June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Pre-College Engineering Education
Shop classes where students use tools to fashion useful and functional objects from metal, wood, plastic, and other materials are disappearing from most American high schools in favor of more theoretical subjects. Multiple factors contribute to this transition including 1) cost to maintain shops, 2) liability concerns, 3) focus on exam-driven standards-based testing, 4) and curriculum realignment for improved college admissions. There is interest in re-introducing elements of shop class back into high schools enabling students to learn by doing and to become more aware of how things are made.
Borrowing upon foundational Energy Engineering Laboratory Module (EELM™) pedagogy, we propose that engineering can be taught to students in all Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEAEM) courses through practical hands-on learning experiences. Therefore, instead of resurrecting standalone shop classes in their original Industrial Arts manifestation, we recommend an alternative. Inexpensive and topically-relevant hands-on learning activities should be developed competent for ubiquitous and seamless insertion into STEAEM courses. When offered to teachers as educational kits, these activities could be selected a la carte from a catalog to integrate with existing classes. This approach induces minimal curriculum disruption, facilitates easy instructor adoption, and allows high schools to continue offering modern and relevant college preparatory courses. In parallel, however, this approach also enables schools to bring back the empowering, tactile, project-based educational benefits of an Industrial Arts shop class. Plus, these experiences can be harnessed to expose students to the engineering mindset of open-ended problem solving.
To demonstrate the principle, we present a simple hands-on fabrication project deployed in a required high school STEM course for 9th and 10th graders. Following the popular “fidget spinner” trend, students were challenged to each create their own customized pencil-top fidget from a nylon bolt, a metal lock nut, and a 1” x 1” x 1/4" aluminum block. Starting with those three raw parts and basic tools appropriate for a high school science classroom, each student 1) located and drilled holes in metal and plastic, 2) tapped a threaded hole in metal, and 3) assembled a completed working pencil-top fidget device.
Cycling a classroom of ~25 students through a safety talk and all fabrication process steps to device competition took four 45-minute class periods, and these activities were repeated across multiple periods each day. To assess indirectly the activity’s impact, students (N = 79) filled out an exit survey with questions posed against a Likert-like response scale. 35.44% and 65.82% of respondents respectively reported never using a drill press or threading a hole prior to this project. Reflecting on the project, 89.87% agreed or strongly agreed it demonstrated how holes are made on drill presses, and 91.14% reported new understanding of how taps cut screw threads into holes. Overall, 88.46% reported that they were exposed to new skills by the project, and 79.49% agreed the project was interesting to them. This project can be effectively and seamlessly inserted into high school STEAEM classes and used to introduce students to the essential and beneficial hands-on fabrication elements of shop class.
Next steps to develop the pencil-top fidget learning activity into an open-ended and entrepreneurial engineering design and manufacturing module are also discussed.
Traum, M. J., & Karackattu, S. L. (2019, June), The Pencil-Top Fidget: Reinventing Shop (Metal Drilling and Tapping) in High School Science Classrooms Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33413
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