Learn 2 Teach

Design Squad and thoughts on this Saturday’s session

On PBS, WGBH Channel 2, there is a great show based on engineering challenges where teenagers compete with and against each other. This week’s show has two teams working together to build a hockey practice target for use by the Bruins. When I watched the show this morning (it airs again at 5:30pm Sunday) I was struck by some similarities between our program and theirs.

They have teenagers working together to solve problems.

The participants are doing complex things with interesting systems.

The individuals are explaining what they are doing as they do it.

Builders and makers are learning about the things they are working on and providing a functioning project.

I think it would be useful for people in our group to start paying attention to this show for a couple of reasons: The show is good, well produced and made in Boston. The teenagers come from lots of backgrounds and look a lot like our group. They are showing how to work well in the group and get the product done on time.

They are using the Design Process to solve problems. They communicate clearly and well with each other. They don’t just head for the final product, they gather a lot of information, make drawings of their ideas, make a sketch model to prove to concepts, then they make a carefully crafted prototype to show to the client.

The show has a website: http://pbskids.org/designsquad/index.html
This week’s show: http://pbskids.org/designsquad/challenges/s2-ep11.html

A segment of the video of the show (I found that it plays better in its own window instead of on the main page) http://pbskids.org/designsquad/challenges/v_s2/211/3_ssi_video.html?&filetype=wmv&bandwidth=_hi

This section shows the design and build of the Sketch Model. I believe that what we built on Saturday was a collection of Sketch Models. Each group proved to some extent that their ideas worked. The next step would be integration of each of the group’s products. Now that the scale of the building has been settled, more appliances and furniture could be carefully crafted. The house could have a more complex and accurate floor plan, the sounds could be assembled into the scratch program, which would interface with the pico program, and the whole thing could be powered by solar or hand generator produced electricity.

We all got through much of the design process, but there could be more to do.

In Design Squad, they have two full days for each challenge. The first day is about understanding the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, trying out the best ideas and making a plan for the final prototype. The second day is about refining the ideas of the first day, narrowing the focus to the individual components that will be included in the more polished prototype, and making all the parts of the system work together. They could do another session of making the whole thing look really pretty and ready for a mass market, but I have not seen that happen on the shows I have watched.

Here is a link to their version of the Design Process: http://www-tc.pbskids.org/designsquad/pdf/engineers/ds_eng_design_process_sign.pdf
There are many versions of the design process, It can be used in programming, engineering, life planning and lots more. We all do it every day to some extent, but being conscious of it helps to produce more effective results in your decision making. It also helps when the group is all aware of where they are in the cycle.

Design Away!



July 18, 2008 - Posted by | Teaching and Learning | , , , , ,

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