I hope this note finds you well. We're four weeks into the school year already, and things are really picking up in Engineering Design. After a lot of extensive safety and tool training, all students have officially been OK'ed for working in the wood and metal shop! And just in time, because we've already started our first project.
This first little project is simply called "The Box Project". I've attached the handout here so you can read up on it if you like. Basically, each student will be designing and making a decorative box with a specific purpose. The whole process walks students through the design process of brainstorming, sketching, researching, prototyping, and then building a finished deliverable. I'm already really excited about the students' enthusiasm about the project. They're coming up with all kinds of cool ideas. One student is creating a custom-made holder for his saxophone reeds. Another student is creating a special lock box that works like a combination lock, but made entirely out of wooden disks and notches. Still others are coming up with hidden compartments and locking mechanisms inspired by classic puzzle boxes. There is no end to the creativity in these students!
Hopefully we'll be finished with this project by the end of this six weeks grading period. When done, I hope that the kids really feel a sense of pride in what they've created. To me, that's what I try to cultivate the most in this class. There's a lot of wiggle room in the requirements for this project so that students can customize what they're doing to match their skills and comfort level. Or, if they want to, they can challenge themselves by trying to build something that will force them to learn a new technique or tool. Either way, they are the masters of their own projects, and giving them this kind of independence is thrilling for both me and the kids. That's what makes a project really authentic -- when the student gets to decide what they want to do, and how they'll do it. Along the way, they figure things out through trial and error, self-teaching (hooray for online tutorials like Instructables!), and coming to me when they know they want assistance. Did I mention they're having fun too?