The Next Generation Of Engineers In Action

A 'Next' Generation Of Engineers

Very honored to participate with a group of eighth grade science students practicing the engineering and design process with their "Dream Invention" projects.  Training, if you will, the next generation of engineers.  What a great way to learn by doing.

The science teachers at Holmes Middle School in Colorado Springs are putting creativity and forward thinking into student projects.  As part of the class, students work on their "Dream Inventions" while learning the process of design and development.  For feedback, they invited 'seasoned' professionals to visit with students, and help them think about next steps with their projects.

Student groups each came up with a problem to solve, then an idea and a prototype of their concept.  These they presented in a pitch of their idea to a "real professional engineer / designer" to ask for feedback.

The Top Secret Dream Inventions

Though I would love to tell about the great ideas, but that would violate confidence - which is another important piece for engineers.  Keep confidential ideas confidential.  That said, I can certainly give some generalities to highlight the thinking of this awesome next generation of engineers.

Next Generation Of Engineers - Group 1.

Group 1 PresentingThe first group has two relating ideas.  The big one is a wonderful idea for solving some very challenging recycling issues.  The idea is impressive.  Not only the idea, but also their solution.  The actual technology to conquer some of the chemistry specifics is beyond them right now (beyond me too for that matter), yet the approach and the really clever insights toward achieving the goal are super cool to see.

(As a side note, the reflection of their thinking in the way they chose to prototype the invention is great.  I love unconstrained thinking!  Great job with that.)

We spoke about what they see as challenges to doing it, then dropped back to their leading, first invention - something they could actually achieve.  I think they came up with the bigger idea because they thought the first one was "too small" or too simple.  We spoke about that as a thinking error, because some of the greatest inventions are pretty small and simple.  Look at the wheel, for instance.

Next Generation Of Engineers - Group 2.

Group 2 In DiscussionNext up, the second group chose technology to solve a lunchroom problem that has been around since the beginning of school lunch.  First of all, I think it is impressive that they see the problem as something to solve.  I remember this problem from way back in the olden days when I went to school!

Secondly, they decided to solve it with a multi-pronged approach - a higher order of creative solutions.  Their idea is not just a band-aid, and it is good enough and helpful enough to actually implement.  Super impressive to me!

We talked about challenges, cost constraints, reallocation of resources and some other practicalities.  The truth is, their idea would not be that difficult to implement.  They pointed out several things, and it is quite obvious that they really gave it some time and thought incubation.  Great thinking.  There are some hurdles, which they understand, but it seems both reasonable and feasible.  Great job.

The Future Looks Really Bright

If a couple hours of visiting in a middle school science class is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to with the next generation of engineers, scientists, and inventors.  I am also very encouraged by the teachers (and administration) and their willingness to step outside the normal boundaries for the kids.

Many believe you can teach creativity, including many university professors.  Why wait?  They are doing it in Middle School, right now under the umbrella of teaching science and the engineering process.  Thinking about the ideas in an unlimited form builds creativity.  Thinking through applications of their ideas brings a touch of practical engineering - which at this stage is less important.

Anyway, the exposure will certainly help them in the future - no matter what career path they choose.  These are impressively smart youth - I think - because they have teachers that encourage them, and reward them, for engaging their minds.  What can be more important in school than that?  I love it!

Thank you for the invitation to participate with this awesome new generation of engineers!

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