This week, the culminating event for Kelly Weininger’s 8th Grade Economics project, ‘Do Good, Make Money’ took center stage in the lab; the 8th graders participated in their version of the television show ‘Shark Tank’.
Last year, Kelly wanted to change up her traditional Economics curriculum and develop a course where students are primarily engaged in project based learning. The students task in this project was to learn and apply the ‘design thinking’ method as they solved a problem in the world that was brainstormed by their group (business). Some problems the students tackled were localized to school while some were larger. For example:
“How might we make the first sip of a drink taste EXACTLY like the last sip of a drink?”
“How might we make life jackets more comfortable?”
“How might we make earbuds so comfortable, people would wear them 24/7”
“How might we ‘erase’ the burden of wiping down the whiteboard in the classroom”
“How might we eliminate the distraction of texting while driving”
All semester, students developed prototypes within their business, assumed roles of CEO, Project Manager etc. and continued to improve their prototype and vision. The lab opening up was a huge help to the students as now they had the space to spread out and more tools and capabilities than before. 3D printing was by far the most actively sought after tool, but we think it was more because of the novelty of the 3d printer. Many of the products produced could have been made better using other materials, and next semester with more tools becoming available, we will be better able to steer them to the most appropriate tool. With the addition of the drill press, laser cutter and other woodworking and metal working tools, students will definitely have a better choice.
We sectioned off half of the STEAM lab behind the operable glass wall to be our ‘Shark Tank’. Half of that space was for the class audience while the other half was for the pitch and our sharks, which were Westminster Alumni in their 20’s and 30’s. Overall the space worked great for the intended set up. The dual monitors in the center of the space, one facing the audience and one facing the sharks, was adapted well for the presentations. Also the versatility of the glass wall as partition and marker board was an added plus. Again, acoustics in the space are a bit tricky, but it allowed the students to work on their voice projections. The audio system in the space sounded great. However, the only inconvenience we had was we had to control the Shark Tank music from the Innovation Lab side. Simply muting it in the Fab Lab was not sufficient as the sound would bleed through the glass wall into our space. Instead we would mute it on the Fab Lab side and then we had to run to the main source on the innovation lab side and mute it there so as not to disrupt the presentation. Having the audio only option on the Fab Lab side would have been good for this application.
Overall, the project was a success and we plan on continuing it next semester. It was exactly the intended use for the lab and we hope to have similar projects and other subjects utilizing the space similarly in the future.