For this Thing, I dove deep into planning for a collaborative June project for our 7th and 8th graders. The unofficial theme is “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” I will be working with their Math, Science and ESOL teachers. The students will be applying what they’ve learned in recent science lessons (specifically, Motion and Stability) and math lessons (rate per minute, cost and volume). I will be introducing them to the Design Process (Next Generation Science Standards for Engineering Design). Their ESOL teacher will be working with them on academic language specifically needed for actively communicating during the Brainstorm and Presentation for Feedback portions of the Design Process.
BUT WAIT! WHAT WILL THEY BE DOING??????
The coolest part about this project is they will have no idea that we are doing this heavy academic lifting on all of these standards! Why? BECAUSE THEY THINK ALL THEY ARE DOING IS PLAYING WITH, DESIGNING AND BUILDING FIDGET SPINNERS!!!! HA – HA!!!!
With a few years of teaching under my belt, I realize we have to meet them where they are. And they are fidgeting. Mightily. Spring brought spinning and dropping and competing and twirling and hiding and giggling and more spinning. I decided to harness this energy rather than fight it so I recruited my two most prolific spinners and ran this project by them. They whooped! They hollered! I reminded them we were in the library. They smiled. Widely. Next, we approached their teachers. Thankfully, everyone is on board (although the students might be slightly more on board than their teachers). The students have stopped by the library at least four times a day since learning about the project to ask when we are getting started. Thanks to this Thing, I can now confidently say the first week in June. They still keep coming back though. That’s ok because their enthusiasm is contagious which is good because this is a huge project to plan.
I plan to introduce them to the following iterative Design Process steps. I’ve included some accompanying questions and ideas to begin organizing the project.
- Define the Problem – What makes a great fidget spinner? If you were competing to create the “best” fidget spinner, what qualities would make one win over another (cost, speed, ability to do tricks, profitability, etc.)?
- Collect Information – What is the rate per minute of each of our sample spinners? Using information you’ve learned on motion, why are some faster than others? How much material do they require? Dissect one. What are the parts? What does each part do? What can they be made of? Have you learned anything that causes you to want to redefine the problem? Go online and look at some existing 3d designs (Thingiverse has many). Look at the comments.
- Brainstorm – Use academic language to conduct a brainstorming session with your team. What is good about these different designs? What could be improved? Where will we build it? What material would we need? How much will it cost to build?
- Develop Model – I anticipate most students will choose to use our 3d printers for their projects. We have used 3d Slash and TinkeCad for past projects. Depending on their intended design, though, we might need a more sophisticated tool. I took a look at Autodesk Inventor and think that will work for the spinner designs. Next, I need to work with IT to get it installed on the library computer lab computers.
- Present for Feedback – Use academic language to present and provide feedback to other teams. What makes a good presentation? What makes feedback useful?
- Improve Design – Go back to any of the above steps if your design requires improvement.
For step two, I’ve amassed a large collection of the toys by visiting our local grocery store daily and elbowing out every preteen at the spinner display. I also asked my two student co-planners if they would donate their spinners to us for a few days. They said yes. Other classes are starting to hear about the project and students are offering up their spinners for science. It is inspiring.
I’m energized and looking forward to June!