So You Are Not an Engineer? Think Again.

December 19, 2018
 
Two people smile at each other and give high-fives.

Kellie Blanden of WILL and Josh of Hoopeston, IL give each other high-fives after a successful design process.

Kimberlie Kranich

When you hear the words “designer” or “engineer” do you think to yourself, “That’s not for me!” If so, then this blog post is for you. WILL’s Education Department can help you see yourself as those things and, if you are a parent, help you guide your children to see themselves as designers and engineers, too.

Kellie Blanden from our Education Department is teaching the design process to fifth through seventh grade students at the Hoopeston Public Library in Hoopeston, IL.  She’s using the Design Squad curriculum from PBS.  Her students love what they are learning.  Are you curious? Then we invite you to dive right in.

Simply explained, the design process involves identifying a problem, brainstorming a solution, designing something as part of the solution, building it, testing it, evaluating it, re-testing it and sharing solutions.  Don’t we as parents and educators do this a lot? It can be helpful to your self esteem to see yourself as a designer and an engineer.

This week, Kellie guided the students in designing a harmless holder that’s animal safe, convenient and easy to carry.  They learned that plastic holders for six-packs of soda harm sea life who are strangled or trapped by the plastic. Even when the plastic is cut up, fish, turtles and birds ingest it, get sick, and die.

The students examined the plastic rings on a six-pack of soda.  They drew new designs for a holder that is flexible and strong like the plastic holders but not harmful like plastic.  Kellie set out some building materials for them: cardboard, tape, rubber bands, scissors, string and paint sticks.  The students built their designs and they tested them.  Some students had to redesign their holders and rebuild them. Eventually, all of the students made a cardboard holder that held a six-pack of cans.  They were proud of themselves.  You could see it on their faces. They are designers and engineers!

For tips on how to engineer and build stuff yourself or to help a young person in your life do so, visit Design Squad. If you would like WILL to bring Design Squad to your elementary or middle school youth, email Kellie, krmarsha@illinois.edu.