180 Days - Design Process Challenges 8th Graders

180 Days - Design Process Challenges 8th Graders

Eighth graders in a Design and Modeling class at Evans were learning there is no wrong answer on Wednesday.

The assignment: design a foot orthosis. The instant design challenge is a new activity in the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) class curriculum. Instead of watching a slide presentation, teams of students were given a list of materials and a problem to solve. The hands-on activity challenges them to design, test, and build a model solution for patients with cerebral palsy while learning about the design process.

Joe VandenBerg is the new PLTW instructor this year. Formerly a seventh grade science teacher at Evans, VandenBerg applied for the PLTW opening last spring. Over the summer, he attended two week-long CORE trainings designed to strengthen instructional practices and content knowledge related to each PLTW unit he teaches. The trainings are held on affiliate university campuses.

VandenBerg provided a variety of materials for students to use. Students could select from a large, medium or small box, coffee can, tape, and string. Students were busy finishing up their design, tracing around shoes, and cutting cardboard and coffee cans. The activity is also cross-curricular. Their supplies included a cost. With a budget of $500, students had to consider cost when designing their brace.

Jackson Corzette thinks the class is interesting so far. “I heard it was fun,” he said.

“I changed my schedule to have this class,” said Leticia Sosa. She is interested in the course and how it might link to her future career.

“The project is hard,” said Mitch Wood. “It seemed easy at first. Figuring out what to use to make the design work is hard.”

The activity is designed to show students how STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is relevant. They are also gaining skills in collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

VandenBerg likes that there is no right answer to the activity. I tell the students, “there is no answer key.”