Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Wright Stuff

Image credit: Jm@n Google 3-D warehouse 2011

What can you do with 200 square feet of corrugated cardboard, 100 feet of cardboard rollers, yards of yarn and Makedo connectors? If you add in over 20 students and 5 hours in the hot sun, you get a half-scale model of the Wright Flyer.

Why? Why would we do such a thing? I'm slightly crazy and the awesome students were actually really happy to do it. We finished up our Intro to Engineering course for the year with a four-week unit on the STEM concepts of recycling - where do plastic bottles, diapers, cardboard and glass come from, and where do they go when we throw them away. To "tangify" the lessons (I'm totally coining that word, meaning to make tangible) we did mini-challenges with Makedo and then brainstormed a LARGE group build using only recyclable materials.

In order to practice the design cycle, smaller student teams imagined projects and pitched them to everyone. Students voted and the winning project was to model the Wright Brothers' first flying machine, the 1903 Wright Flyer.
Working off of a Google SketchUp model of the Flyer (credit: J-m@n) from the 3-D warehouse, we shrunk it to half size and printed multiple views with dimensions. Students brought boxes, tubes, plastic bags and old yard, lots of it.

Although our ultimate goal of constructing such a solid Flyer that we could actually launch it failed, we did manage to put together over 75% of the very complicated airplane. I think each of us knows a ton more about Orville and Wilbur's ingenious design and how to work together on a project. We ran into the same issues that every project has: time overruns, material shortages, weather factors - but there's nothing better than practice to learn how to deal with these in a productive manner and keep progressing to a goal. Excellent work, students - you really did something special.

1 comment:

  1. yep, it's because we're a group of insane, nerdy homeschoolers with high expectations of ourselves and slightly impossible goals.

    (thanks for putting up some of my pics!)


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