Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century

Next week is National Engineer’s Week. I’ve always played with engineering in my classes during E-Week (cf Bridges). But this year should be extra-nice:

The Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century will be posted on Friday, Feb. 15.

Committee members include engineering world superstars who aren’t household names plus well-known innovators like Google co-founder Larry Page, Segway guy Dean Kamen, and OCR inventor Raymond Kurzweil.

(Thanks to Vint Cerf’s post on the Google Blog)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

My First FIRST LEGO League

Last year at Georgia’s Ed Tech conference, I heard Beth Hughes speak about coaching a first year LEGO League robotics team. She did a wonderful job of pointing out potential gotchas so that I could be ready for the experience.

Well, I’ve taken the plunge and signed my school up for a team. Eight young men in grades 4 through 7 are now the Chrysalis Crushers.

The league fits in really well with my school’s philosophies. Even our name — Chrysalis Experiential Academy — challenges me to “make it experiential” in my classroom every day. If that means engage the students and develop their internal motivation, the kids have taken to this project in a way that John Dewey would be proud of. For example, they’ve identified team sponsorship and specialized roles for each team member as areas that need their attention.

My team meets daily as an elective course. A major advantage is the sheer quantity of meeting time we have. I hope this helps us in being prepared for our first tournament in December. I’m also thrilled to have two team members interested in spearheading the research project. According to Beth’s advice, dedicating part of your team to the project is important for getting it done.

The team: Chrysalis Crushers

Our next big milestone is the Challenge reveal on September 5. That’s when we find out the particulars of this year’s robot game (kind of an obstacle course for robots) and the research project.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Letting Kids Make

What happens when you give kids the chance to build stuff? They come up with some pretty cool ideas! Take the doorbell in an Altoids tin, built by a 12 year-old and posted on do it yourself website Instructables. How cool is that? A middle school student figured out a cool project then took the time to write it up for a website.

I’m working through incorporating more design projects into next year’s classes. The Instructables website, Make: Magazine, and a great book on design engineering will be my major sources. I’ve already done some design in the classroom: cam operated toys, balsa bridges, egg drop containers, and foamcore houses.

My favorite maker from the classroom is Bre Pettis. When he taught 5th grade, Bre wrote an awesome classroom blog that included many projects. He’s now a Make: Magazine podcaster.