As a teacher, I am sure you have been overwhelmed! The last week of school, the first week of school, right before report cards go out, parent conference week, during an observation, and so many more occasions are when we all get that feeling that it’s just too much.
That is the exact situation I was in a few years ago when I left the regular classroom to take on a STEM Lab position. I spent the entire summer decorating and organizing the lab and then started gathering resources.
Now, let’s talk about those resources! I had practically nothing and most of the idea books I had were too difficult for my age group.
There was, however, one thing I began to see in those resources- over and over.
It was the Engineering Design Process and I began to think that this little process might be important for STEM.
I Had Some Questions about the EDP!
- What exactly is the Engineering Design Process?
- Do I need to make sure we use it?
- How does the EDP work?
- Is it STEM if I don’t use the EDP?
- Will students benefit from using any kind of process?
What exactly is the Engineering Design Process?
Do I need to make sure we use it?
How does the EDP work?
How about I talk you through the challenge and stop and explain the EDP steps along the way!
We started by talking about drawbridges as we examined the question being asked in the task. That’s the EDP Ask Step.
The Lab Sheet we use begins with the Ask Step and a pre-formed question to set a purpose for the task. In this challenge it is:
How can you use the materials to design and build a working drawbridge that follows all the task constraints?
This immediately started the class talking about what a drawbridge does, how it works, and what kind of materials we will use. This is the Imagine Step and it sometimes begins with very little direction from me. In this challenge, the kids were excited and ready to learn.
This led right to a quick video showing some working drawbridges. We watched a few bridges opening (in different ways) and talked about why a drawbridge would be needed. This discussion satisfies one of the components of the EDP- which is to add a real-life application to the task. Now, to be honest, not every challenge is as easily applicable to the real world, but setting a premise for the challenge is important.
Next, we started Planning– with some crossover with Imagining. At this point, students wanted to see the materials to help make decisions about the bridges.
Is it STEM if I don’t use the EDP?
- Does it solve a problem? (No, it’s just a use of clay to form an animal- which was the task.)
- Does the task have constraints? (Only that it had to be an animal and the students made that decision. There were no specific rules about the animals.)
- Was there any planning? (none, the kids just started manipulating the clay and making their models.)
- Were the models created to demonstrate the solution to a problem? (No! The models were just examples of animals.)
- Did this involve testing and improving? (Yes, when the animal didn’t stand up or look as expected, the students did add to the model.)
So, was this a STEM Challenge. I would say it was not. It was a craft.
Will students benefit from using any kind of process?
- We are engineers. We gather information by researching and learning. We tackle a problem head-on by knowing what we want to accomplish before we begin.
- We have a problem to solve and the steps we need to take to solve that problem.
- We know the requirements of the task and what the materials will be. We plan according to those things.
- We brainstorm like crazy and think outside the box. We bring imaginative solutions into those planning discussions because we have discovered that the zaniest ideas do sometimes work.
- We draw and talk within teams because we have also discovered that the brilliance of teamwork is what makes STEM an amazing process.
- We decide on the materials based on our ideas and we create. As the devices are being made we improve immediately as we see that something is not working. We have learned that this is real life!
- We collect data as we test structures and make informed decisions as we move forward.
- We are engineers!
Links to Posts and Resources:
- 3 Kid-Tested Ways to Conquer the Planning Step
- Drawbridge Challenge Resource
- STEM Posters
- How to Get Your Money’s Worth with STEM Resources
- How to Make the Most with STEM Materials
- Tackle the Engineering Design Process – With Kids!
- Teaching the Engineering Design Process
- The Most Overlooked Step of the EDP
- The Heart of STEM- Problem Solving
- How-to Tips for Successful Teamwork