Kate Gramling Principal consultant Illumineer

Engineered for Learning

PostedThursday, October 10, 2019 at 1:11 PM

Engineered for Learning

If you could design - from scratch - an education system that supports and rewards life-long learning, what would it look like?

If you needed to learn a skill to help you survive in a completely different environment, what educational tools or technologies would you use?

If needed to learn (or teach) engineering design while living on a large space ship traveling to a distant world, how would you go about it?

These are the questions that students will be thinking about while preparing submissions for the 2020 EngineerGirl Writing Contest, which launched last month.

Engineered for Learning contest flyerAfter the success of their “Stories Engineered to Inspire” contest last year, the EngineerGirl program again decided to ask students to write a story - a work of fiction - for this year’s contest. The setting for stories this year is a spaceship named the Vestigo, carrying a large group of people to a new home outside the solar system.

The contest features three different challenges for the three different age groups:

  • Elementary students are asked to write stories about a boy or girl their own age learning engineering design onboard the Vestigo.
  • Middle school students are asked to design or choose an educational technology to help a person their age, who has lived their entire life onboard the Vestigo, to learn a skill helpful for survival on a new planet.
  • High school students are to design a system of education that will ensure everyone onboard the ship (1) continues to learn new things, and (2) shares their skills with others in the new colony.

In a slight departure from previous contests, students are encouraged to work with others during the design phase of their preparation. This allow groups of students to work together to design a learning tool or education system as a class or out-of-school project.

In a more significant change from previous years, middle and high school students have a two-part summission.  They are asked to submit an “Engineer’s Note” with their story that either explains what educational tool they designed or chose (middle school), or provides a persuasive argument for their educational system (high school). This could be used as an assessment tool when the design challenge is used as a student project.

More details about the contest, including class project notes, can be found on the EngineerGirl website.

Interested in learning more about learning?

Earlier this year, the National Academies released Science & Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. This report includes helpful information about how students engage with and teachers support successful investigation and design projects. This report also includes a discussion about the interacting components of our current education system that relate to implementing these kinds of projects.

In 2018, The National Academies published How People Learn II, a sequel to its influential How People Learn report that was published in 2000. How People Learn II looks at the current research on learning and includes discussions on learning outside the classroom, how learning changes throughout a life span, and how digital technology affects learning.

You can download a free PDF of the full reports from the National Academies Press website.

Space image courtesy of  NASA/JPL-CalTech