students, and myself. Dr. Fish works in Pennsylvania at West Chester University. His research includes designing high performance wind turbines. He used his research in water organism fin performance to design a wind turbine that stalls (no longer creates lift) at a much higher angle of attack. In addition he is designing a robot modeled after a sea ray. I cold-e-mailed Dr. Fish and he agreed to Skype with us. My students were transfixed. I asked the kids to develop questions but they were so interested in his research, we did not have time to cover the questions. He was in his office and pulled out models of rays, turbines, and a dusty whale fin piece. He was interesting, funny, and very informative. Later my students showed me two science projects inspired by his appearance in our classroom.
I then introduced the Biomimicry Student Challenge (see below). In two weeks the kids will start a design project choice. I can’t wait.
DESIGN PROCESS was the theme today. We discussed scienfic inquiry and the steps to the scientific method as a way to connect to the process of design. Kids made up their “dream” inventions. It was hilarious. We had homework machines, cell lasers, Final Four Aps, and some very serious ideas like a cure for cancer. The students read about the design process and explained what they would brainstorm, research, test, and ways they would develop ideas. Most kids worked individually but others worked in groups of two and four. They wrote out their design profile and shared. There was laughter all around.
I especially like the creative energy. Kids were sharing, laughing, and suggesting funny ways to improve ideas. It was fun to be creative.
Teaching a process of design is what my colleague called her “Ah Ha!” moment for understanding engineering. The science teachers are familar with the process because it was part of the ’97 Illinois Science Standards, called Technological Design. There are many ways to teach the process and the vocabulary is different but the ideas are the same.
I always say to districts just starting STEM, just design ANYTHING! Some have said that teaching a specific process of steps is too constricting and I agree completely, but my experience tells me 8th graders need the structure of a predictable method of design. In my district we use Project Lead the Way materials and the Engineering is Elementary materials to teach about design. Although we have been integrated STEM into lessons for only two years, we have some promising data about math growth.
With the 20 minute periods (ISAT testing) we will be having quite a good time. My Curriculum Director asked me to present at a board meeting on March 20. I thought I’d have the kids do it. First volunteers will present the power point presentations they created for “What is STEM?” Then, we will present our zoo blast books, telling a story of the Design Process. Finally, we can show what we’ve designed. By the end of March I hope to have started AutoDesk Inventor Pro.
One of my pet peeves is when my students produce an amazing product, they earn 100%, and I see it in the trash bin or they ask, “Can I trash this?” The products must be more authentic. My first step is to bring in the parents to give the kids an authentic audience. I say, “Take it home. It is great!” but some 8th graders won’t take it home. I’m hoping QR codes will provide electronic “coolness”.
I put up a QR code today on a sign at the main door of the building that says “What’s this weird symbol?” It links to our school’s web site. I hope to generate some interest and curiosity. I put my name on it and am anxiously awaiting a question from a student, or an adult. I REALLY want to start a QR code revolution. Next week my students will build QR codes and take them home for the parents to view their works in progress or finished products.
Then I hope to have a really good story….