Meeting the Challenge with Engineering Challenges

October 15, 2019

Safety with Familiarity
When thinking about engineering challenges, it is interesting to watch kids interact with TinkerSpace. The vast majority of repeat visitors start with something they have done before. New visitors often start at the LEGO table. These activities are known, they are comfortable, they are safe. While working on these activities, they are exhibiting the Montessori principle that kids will work on the same thing until they have taken all they can from it. The fact that these activities are so repeatable means that kids keep gaining something from the experience. It is interesting to see the refinements each time they build the “same” thing.

Engineering Challenge showing an apple wrecking ball

Engineering Student demonstrating the use of his wrecking ball during one engineering challenge at TinkerTime.

Many kids that enter TinkerSpace come in knowing what they will be working on that day. If they get another idea while they are there, they may change their project but many just file that information away for the next visit. As we’ve been open for over a year now, we are seeing a change in our repeat visitors, many are getting more comfortable with trying new experiences, knowing if their idea doesn’t work right away they can make changes and keep going.

There is no right or wrong way to experience TinkerSpace. There is value in everything the kids accomplish. But I want to give serious kudos to the kids that take on a challenge. TinkerSpace offers standing challenges at nearly every station and our Engineering Challenge Table has a quick challenge that changes weekly. Now, we are seeing the amazing abilities of our kids as they are given more involved challenges in our new TinkerTime — Engineering Focus class.

Engineering Challenge: Pulley System

Using all we know: This engineering challenge asked kids to incorporate triangles into their structure that must be cantilevered over the table and use a pulley with a basket to raise an object up to table height.

What do We Mean by Challenge?
Our definition of a challenge is a statement of a result with constraints upon the supplies and handling that allows the kids to experiment until they get the results they want.

Engineering Challenge demonstration holding a ball on head.

Engineering Challenge: Make a contraption that will stay on your head and hold an apple while you walk, skip, jump, sit on the ground and stand back up, and spin in a circle. This one came complete with a ponytail slit. [Note: she did not finish this project the day we had apples for testing but she brought it back determined to be successful. That is why she has a ball, not an apple.]

The same kids that flit from activity to activity in TinkerSpace now focus for 45 minutes to an hour on one project. They discover things that don’t work, share their ideas and insights with others, and beam with pride when they have accomplished their task. Feedback from parents tells us that their work is shared when they get home and set in a place of honor in their rooms.

Kids can walk into TinkerSpace not knowing what they will be doing … but they know they will rise to the challenge.

Engineering Challenge - Cardboard Automaton Dinosaur

Engineering Challenge: Cardboard Automaton. Rotating the oval cam moves the plastic cup/dinosaur up and down with rotation.

More Information:
Registration is open for TinkerTime — Engineering Focus. Click here for more information.

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