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UE (Mr. D): Paper Bridges

This week, in the afternoon, we finished our first stories for the year and had fun with our first Engineering challenge!

Before we began our challenge, we talked about the design process. Using James Dyson as an example, we spoke about the steps involved to take an idea and make it better. The key is to test, analyze, make changes, and start the process again. So, our first day on Tuesday was solely dedicated to brainstorming ideas and then building and testing.

We also took a few minutes to talk about what teamwork looks like. Students offered ideas on what makes someone feel part of a team and what doesn't—finding the delicate balance between having our ideas heard and hearing the ideas of others.

Everyone was ready to jump in now.

"Tell us the challenge, MR. DEREK!"

The challenge: using only four sheets of paper and up to six inches of scotch tape, build a bridge that spans an 8-inch cavern that can hold the most weight possible. Students were not allowed to tape their bridge down to the surface or build anything to support the bridge underneath it.

"That's impossible, Mr. Derek!"

Yet, as soon as they were off in their groups, they worked as if they knew they could do it. I offered very little help. It's up to this awesome group to think outside the box, and they impressed me as always.

On Thursday, they had fifteen minutes to meet with their team again to do any last-minute testing. Then, they were all given a new set of paper and tape and another fifteen minutes to rebuild their designs from scratch. Then... we tested!

We started with a small bucket. It holds! Then, we added pennies to the bucket. And then some more. Until eventually, the bridge buckled. 150-something pennies! Some bridges held less, and some held all the pennies and a dozen stones on top of that!

As we tested, I spoke about our attitude around our engineering challenges—that we imagine ourselves as one giant team, all learning from each other's designs. What works and what doesn't? If everyone had to do it all over again, which ideas would you incorporate into your design? Which ideas of yours didn't work that you'd leave behind? It's all about discovery—even in competition.

Friday was a great day. After some work, students had the second half of the afternoon to freely create anything. The hot glue was out, colored pencils, markers, tape, cardboard. I love seeing where everyone's imagination goes.

Another great week in the books!

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