Dan Weiland is a PLTW teacher and assistant football coach at Hudson High School in Hudson, Wisconsin.
Hudson High School has offered PLTW Engineering classes since the 2009-10 school year, and we have offered the capstone class, Engineering Design and Development (EDD) since the 2012-13 year. In many of the projects – such as the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car in Principles of Engineering (POE) and the final Arduino Project in Digital Electronics (DE) – we take time to talk about design elements.
Historically, we’d discuss design aspects such color, shape, patterns, aesthetics, and more. However, due to time, priorities, and organization, these design elements sometimes fell by the wayside and were forgotten or became an afterthought. However, since the 2015-16 school year in our EDD class, we have made it a point not to overlook this aspect of the design process.
Many of us in the PLTW Engineering world have seen the videos “The Deep Dive” and “The Launch.” Both videos follow design firms and show a condensed story of teams researching, designing, building, and testing a product. These films show designers and engineers collaborating together throughout the process, and we wanted to bring that concept into our EDD classes at Hudson High School.
Working with one of the art teachers, Mr. Nick Koss, here at Hudson High School, we were able to put together a three-week unit on design. Near the end of the first quarter, EDD students have completed initial project research and have finished initial brainstorms. These students have narrowed their ideas down to three ideas per group. It is at this time that we bring together my EDD class and Mr. Koss’s art class, 3-D Design I. We pair up each EDD group with two art students and explain how the students will work together.
The engineering students share their three project ideas with the art students, and from there, they engage in additional brainstorming. The art students create various thumbnail sketches and propose new ideas at times. All of the students then discuss the pros and cons of each idea and come to a conclusion about which one they wish to choose.
Next begins the design phase. Over the next two and half weeks, engineering students create detailed 3-D CAD drawings, while the art students create a final pictorial drawing and a clay model. It is also during this time that the different students continue to communicate and collaborate in case there are changes in design or materials. Afterward, each group gives a presentation on what they did during the design phase of the design process, from thumbnail to the final model.
We have been doing this for the past three years and have seen the project grow and get better each year. Students get excited to do something a little different, and it is always fun and unique to collaborate with others.
Some engineering students have said, “The art students have the artistic skill; people shop with their eyes, so this helps us see what it can be.” Other students have also commented on how this collaboration opportunity helps with their professional skills when communicating with others, especially outside of their discipline.
We also make it a point to share details of this experience at the end-of-the-year EDD presentations; professional engineers on the jury and the local engineer mentors who help students have also commented how important and great an experience such as this is.
Being able to give the students an opportunity to think differently and work with others from the art classes gives the EDD students a more well-rounded capstone experience. Past projects in EDD have often appeared “blocky” and plain, but this project lets the left brain work well with the right brain, and the possibilities are endless.
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