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Invention Bootcamp: Teaching Design, Prototyping and Invention to High School Students

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2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference


Corvallis, Oregon

Publication Date

March 20, 2019

Start Date

March 20, 2019

End Date

March 22, 2019



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Paper Authors


Gerald W. Recktenwald Portland State University

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Gerald Recktenwald is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department at Portland State University. His current research interests are in improving engineering education, and in the numerical simulation and measurement of fluid flow heat transfer in electronic equipment, energy efficient buildings, and other industrial applications.

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Abstract for a full published paper and presentation.

Invention Bootcamp is an intensive four-week summer camp for high school students. The main goals are (1) to expose students to the invention process by applying design and prototype fabrication to problems in students’ community, (2) to give students a deep exposure to being on a college campus, (3) to inspire interest in pursuing STEM, (4) to develop a resilient identity that would allow students to thrive in a rigorous STEM courses once they attend college, and (5) to focus these efforts on populations that are typically underrepresented in STEM curriculum and careers.

The Invention Bootcamp has been offered in three consecutive summers at the XXXX campus. In Summer 2018, the curriculum was adopted independently at another site. Assessment by external evaluators show that we have had positive impacts on students attending the camp. Highlights of those assessments are summarized in the body of the paper.

The curriculum for the bootcamp was adapted from our first-year engineering course sequence. In addition to the engineering design and fabrication content, we introduce and have students practice a human-centered design approach. For each camp we set a theme and ask students to identify problems or opportunities related to that theme that they can develop into an invention. Guest speakers and field trips related to the theme are used to inspire creativity and help students see how the tools we are teaching them can be applied to produce products useful to people in their community.

Teaching design and fabrication to high school students has some of the same challenges as teaching design to engineering students: the difficulty of working with unstructured and ill-defined problems, inspiring creativity within constraints of time and lack of prior design experience, design fixation, the illusive process of identifying good problems and then refining the scope of those problems to fit the time and resources available. For high school students we must also teach programming, basic circuits, fabrication, testing and debugging, which adds more challenges. Despite, and because of, this challenging context, leading the Invention Bootcamp is a stimulating and rewarding experience.

In this paper, we briefly describe the Invention Bootcamp at XXXX University, and we present assessments by external evaluators. Our goal is to disseminate this model and invite a discussion of how our experience can be shared with the engineering education community. We also welcome feedback from the community to help us improve our work with the Invention Bootcamp.

Recktenwald, G. W. (2019, March), Invention Bootcamp: Teaching Design, Prototyping and Invention to High School Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference, Corvallis, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--31885

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