Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What do engineers do?


     As an introduction to my STEM fifth graders I created this board as a way to assess what they already know, AND give them a chance to tell me what they want to do "maker-wise."




     I started with a video clip called, " A day of Glass (pt. 1)."  We use it to talk about the design process and how Corning is thinking about their current products and where they might innovate in the future.  We also watch A Day of Glass (pt 2) because that one has a futuristic classroom.  As they watch the movie they write down the cool engineering examples they see and we discuss what engineers actually do. 

     When we finish discussion they use their groups to brainstorm all of the jobs an engineer would do.  Some examples include:
  • Wire ipads (and ipods)
  • Test their creations
  • Make underground houses
  • Create better guns, planes, and tanks for military
  • Create new things by using their imagination
  • Game designing
  • Program electronics
  • Better light sources
  • Improve products to make them better
  • Solar powered cars
  • Construct buildings
  • Program technology
  • Construct bridges
  • Make internet websites
  • Build smartboards
  • Imagine
  • Ask questions
  • Research
  • Try, try again
  • Design
  •  Sketch
  • Innovate
  • Test their  hypothesis.
I found it interesting that the actual job descriptions were vague, and the design process was very evident. That tells me I need to really connect their learning to actual engineering professions - at least in passing so they know these things exist. 


     After working through those as far as we could, we watched Gever Tulley's TED talk.  I pointed out to the kids how our classroom is different from a typical classroom and we talked about the tinker school (camp).  I then asked if we are supposed to be learning about engineering topics, what things are they interested in doing.  Keep in mind, this is the first year that these students have heard about the maker movement (introduced earlier in the day).  I'm going to revisit this with them because I think they aren't completely open to more than typical ideas.  Some of their ideas are:
  • Cardboard animals
  • Build chairs
  • Make a birdhouse 
  • Build and program robots
  • Wooden Cars
  • Take apart a computer and put it back
  • Explore with bugs and insects
  • Sketch an idea and make it
  • Build a parachute
  • Build a kaleidoscope
  • Towers
  • Use electricity
  • Build bridges
  • Build homes
  • Help the community make a playground
  • Plant our own plants like trees and fruit
  • Experiment with tools
  • Make your own tools

I know there are several of these I have already planned so I was glad to see them.  There was also a LOT of discussion about ideas that some thought shouldn't be shared because they are too crazy.  I need them to think crazy.  I need them to be imaginative. I know that crazy and imaginative is where I'm going to start.

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