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Amanda Wendt

Live Curious, Go Beyond the Classroom!

The fusion of technology and education no longer limits us to the knowledge, experiences, and perspectives of our classroom. I utilize technology to provide students with an open-ended and creative way to interact with topics of interest and relevance to them.The result is a highly collaborative and personalized learning environment that bridges the gap between the classroom and the real world.

Areas of expertise: LMS, Collaboration Tools, Formative Response Tools, WikiProjects, Google Drive

    Twitter Handle: @amanda_wendt_


Design Thinking Crash Course: Backpack Redesign Challenge with Brian Hamm

posted Apr 8, 2016, 6:48 AM by Amanda Wendt   [ updated Apr 8, 2016, 7:56 AM by Brian Hamm ]

Design Thinking Crash Course:

Backpack Redesign Challenge with Brian Hamm

Design thinking and the Engineering Design Process are new concepts in the field of education that are gaining popularity among both teachers and students. If you have not yet attended one of Brian Hamm’s workshops on Design Thinking you must seek him out immediately. It is an energizing experience that leaves you feeling creatively inspired and eager to bring design thinking into your own classroom. When student projects are designed to produce identical results, student learning and creativity are often lost. Students spend their time creating replicas of what is expected, leading to comparison and ranking between students, or exhibit off task behaviour or boredom due to rubric imposed constraints. Students are uninspired and teachers spend hours grading the same project over and over. When Design Thinking and the Engineering Design Process are used to structure student projects, creativity and variation is highlighted and encouraged. Student engagement is higher and original and unique projects are created.

The science department has recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards which emphasize the use of

the Engineering Design Process as equal of importance to science inquiry. As a result, the 9th grade science students have been tasked with a 7-week PBL ballistics project in which they will utilize the Engineering Design Process as they construct their devices and compete in a competition for distance and accuracy. To introduce this unit, Brian Hamm ran each class through a Design Thinking Crash Course in which students were exposed to this creative process of design. After a series of icebreakers and introductions, students were tasked with redesigning their backpack. They had to interview a fellow classmate and truly understand their experience by actually going through their bag. They synthesized the information into what are called Design Drivers and Design Constraints of their clients. Based on this information they created several prototype sketches which highlighted each of these features. After receiving feedback from their client, they sketched and then constructed their first working prototype. The TI room was full of supplies to be used at the student's disposal. There were piles of construction paper, pipe cleaners, tape, ribbon, markers, tissue paper, zip ties, etc. The biggest challenge was that students only had 10 minuteScreen Shot 2016-04-06 at 13.09.53.pngs to sketch and build this 3D prototype which they handed over to their partner when the timer rang. The time crunch resulted in high energy within the room and was meant to promote failing quickly and cheaply. The first prototype is never the last, a concept students tend to struggle with regardless of the subject or the task at hand. They are often leery of scraping what they have worked so hard on however the goal of design thinking is to produce many iterations based on a series of feedback. When Brian asked the students to rip up their first prototype and start from scratch, there was an outcry and shock from the students. The second prototypes however were much better and you could see the creative juices flowing with only one iteration.

The ballistics project is open-ended in that students can construct whichever type of self-powered launching device they desire. We will be walking through the 5 steps of Design Thinking just as we did with the backpack in order to design and refine the ballistics devices. Having been exposed to this optimistic, experimental, and collaborative approach, I hope to see a higher level of creativity and realization that many prototypes and designs are expected. The focus will be on how well students can gather data and make refinements to create a more accurate and precise device that is a strong contender in the overall competition versus the creation of 26 identical catapults.

A big thank you to Brian Hamm for his generosity in running this session with ALL of the 9th grade science students. Their feedback was nothing but positive and they are eager to work as engineers as they construct, test and revise their ballistics devices. I encourage you to seek Brian out and take your students on a journey through design thinking!

Amanda Wendt

MSHS Science Teacher

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