This past week, Graded’s Middle School organised a STEAM Day, which included a variety of workshops offered by our school teachers as well as outside guests, a Science Fair and a RollerCoaster Fair. One of the workshops, called STEAM Challenges, was offered by three HS Engineering Design students, under the supervision of Mr Edwards and Mrs Meneghini.
The HS students developed the activities for the stations as part of an assessment for their Engineering Design class. They came up with the idea of developing stations focused on different aspects or stages of the design process. Below, you can see the different stages of the Engineering Design Process represented as gears. Then you can see a graph indicating important elements and questions related to the development of a solution to an engineering problem. The stations then focused on three themes: Constraints, Stakeholders and Prototype Test & Evaluation. As the HS students presented the challenges, they also had to teach about these important ideas, as described in the subtopics below.
As part of their assessment, the HS students had to write a reflection about this experience in their personal ePortfolios. You can read the requirements at our Engineering D-sign blog: Reflecting on our work leading a Middle School STEAM Day Workshop
Constraint is an important idea in Engineering Design. Whenever engineers develop a solution to a problem, they have to work under a variety of constraints which can involve cost, time, availability of materials, limited impact on the environment, etc.
In this station, students had to build a 50 cm bridge that would withstand weight. Their constraints were cost, materials and time. They had to “buy” materials from a “shop” using money from their budget, checking a cost table which also indicated loss or waste of materials for example. For this purpose, the HS student created and printed “fake” money with teachers faces and different values!
The consideration of stakeholders’s perspectives is very important in the design of an engineering solution. The term stakeholder refers to anyone who is affected by the problem and/or involved in the solution. Stakeholders can represent pressures to design a solution according to their needs and they can also provide important insights into an effective solution. Stakeholders are directly related to the idea of user feedback, which is a crucial part of the Empathy stage in the deign process.
In this station, students were split in two groups challenged to design a tower according to different stakeholder perspectives. This tower was supposed to be built in Los Angeles where the Saint Andreas fault is a constant natural disaster threat.
The first group had to design the tower from the perspective of the city mayor, who is a stakeholder interested in the tallest tower possible, so it could become an icon in the city. The second group represented the people working in the building and living nearby, who are stakeholders interested in safety coming first. For this second group, the tower would have to withstand an “earthquake test”, as you see on the video below!
Prototype Test & Evaluate Station
A prototype is a model that represents the desired solution to an engineering problem. The Test & Evaluation of a prototype is a crucial step that indicates whether and how the prototype has to be modified, adapted, improved, in order to solve the engineering problem. In this station, the prototype was an airplane made with paper. The engineering problem was represented by the airplane’s ability to fly long enough to cross a hula hoop.
Students were given different materials to build their paper airplanes. They would then test their design by throwing towards the hula hoop. If the airplane did not reach the target, they would then evaluate what might still be problematic in their design and tweak their model, to test again.