This week my students began a design thinking project that will last for a good part of the year. I plan to come back to the topic every 2-3 weeks. We started this week with reading a variety of books about bridges and looking at pictures from famous bridges around the world. The goal was not really to learn about the specific bridges but to look at all the different bridge styles and forms. Some of the books talked about why engineers use different types of bridges in different locations but this was not our focus for the week. The point was to have a general understanding of bridges. After students build and experiment and gain some hands-on experience we will come back to a more thoughtful conversation.
Next up was a review of the design thinking cycle and how we would use that for our bridge projects throughout the year.
Finally, I gave students a very simple challenge--build a bridge at least 14" long in unsupported sections and at least 2" off the carpet that will support 4 Matchbox cars. Their supplies were 6 books, 2 feet of tape, 25 Lego bricks, 4 toothpicks, and 3 index cards. In my mind I had an exact idea of how this bridge "should" be built with the supplies provided. Of the 7 groups, only 1 built in the format I had anticipated. None of the bridges met all 3 of the requirements in the initial go around (5 min to plan, 20 min to build) after testing.
That was fine as I had hoped this would be the case. We discussed each bridge's strengths and weaknesses as a class. Finally, students answered 4 reflection questions in a format of their choice. Some choice to record themselves talking, some chose to type in a variety of apps, and some wrote on paper.