Magazine article Techniques

Awesome Toy Trains

Magazine article Techniques

Awesome Toy Trains

Article excerpt

We all have memories of the things we have made with our hands. From my first tree house at the age of eight, my project ideas have driven my learning. Those experiences designing, problem solving and building have helped to shape me and to develop lifelong skills. As a Drawing and Design teacher, I have the opportunity to offer similar experiences to my students.

Engaging Students by Encouraging Creativity

In the Introduction to Drafting and Design Course I teach, students are expected to acquire the basic knowledge and skills in order to create drawings that meet the standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ansi). They are also expected to learn how to use hand-drafting tools and computer-aided design (cad). Furthermore, the course standards require students to master freehand sketching skills, hand-lettering techniques and drawing to scale with proper line types.

All these techniques can be taught by reproducing given examples; but that is boring! On the flip side, these same skills can be taught if students produce the plans for something they designed themselves, which is much more engaging! When you give students a challenge that has a clearly designed problem, parameters that guide them and an opportunity to see their own finished product, they will construct their own learning process!

Helping Students Succeed in STEM

According to the research of Sorby and Bartmaans (1996), 3D design activities result in improvement of visual spatial abilities. 'Although individuals vary in spatial performance, research has shown that most, if not all, of the component skills can be improved through training and practice" (Sorby, Drummer, Hungwe, & Charlesworth, 2005). When you consider these findings, along with Nora Newcombe's 2010 article in American Educator which posits that "scores of high-quality studies conducted over the past 50 years indicate that spatial thinking is central to stem success" (Newcombe, 2010), the value of this curriculum becomes apparent.

Design With PRIDE

Students begin their projects with a process that I call "Design with PRIDE" (Singleton, 2016), which I will explain in more depth in the following sections. The first step is to identify the problem and/or possibilities. The next step is the research phase; they also receive instruction before they begin developing ideas and iterations. The design and development phase that follows is when students learn and practice the skills needed to produce drawings that meet ansi standards. Students are highly motivated when they know that their drawings will lead to actual prototypes. The Awesome Toy Trains project outlined here will illustrate the effectiveness of creating a teaching/learning environment that embodies the Maker Movement.

The Problem, Possibilities and Parameters

Now to the project. With a toy company as the hypothetical client teams of sludenl design engineers will develop a new line of toy trains. In this first phase of the challenge, students must produce designs of a toy train set made of wood or polystyrene. They are given the parameters that must be followed for the size and scope of their designs, as well as the deadline for the production of prototypes that the hypothetical marketing and production staff will evaluate.

Divided into teams of four or five, each team begins the process by brainstorming ideas for the type of train they want to design and the various cars to be included. Each team member will be responsible for designing and prototyping a unique car, and each train must have one engine/locomotive and a caboose. The opportunity for each student to present his or her own idea for a car is a self-differentiating process; higher-achieving students generally choose to produce more complex designs, and students with less confidence choose to design a simpler car.

Research, Review and Receipt of Instructions

Before students begin working on conceptual designs, they independently research Google images of wooden toy train cars, and they are required to look over the designs on the class website (https://sites. …

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