On Thursday March 8th, we travelled to Clonakilty to conduct a two hour version of the ‘Designing for STEM’ workshop with 16 transition year students. We had two groups of five students and one group of six students where two students shared the role of marketing leader. The warm-up activity for this workshop worked very well because we changed it up a bit. Instead of asking the students to come up with a minimum of 20 uses for a brick/blanket, we told them the team to come up with the most ideas would win sweets and the minimum number of ideas per group turned out to be 25 with the winning group listing 27 ideas for a brick. This activity acted as a good catalyst for getting the groups to work together from the start. They found it easier to complete the ideation process following the warm-up activity. The groups didn’t struggle to come up with ideas during the ideation process and they differed from all the ideas we got in Loreto. Each group came up with the minimum of five ideas.
KEEN INTEREST IN TECHNOLOGY
This group of students were much more in tune with the technology compared to previous versions of this workshop. They were thinking about it could be used for their solution, they asked questions of the mentors with one group asking how it could be used to detect/measure wind. Another group asked if a plug socket is turned on but there is nothing plugged into it, is there still current running and this opened an interesting dynamic with the physics teacher who was also in the room.
THE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
It was a nice size class to work with, every student appeared engaged and every student was doing something for the course of the workshop. Nobody was idle. For me, it was evident that they (the school) were involved STEM initiatives (e.g. a group of students won CIT SciFest 2017 – there was a big picture on the wall in the corridor outside the lab). The culture in this school was different to that of Loreto. 35 minutes was possibly too short for the design and development stage but it pushed the girls to work harder to get all the outputs complete. The new materials were very successful as they were nearly all used – felt, sticky shapes, tissue paper, match sticks. Surprisingly in stark contrast to Loreto, none of the groups used the playdough. It remained on the materials table for the course of the workshop. One team in particular were really thinking about the functionality of their device/idea – i.e. should the water rise or not when measuring an energy efficient classroom. During the feedback session, the students said they really enjoyed the making and modelling aspect of the workshop. They liked the freedom they had to be creative, they weren’t told exactly what they had to do or that they had to produce something in particular. They would have liked more time to build the models but that was evident during the workshop. It was also positive to hear the teacher say we are welcome to come back and do more workshops with the other classes and he was also excited when we mentioned about coding clubs so there is definitely an opportunity for future collaborations with this school.
The team roles took longer for the girls to decide upon so perhaps we could allocate more time for this or think of another way to assign the team roles. We will also need to think about adding a validation section so the mentors and students can validate the ideas together.