Through Lamplighter’s strategic partnership with SMU, two first grade classes spent two hours in the University’s Deason Innovative Gym (DIG) on Monday, making tiny Vibrobots. “We were thrilled to welcome the Lamplighter first graders to the DIG at the Lyle School of Engineering,” said Katie Krummeck, Director of the program who recently came to SMU from the Hasso Plattner Institute for Design (the “D School”) at Stanford University.
She described how the DIG staff and several members of the student team ran demos of their 3D printer and laser cutter, answered questions about engineering, and facilitated a hands-on workshop where students brainstormed and invented new creatures, and engineered connections between a simple motor and battery “to make their creatures scurry across the table.”
According to Lamplighter’s Assistant Head for Academics Vicki Raney, “The field trip to the DIG was informational, creative, and loads of fun.” Raney pointed out that it was the first time Lamplighter students, ‘attended a class at SMU!’
Described as a facility that combines a design studio, a machine shop, and a garage that features a wide selection of hand and power tools as well as a 3-axis CNC machine, 3-D Printers, and a laser cutter, the DIG is 1200 square feet of space, tools, and computers dedicated to undergraduate design projects, according to Krummeck. “The Gymnasium was built to change engineering education.” Research shows that hands-on learning is far more effective than the traditional classroom setting.
After the workshop, Krummeck said she was “lucky” to be given the opportunity to pivot her career and work on using design thinking and making in the K-12 educational space. “I am so excited to be able to stretch myself in new ways at SMU,” she explained, “while also bringing my insights and background in design thinking and maker education to such a unique and innovative space.”
Lamplighter’s academic technology coordinator Kate Ogden said the students “did a wonderful job of designing, then redesigning their creatures.” She explained that when they ran into situations where their creatures didn't work exactly as planned, they persevered and fixed the design “so that it would better represent” what they wanted it to be. “We had a really fun time using the design and engineering process to create our creatures,” she added. Most of their designs changed as the students figured out how to best let the vibrations of the motor move their creatures forward.
According to Krummeck, “We utilize techniques and skills from the fields of design and engineering to help us think creatively and solve complex problems.” The Lamplighter students got a taste of this experience through the DIG’s creative process of brainstorming and "mashing up," as she described, “to invent a brand new creature.”
To complete the project, the students were asked to devise a way to build a complete circuit with an on/off switch and attach the circuit to the ‘spine’ of their ‘creature’ to create maximum movement. “By allowing students to tinker, experiment, and learn their way to different solutions, we are helping them to build confidence in their creative and problem-solving abilities,” explained Krummeck. “Whether you are a college student studying engineering or a first grader learning about circuits for the first time, at the DIG we believe that the process of making helps students learn about their world and how they can affect change within it,” she continued.
Lamplighter teacher Brandy Dalton was pleased with the success of the field trip and said it was “great to watch” the children brainstorm, plan, and execute their plan for creating their Vibrobots. “They impressed me with their persistence, perseverance, and resilience to work through challenges they encountered.” She thought the experience “definitely strengthened” their creative confidence.
Fellow Lamplighter science teacher and science curriculum coordinator Bill Burton agreed. “I think the lab was great and it helped get my ideas going on how we will be able to use our new Innovation Lab [a 10,000 square foot science building currently under construction on the Lamplighter campus].”
Later Burton said there was “a lot of cool stuff at the DIG that I would like to see at Lamplighter” such as a desktop laser cutter. “It could get our kids building great things with all sorts of materials,” he smiled.