During the first semester of the school year, students in the Introduction To Engineering class explored mechanisms that convert gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy by designing and building trebuchets to launch tennis balls within a range of 20 meters. Our Intro To Engineering teacher, Sharon Wall, gave students specific design rules:
- The trebuchets had to be gravity powered
- They had to include a counterweight and a sling, and
- Students were required to engage in all parts of the engineering design process.
The class broke into small groups and began their process by writing a group SMART goal, outlining intermediate steps in the process, dividing up responsibilities among group members, and giving themselves a timeline for completion. Next, they researched trebuchets and came up with a list of research-based design points that would inform their trebuchet designs. Then they created a rough sketch of their design and brainstormed materials and sources of materials, after which they completed a formal 3-view projection drawing of their final trebuchet design. Finally, students collected materials built their trebuchets to specification and tested their prototypes on a 20-meter range.
Through the whole process, students kept individual journals of their engineering process and engaged daily in critical thinking, authentic problem solving, and working as a part of a team. These skills are essential as they are some of the most highly sought after skills in a continually evolving job market, and contribute to the development of grit and resilience.