I was cruising through ERIC the other day (the way you do), when I came across a report by the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE): Incorporating Engineering Design Challenges into STEM Courses. “Engineering design challenges” isn’t a phrase I remember encountering before, but it sounded right up the alley of all of us here at MakerBridge, so I thought I’d take a look. And I’m glad I did!
If you’re trying to find a way to get students really engaged in designing and making things to solve real-world problems, this report is worth a read. You won’t find a carefully spelled out list of project ideas here, but you will find guidance on how to choose a good problem for students to solve, how to approach the process of keeping students engaged and learning, and how to evaluate student learning as a result of the project. Because the authors took this more general approach, this is a report that will appeal to anyone thinking about getting students to solve real-world problems–regardless of what you teach or how old your students are.
There were several parts of this report that really jumped out at me. One of those parts is the section talking about getting students to define the problem they’re trying to solve. Apparently this is one part of the process that really separates the novices from the experts. Experts spend more time than beginners on defining the problem, looking for hidden constraints, and so on (p. 23). Knowing that, you can make sure you scaffold that part of the learning experience for your students, making sure they have a better chance of success.
There are also several pages on how to assess student learning as a result of the engineering design challenge. Given that the whole point of projects like this is to get students to address ill-defined challenges, tips on evaluation are a wonderful thing! Suggestions include portfolios, engineering design notebooks, and presentations. Sample rubrics are included for assessing systems thinking, the design process, collaboration, communication, and awareness of impact.
The report is a bit on the long side (53 pages plus references), but that means that it has the space to go into a lot of helpful detail. It’s well worth a read if you’re interested in getting your students hands-on experience with making and the maker mindset toward solving problems!
Have you done any projects like this with your students? How did it go?
Image Credit: “Make It and Take It” by Flickr user Franklin Park Library