Engineering Success: Students Build Understanding
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Engineering Success: Students Build Understanding

>>Scott: The project is too
big for you to do by yourself. And so you’re going to
be working with people in your group from now through March.>>Narrator: Science teacher, Scott
McComb is rolling out a new project for his freshman class at
Seattle’s Aviation High School.>>Scott: You might be saying to
yourself at this point, “Oh, great. We’re going to build a wing,
we’re going to break it, we’re going to build another
wing, we’re going to break it, we’re going to build another
wing, we’re going to break it. Whoa, gee, that sounds like
so much fun,” but in fact, it is fun and let me tell you why.>>Narrator: The goal is to introduce
students to the joys and challenges of real-world engineering.>>Scott: ‘Oh, a bending
moment diagram! Oh, okay. I’m a reasonably
smart person. I can figure that out. Sure, all right, a little first
derivative, a little calculus. Okay, that’s pretty good,
all right, ooh, okay! Oh, my! Oh, my, uh-oh. Whoa, friends!’ Okay, engineering is fun
and engineering is hard– or hard from the outside looking
in, but once we get the hang of this [snaps], it’s going to
go like this [snaps in rhythm].>>Narrator: To get the hang of
engineering, students will work in teams of three for
the next six months, competing to design a highly
efficient lightweight wing structure made of paper mache. Located in the heart of Seattle’s
sprawling aircraft design and construction industry, Aviation
High School is a small science and math magnet that is open to any
student with a passion for aviation. And it is dedicated to the
practice of project-based learning.>>Ha-ha! Residents of the
Duwamish, prepare to suffer!>>Oh, no! It’s the blue attack!>>Narrator: In Environmental
Science Class, students write and perform plays to
promote conservation.>>So our transit line, it’s going
to start over here at SeaTac, and it’s going to go all the
way down to White Center.>>Narrator: In math, they redesign
Seattle’s Public Transport System.>>It’s going to break–
it’s going to bend.>>Narrator: And in McComb’s
science classroom, they learn how to build and break things.>>Light ones. Ah, dude!>>Hayley: I like doing
hands-on projects more, just because I feel I learn better
by learning from my own experiences. When we were doing the wing project,
I learned from our experiences. Like our first wing was really bad. And then our third wing,
we did really well.>>Hayley: Oh! I’m so proud of us!>>Scott: You should be!>>Narrator: The wing
project grew out of a series of summer meetings facilitated by Project-Based Learning
Coach, Eava Reeder.>>Eeva: We need to go backwards
from those big ideas and identify, “What’s the breakdown, the skills?”>>Narrator: Reeder recruited
structural engineer, Doug Gross, who volunteered his time as subject
matter expert on the project.>>Doug: You can’t just
put pressure on a wing, ’cause it’s just about impossible. So what we do is we put loads
on it in enough locations to give the same force distribution
as you have in the flying vehicle.>>Doug: You know, I started
thinking about it, and my mind kind of just goes into all the things
that people ought to know. Of course, I’m looking at
it from the perspective of somebody who’s been
doing it for 15 years.>>Eeva: You’re talking about
something that presupposes calculus and a lot of years
of physics, etcetera. Now, we’re talking about how do
you take this project and break it down so freshmen can do that.>>Doug: So I just take a step back,
and Eeva helps me to say, “Well, you know, we can’t do the universe,” so we just grab the
fundamental things that the students can understand.>>Scott: And so what I’m passing out
now, this is a tentative timeline. “Tentative” meaning, of
course, it’s subject to change.>>Scott: If there’s not buy-in
from the students from the start, what you’ve suddenly committed to
is three months or six months of, “Now I’m going to torture
you with this project, which you’re not interested in.” So that’s challenge number one.>>Scott: November 17th,
we will design the wing. December 1st, we will build the wing.>>Scott: Challenge number two is
finding a way to make it authentic. Whose working on this in real life? Why are we spending
our time with this?>>Doug: Now our project
that we’re going to work on here is not the
aerodynamics of a wing, it’s the structural
performance of a wing. We do this is the real world, too. And it’s very cool, and I’m
hoping to show you how cool it is.>>Scott: Third, is to introduce
an element of challenge. To make students say, “Wait a minute. There is a reason for me to
get better at what I’m doing.>>Scott: On March 24th, you’re going
to stand in front of your peers, you’re going to stand in front of
your parents, you’re going to stand in front of a panel of
engineers, and you’re going to say, “Here’s our wing design. This is the one we recommend. And here’s why.” You will have data. You will have graphs. You will have a clear
presentation with clear roles. And you’re going to knock
the socks off people.>>Narrator: As a first step,
students had to select two classmates to work with on the project.>>Scott: I want to remind you,
here’s your chance to not work with your friend, and
not hurt their feelings. If you have a special someone, a
little heartthrob in this classroom, don’t work with them either. It’s a disaster.>>Narrator: After selecting
teammates, each student signed an agreement, detailing their individual
responsibilities to the group.>>How will we share our work,
and track our progress as a team?>>Maybe like a check-off
sheet or something like that.>>Narrator: As the project
progressed, teams designed, built and tested various
wing structures.>>It’s quite an improvement for us. Remember our first wing
didn’t even hold water.>>Scott: Many people have an
idea of engineering and science as being inaccessible,
and it’s like, “Oh, no! I can’t do that! I don’t know how! It’s too big. It requires too much math.” When, in fact, it’s about diligence. It’s about good observations,
it’s about good teamwork. And these are skills
which anybody can do.>>No serious signs of stress.>>Try the book instead. [crackling sound]>>Narrator: Each round of testing
provided useful information for students…>>We think our last one would
have done better, but this one, it was lighter, so the efficiency’s
probably going to be higher.>>Narrator: …and teachers.>>Scott: I remember after the first
round of testing, we said, “Well, it looks like we need to
improve on quality control.” And so we cut back
the number of wings to be tested per group every round. We made a long list of variables
we were going to control. We made a long list of data we
need to make sure we collect. And we figured out the importance
of it, including a screen in the background so we could
measure deflection more accurately. We learned the importance of going
from videotape to still shots, so we could quickly analyze
the data, and so forth.>>Hayley: Well, that’s doing good. Better than our last one.>>Scott: So the second round
was a much smoother test, and the third round even more so.>>Narrator: During the
final round of testing, several local aeronautical
engineers came to school to assist in analyzing the results.>>Engineer: It kind of looks like you
fill this main section right here, and this will…>>Narrator: The data an observations
from these tests would be included in a final presentation each team
would give to these same engineers.>>Engineer: Right.>>Narrator: On Presentation
Day, McComb, assisted with Wardrobe
adjustments and coached his class on public speaking techniques.>>Scott: Brian, you said
that you had a suggestion?>>Brian: Be positive about
your other teammates. Don’t try and bring somebody
down, because it just looks bad.>>Narrator: Armed with their
test results and design files, the students set off to
impress the engineers.>>Our task for this project was
to create a high-efficiency, low-weight wing that when tested, it would show the values
you’d want for a real wing.>>You can see that
the design started off as basically a pretty simple design.>>And here’s two of our wings,
this one is just a shell.>>Mike: These kids, the way
they present themselves, they’re articulate, they
know what they’re about. They know what they’ve learned. They’ve obviously been
able to work together. In a situation like this for ninth
graders to pull off something like that is absolutely remarkable.>>And here’s our data for our wings. This would be the first round
would be one, two and three. Then four, five and six.>>Thom: Anytime students
get in front of adults, their performance usually gets a lot
better, because like anyone else, they want to look good
in front of an audience.>>This is our final wing
design that we made. It’s already been tested.>>Narrator: The engineer’s score
on final presentations was just one of many factors that went into
a student’s grade for the class.>>Scott: You remember the
survey that you filled out. I had a chance to tabulate
those results. And…>>Narrator: They were also graded
on their efforts by their teammates. And on the last day of the
semester, they had a chance to express their opinions
about the value of the project. And they were overwhelmingly
positive.>>I’m going to say that it’s a lot
better to learn something on your own than it is to have a
teacher tell you it. Because if a teacher tells you it, you might remember it two weeks
later; but if you learn it yourself, you’re going to remember it for
pretty much the rest of your life.>>Scott: You’ll remember
how you learned it.>>Yeah.>>Thom: One of the best findings in educational research is
reflection is equated with retention. That is, when you think
about what you’ve done, and you think about what you learned, it’s much more likely
to stay with you.>>I’m glad that you didn’t give us
a lot of information, ’cause it kind of us led us to having to
think of stuff on our own. And you know, when someone
teaches you something, there’s this little part
of you that’s like, “Well, but maybe this could work better.” So if you do it yourself,
it’s like you can prove to yourself what works
and what doesn’t.>>Scott: As I look back on the
project, in terms of teamwork, in terms of data collection, in terms
of excitement about learning, gosh, they exceeded all expectations. To have a student say,
“I want to do another,” is a rare and wonderful thing.>>All: [crashing sound] Oh, no! Oh, boy! [laughter] Nice wing.>>Narrator: For more
information on what works in public education,
go to>>Scott: Nicely done! Yeah! [applause]

About James Carlton

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1 thought on “Engineering Success: Students Build Understanding

  1. It seems like I had seen part of this video before, I think it is wonderful that schools work on projects like this and bring in people from the business world, just not enough of that is done. Bill Kuhl

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