Guest Post: IT Design Camp

02 Oct 2015 4:22 AM | Anonymous

This guest blog post is from Chris Woldhuis, Head of Professional Development and Student Opportunities at Northern Beaches Christian School. Chris is an innovative and experienced IT Educator, who has now progressed to developing special programs within the school, presents regularly at conferences, and coaches staff. 

This is Chris’ report on a different way to structure the Northern Beaches Outdoor Education Program. 

Northern Beaches Christian School   Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning

 

Creativity is an important aspect of IT and Design. When considering the current camping or Outdoor Education program, Northern Beaches Christian School, decided to reinvent the program and create options for staff to choose the types of programs on offer and for students to be able to choose the program they participate in. Essentially, a passion based co-curricular program.

IT & Design is one of the programs that has experienced significant student interest and has generated a number of projects that continued to develop after the initial program.

In 2015, around 80 students chose the IT & Design program. They were given a wide variety of ideas to spark their imagination. Their task was to generate an idea and shape it into a proposal. Most students utilised the current resources available at school to create their projects.

Students then proposed their ideas to the IT & Design team leaders, made up of staff and external experts. The team worked through the proposals with students changing some of their ideas, refining them or keeping them as is.

As students arrived at the Design and Production Suites at NBCS for the program, they were given a quick welcome and introduction to the team and they were welcomed to start their work. Some examples of the projects are below:

  • A series of cages to transport fowl to shows (eg Easter Show) that stack on each other in Lego style to reduce movement during travel and time spent tying cages down.
  • Build a Laser cutter using the parts from 3 unused CD-ROM drives and some new components.
  • Create a highly accurate 3D digital model of our new building fmor 2D plans.
  • Create a “Dance, Dance Revolution” platform from wood and acrylic but without using complex (purchased) circuitry – that is, they made their own switches using spring and pieces of aluminium.
  • Create an interactive propeller hat – one that can communicate with another propeller hat.
  • Repair broken remote controlled nitro buggies.
  • Create a World War 2 diorama with accurate landforms and authentic characters and vehicles.
  • Create a wifi controlled robot made from arduino and simple components – motors, switches etc (all other components are made)
  • Surfboard rack that is strong, light and collapsible (to fit into a car).
  • Create a remotely operated pod, that can be launched/dropped from a drone, to deliver parcels to remote areas, the pod should be able to be dropped from a significant height to maximise drone flying distance.
  • Create a remote controlled flying wing from modelling foam.
  • Create remote controlled Lego robots for a Robot Wars Competition
  • Convert a manual camera slider into a motorised camera slider.
  • Create a video tour of our school utilising a hand held gimble and GoPro camera and incorporating green screen elements
  • Repair and service a small 50cc petrol Motorcycle.

A number of students arrived at camp not knowing what they were going to do, they started exploring the equipment and resources available and sometimes joined other groups who needed more people.

The projects were interesting and varied, but what made the program fantastic was the engagement of the students. Full engagement. So engrossed in their projects that they needed to be stopped for break times. They turned up early and wanted to stay late.

Problem solving was happening consistently. As a number of the students were aiming to create something they were unsure was actually possible, normal techniques sometimes didn’t give the desired result. New ways of working had to be engineered.

The management of skills within teams was also evident. Comments like: “You’re good at building, so you take this complex model and I’ll help you program it once it’s built” or “This model has a higher difficulty rating, so you focus on that otherwise we won’t have time to complete the model”.

A good example of the nature of the problem solving, was the WWII model creators who completed numerous tests and experiments. They wanted to get the correct texture of the ground to make it authentic but had to consider the drying time fo the glue to fit into the schedule.

Steve Jobs once said that:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Did this program improve creativity? Absolutely yes. The students were challenged by the tasks they chose. Challenged to express, produce, invent and innovate. Some even edged into the space of imaginative creativity. How did the program create this? By encouraging and allowing connections to be made, between students, staff, experts, resources and time.

Where is the program headed? What is in store for 2016? It’s not clear yet, students will have the final say.

 


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