The concept of this project was to design a yoga ball seat using any size yoga (or exercise) ball and PVC piping. The project took the students through the first 7 steps of the 12 step design process that we use throughout the year. By taking it through step 7 we did not have to actually build the concept.
The steps we worked on were: Define the Problem, Brainstorm, Research, Criteria and Constraints, Explore Possibilities, Select an Approach, and Develop a Design Proposal. The problem was defined for them in a Design Brief that was written for this project. The way we embed the idea of needing to learn in our students is from their creation of Knows and Need to Knows (K/NTK's). So we had them list their "Knows and Need to Knows" from the Design Brief. When you have students state what they need to learn to successfully complete a project then you immediately remove the "but where will we ever use this?" from the equation.
For brainstorming we had them each sketch 3 or more ideas for the design of a chair. By working in groups of 3, each group had about 10 sketches and ideas to consider. They then narrowed it down to 3 or 4 possible ideas and started their research. This was the first chance for our students to do research for parts. We allowed them to use Home Depot or Lowes (for costs) and any other place they could find on the internet. Any information that they used had to be documented using MLA formatting.
One of the important engineering items we needed to teach was how to do Multi-View Sketches (front/top/right side) of their design. After they had sketched their initial brainstorming we were able to discuss the fact that we need to have clear and well dimensioned sketches that tell our customers what they are getting. This led to the need for a method of sketching that everyone would understand.
At this point we were able to discuss the difference between criteria and constraints and we gave them a spreadsheet to list the criteria and constraints that they knew about this project. Then we had them each draw their personal favorite design. This gave each group 3 designs; sketched and with a written description. To learn how to select the best approach in an unbiased way they needed to learn about decision matrices. They learned that by grading each design by looking at the criteria and constraints, the best design will move to the forefront.
Finally, they needed to take the best design and make sure they had a good multi-view drawing of it. We had each member take one of the three views of the design to practice creating the multi-view. That way we didn't have one person doing all of the sketching. They then needed to have a good written description of the design.
And so the students created a design of a yoga ball chair. They learned about how to research for parts and how to document the findings. They learned how to do a multi-view sketch, how to create a decision matrix, and the difference between criteria and constraints. An additional item they learned was how to work in a different group. They had been allowed to pick their groups for the first project and I assigned group members for this project. There was the need to learn new personalities and who they could depend on to complete work. They also learned the importance of having daily task lists for each member of the group. To be honest most groups were not able to make that happen and we will have to work on that for the next project.
The process of successfully completing a project isn't just learning the curriculum. There are the skills of collaboration, writing, communicating orally, and a good work ethic. This is a work in progress and will continue for all four years at our school.