There has been an engineering marathon going on here at Castle View Academy! Some entire days have been given over to reviewing our newest curriculum, Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe. Seriously, if you have a student in grades 6-12 who has an interest in engineering, then this is the hands-on program to get.
For many of Tristan’s 9 years he has wanted to be an astronaut, and although we know the odds are against this, back when Commander Chris Hadfield was the same age, it didn’t stop him from having the same dream; long before Canada even had astronauts. It’s good to dream, and what perhaps even more important in life is what you learn while moving yourself closer to your goal. Tristan’s ‘second’ job is to work at Lego when he retires from the space program, and both of these goals are coming closer to reality with Thinking Like an Engineer.
Thinking Like an Engineer is an online program that includes everything needed with the exception of paper, masking tape, and imagination. Yes, even the multiple software programs needed are all included, with download links right when they’re needed so students don’t become distracted by wanting to use them before they’re ready.
Thinking Like An Engineer Includes:
- Introduction to Engineering?
- Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design)
- Engineering Roller Coasters
- Engineering Bridges
- Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World)
- Thinking Like an Engineer – Course Conclusion (includes a mini-course)
There are several lessons within each unit and they are presented through a variety of means: slides, text, internet research, video instruction by Mr. K, hands-on projects, and downloadable software programs. So there’s a little bit for everyone, for every learning style. I like this. I also love that a year’s support is also included (but the software you download is yours always). We’ve contacted Mr. K. on a couple of occasions and he’s always helpful and quick to reply.
To help students along the way stay focused, Mr. K. has some guided notes for students to fill in as they go through each unit. In all, this course takes at least 30 hours and is worth 1/4 of a high school credit, just in case you were wondering.
This course is at least two years ahead of Tristan’s current grade level (he’s in grade 4, and the course is aimed at grades 6-12) but he is doing wonderfully, and it’s no doubt in part because of his previous work with 3-D software. And there’s also lots to challenge and inspire older students, as my husband is really impressed with the software and wants to try it out himself- if Tristan ever gives him the chance!
Following, I’ll go into a little more detail about some of the units. I’m going to list them in the order Tristan’s completed them, which isn’t quite in the order they’re offered. Because I will assume that most of the Crew will be going in chronological order, I wanted to have something a little different for you. And it also shows the flexibility of the course; if your student is particularly interested in one area of engineering, why not hype them up by diving into that area first?
Introduction to Engineering?
We have recently finished watching the BBC series, Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? with our favourite Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield. We saw the astronaut hopefuls build a paper tower in the first episode as part of the selection process. Lo and behold…what was the first project in Thinking Like an Engineer? How high can you build a free-standing tower with only 4 pieces of paper and 1 foot of masking tape? Even Phil was involved with this activity as he didn’t want to be outdone by an astronaut!
Another project was to figure out a way to use one piece of paper and 2 feet of masking tape to build a structure that would hold a stack of books a minimum of 1 inch off the ground. Kallista didn’t have quite as much success but she has tried very hard. Tristan tried different sizes, shapes, thicknesses, where he placed his pillars, as well as the number of pillars to trial out what would work the best. He had an even made diagrams before he began!
Kallista’s favourite part of the course so far was the video about how to create a water filtration device. We don’t have easy access to the supplies for the included hands-on project just now but we will in the spring so we’ll absolutely be doing this then, if not before.
Introduction to 3D Design
If you haven’t had previous experience in 3D design software, this is a good way to learn what CAD is and how to use is. Tristan is noticing differences between the various 3-D programs within this course, as well as one he has used previously, and how they can be used for different applications and in different ways to complement each other.
I pretty much left Tristan to his own devices for the 3D section of this program because he knows much more about this area, and Mr. K. does a wonderful job teaching how to use the software, as well as introducing some of the real-life applications where it can be used. Kallista watched all of the lessons with Tristan, but was more interested in the physical challenges than the software-based ones; she is only 7 so not yet in the target age range. However, she is looking forward to doing the program when she’s a little older.
The first software we downloaded was Autodesk 123D Design. With this program, Tristan was given the challenge to design a car rim….the added tire and tread he did just because he wanted to.
Then a little was learned about 3D printing. You don’t need a 3D printer, they just give you examples, but we have seen this process in real life at our local library.
The second 3D challenge was to make something from around the house to scale. Tristan worked hard on this; he tried the microwave, a broom, and then finally a bookcase.
If you want to go further (Tristan’s just advised me this is only if you are really serious), then you can download Autodesk Fusion 360. Tristan designed a phone case and tells me that if I give him my phone’s dimensions he can adjust his design and send it for 3D printing a bespoke case – wow!
In this unit Tristan learned about nano medicine, nano robots inside your body, and other interesting information. Gosh, does anyone else remember back to the ’80s when this stuff was all just science fiction and made for funny movies? There isn’t a challenge included in this unit as I would guess that most of us wouldn’t have the instruments needed for nano engineering.
This unit introduces the types of bridges, as well as the parts of suspension bridges. There is another software download and students are given a budget and must build a bridge using the parameters given. Then it’s time to test it out with vehicles and trains attempting to go across it….will it hold out and be a success, or will it crumble into the river below? This is a fun challenge, and Tristan has returned to this challenge every day this week to try again and again to move up the levels.
There are lots of short lessons in this unit dealing with physics, math, testing the wind, and about what has been learned about engineering bridges. There is also another physical challenge to build your own suspension bridge from cardboard and popsicle sticks – I can’t wait for Tristan to try this one! I will have to see if he’ll wait until the weekend because I think Phil would also enjoy this challenge!
Engineering Roller Coasters
This is the unit that will take the longest time to get through with challenges taking between 5 – 8 hours each. There’s also a lot to learn about mechanical engineering and how gears work. Tristan is looking forward to this unit!
Thinking Like an Engineer – Course Conclusion
This wraps up the course and even includes a mini-course for those who don’t want their learning to end!
Thinking Like an Engineer is a very well-organised class that is engaging and holds students’ attention and leaves them wanting to do more…Tristan even worked on it by choice on Saturday mornings. And this is a boy who does NOT want to do school work when his dad at home on the weekend! Mr. K., your class is so interesting and fun that it’s marauding itself as an entertaining hobby!
I’m very impressed at how much is included in the course and the way it’s able to be applied to a variety of areas. Yes, you learn how to build a car rim…but you can use the same program to build ovens and stoves and cupboards (my daughter’s dream is to own her own restaurant and she will be able to design her own kitchen for optimal success).
On Tristan’s ‘own time’ he’s now designing a shinkansen, and he’s already created a steam train he’s going to print as a Christmas gift to Kallista. Such endless uses for one class! (I won’t post a picture of this so as not to ruin the surprise in case Kallista spies it).
For those who like to work with their hands to those who prefer computer programs, this course combines it all and provides a good base in applied engineering to open the world for our innovators of the future.
Now I must get saving as I have promised the children a trip to the new Whitehead Railway Museum once Tristan has completed this course. They’ll enjoy touring the working premises and seeing volunteer engineers at work rebuilding and refurbishing steam trains; and they’ll better understand some of the processes involved. I think this is a win-win for everyone!
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