Youth learn about engineering and design process

Youth learn more about the engineering and design process at Life of Lake Superior – Grand Island.

This summer youth, teen leaders and adults participated in a National 4-H wind energy engineering and design challenge, How to Lift a Load at Life of Lake Superior – G''rand Island. The engineering and design challenge is designed to be solved with a variety of devices. Using materials supplied by Michigan State University Extension, youth designed and built a turbine that uses wind power to raise a container that held pennies. 

To make the challenge more interesting, the device constraints included using blades, a shaft, pulley and string to lift the pennies. Key take-home messages included:

  • The engineering and design process is a framework or process that engineers use to solve problems or challenges.
  • The engineering and design process includes “going back to the drawing board” (called iterations).
  • Making mistakes is an accepted part of the engineering and design process.

The following impacts were observed from the teen leaders and adult participants of the 4-H How to Lift-a-Load engineering and design challenge:

  • 100 percent of teen leaders and adults indicated that they learned something new.
  • 100 percent of teen leaders and adults indicated that they gained an interest in science because of the challenge.
  • 87 percent of teen leaders and adults indicated that because of the challenge, they will look for more opportunities for them to be in 4-H science projects or clubs.
  • 100 percent of teen leaders and adults indicated that they have a greater understanding of science resources and learning opportunities provided by MSU Extension 4-H.
  • 87 percent of teen leaders and adults indicated that they plan to use 4-H as a future resource for science education.

The following impacts were observed from youth participants:

  • 95 percent of youth learners indicated that they learned something new.
  • 70 percent of youth learners indicated that they want to get more involved in a 4-H science project or club.
  • 100 percent of youth learners agreed that the engineering and design process is a framework that engineers use to solve problems or challenges.
  • 92 percent of youth learners agreed that the engineering and design process includes “going back to the drawing board,” “do-overs” or iterations, and that fixing issues is to be expected.
  • 100 percent of youth learners agreed that making mistakes is an acceptable part of the engineering design process. 

As with all 4-H National Youth Scie''nce Experiments, curriculum and science kits can help educators in traditional and non-traditional settings meet the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As an added benefit, youth leaders can easily be taught to work with their younger peers to help deliver this programming, helping to expand learning and leadership capabilities. Local MSU Extension staff is available to train teachers to offer and evaluate this type of programming in their schools.

If you are interested in holding an engineering and design challenge in your community, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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