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Ed Moriarty, I'm an instructor
here at the MIT Edgerton Center,
and for the past eight to ten
years I've been doing a lot of
work with outreach in high schools
and some middle schools,
focused on science, technology,
engineering and math. Although I
really believe in art to be in
there too. The thing that we've
been doing recently here, an
outgrowth of many years of
activities is the Engineering
Design Workshop. Now, the
Engineering Design Workshop
that we run here, usually during
the month of July, is the
opportunity for local area high
school students to come to MIT
and really get their fingers
dirty with fun, engineering
design problems. The engineering
class is a four week class and
students meet here for three
hours a day. For the first week,
most of the teams are choosing
projects and brainstorming ideas
and we also do some mini lessons
on some physics and relevant
science and engineering topics
for the projects. But then, by
the third and fourth week the
students are completely engaged
in building the project. So they
come in, in the morning, start
working, and they work straight
through and sometimes wind up
staying much later than the
normal ending time of the class.
What I like about the camp was
the building because I get to
get my ideas across and pretty
much build what I want.
I'm making an electric cello.
I started playing cello when I
was four years old and I just
wanted to bring the two things
I love the most, music and
engineering, together and that's
why I'm building this electric
cello. This is the body of the
cello, and I just carved out the
sides, and I'm sanding it down
with brass-brindled sandpaper.
Now the format we take is very
different from any other place
I've seen it done. The format we
have is: I recruit MIT students
who I know to be interested in
hands-on, project based learning
and I challenge them to think of
a few, you know two or three
projects that they find really
fun to do personally.
. . . Rear axel. And we're going
to drill them with the full-sized
bit now, that was just a test. . .
Ed Moriarty has been teaching
this class, in some form, for
many more years than I have and
he's really been the inspiration
for making the class go in a
student-driven direction where
the students choose the projects.
The students do the work. And,
the students get the accomplish-
meant of finishing the project.
And, Ed puts in a ton of time to
making sure that everyone has a
positive experience and also that
everyone is always learning while
their doing so.
This summer I was a mentor for
the Engineering Design Camp,
and what that basically meant was
I was sort of an advisor rather
than a teacher. So the kids had
the projects that they were
working on and I would just
help them, like, "Oh so you want
to do this? Well, here are a
couple of ways we can do this,
and which one would you prefer?
And, I can help you get started
on it."
After a while what you have is
MIT students who are really
interested in a few things, and
high school students starting
to be innovative around different
technologies.
. . . Like, they let us build
what we want. It's really
awesome. A lot of people have
some really cool things, like
that bird, that's pretty cool!
We try to create a very special,
collaborative environment. We
don't, so much, teach them but
we instruct them. We teach them
how to use tools, but they come
up with an idea and they come up
with something that they want to
accomplish and we all work
together to accomplish it.
Hopefully then we teach them
soft skills, the cooperation,
what they can do when they work
together as engineers. And we
try to instill in them a love of
engineering and also really an
appreciation for how much they
can accomplish when they work
together and hopefully they bring
it back to their schools and the
whole thing spreads. I think a
bunch of them learned about the
word, "compromise" which is a
very important lesson to have in
life. I don't feel I knew them
well enough the way they were
before to see exactly how much
they've changed now, but I do
think they have learned that you
have to compromise. They all
have alpha type personalities,
so it is a good thing that
they've learned that sometimes
you need to take a step back and
let somebody else have the light.
Or, at least both of you come
together and find a third
solution, which will probably
turn out even better than the
first two.
The focus here isn't so much
teaching them electronics and
all those things. It's on giving
every kid exposure to something
that's just outside their normal
range of activities. So where we
lose a little on the quality of
instruction we gain in the
everyone knows that everyone is
trying something new. Even the
MIT students are known to be
trying something new. And the
high school students see them
actually being challenged to do
something that is beyond what
they've had to do before, and
I think that's absolutely perfect.
One thing I really enjoy about
the class is that often times we
choose projects that are
interesting to the MIT students
as well. So, I think when the
team, as a whole, is learning
together - everyone is working
on the project, everyone is
engaged - the roll of the teachers
and the students starts to be
narrowed and everyone is just
part of the same team all
learning and working together.
I think thats one of the big
differences about this class
than other classes that people
take in school. For instance, the
guy who made the car, his name
is Brian, he was very excited
when the car started driving.
He brought out his iPhone and
started taking videos of it.
And then, after that happened
he wanted to go further so we
increased the number of batteries
so that the amount of power
the car was getting, just to see
how fast it will go. And I think
thats really good because in
school when they give you a task
you do the task and thats it.
Because you were given it, and
you followed the instructions and
when you've reached the end,
you've reached the end. But here
we reach the end of the car and
he was like, "It would be really
cool if we could try and make the
car go faster. . . or if you try
and do this. . ." And I think that
is a good thing because it helps
them both feel more of an
ownership of this project,
because its even more of their
ideas. We help them get started
but now their putting even more
finishing touches onto it.
That's something that school
won't teach you. School teaches
you to follow a task to the end.
But this camp is more about, well
you have some idea what you
want to do, but how can you take
it and make it more. It's always
about making it more.
By the end of the class the
students have gone through a
full engineering cycle where
they have brainstormed an idea,
designed it on paper, and then
built it. And the fun part is on
the last day, when the projects
start to come together and people
see the thing that they just
though up four weeks ago actually
existing in real life. I think
that gives them a big sense of
accomplishment.
So what do they get out of this
experience? I would say the
number one thing that they get
is a sense of the passion and the
joy, the emotional side, of
trying to achieve. Of engaging
actively on something that you
care about, and going for it.
That's the main thing that
they get. The topic doesn't
really matter to me. It happens
to be engineering here, or art
in the case of the stained glass,
but they get a chance to really
see what its like to choose
something because they want
to and go for it, and do a good
job at it. That's what they get
the opportunity for.