1. The students learn to follow the engineering process.
2. The process allows students to have a structured routine of organized chaos. Students who know what they're supposed to do = Happy Teacher!
Before I start getting into the nitty-gritty, all of my STEM projects involve around students creating a device that performs a task within constraints. For example, students in the past have had to create a catapult that launches an item into a targeted circle that is three meters away. Students have had to create a wind turbine that uses wind power to lift ten pennies. When creating these devices, students can "buy" materials with a set budget that I give them. They have the freedom to use any of my materials, but they cannot exceed their cost. This budget is a large part of their constraint... kinda like the real world, huh? haha
STEP ONE: RESEARCH
There is no need to reinvent the wheel in this technological information age when students are given the project details. Students research what engineers have built in the past. They research the pros and cons to each design. They may research past designs in the computer lab or we may watch a few videos in the science room if the computer labs are booked. This week, students are learning about potential and kinetic energy via a catapult or trebuchet. So, students watched this video.
Students are given information about the materials that they have to work with, as well as the cost of the materials. They have a specific budget that they cannot go above. Students must come up with a design with their partners, as well as fill out a budget sheet of their expenses for the design that they have in mind. I always let my students return undamaged materials. Students will also come up to the "store" to demonstrate what they are thinking with the materials to the others in their group.
Materials at the store
Group Planning (above and below)
Students using materials to explain their ideas to their classmates.
Don't you just love my photoshop skills? LOL