The engineering design process is a fundamental part of the STEAM curriculum at Heywood Prep. The children are taught to identify a problem, come up with a solution and make or build that solution and then, most importantly, refine that solution to enable a better resolution to the initial problem.
This process underpins much in life and is an ever-present part of the way STEAM is taught and learnt at Heywood Prep. It is the very foundation that successes like our recent fantastic performance in the First Lego league UK Final are built upon.
Year 3 took their first steps to much hoped-for success in a similar vein with a trip to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) museum in nearby Lyneham. It is a museum set up to share the successes of the regiment and has a fine set of vehicles and displays from the regiment’s first initiation.
The children were given the problem of producing a vehicle that had to move using a self-contained power source. The vehicle was to be created from Lego sets. Our REME host talked through the initial design limitations and gave the children a brief lesson in vehicle construction. Then it was on with the build.
Heywood Prep sets much store by its team work and this was a vital component of the day’s activities; it proved to be the case that the teams that worked the most collaboratively were the first to finish. The process that followed was to firstly design the chassis of the vehicle, then add wheels and finally add the power source. The wheels were connected to the power source and then it was testing time. We moved to the open space of the museum gallery to test our initial designs. It was in the shadow of a tracked vehicle that had supported the allied landing forces at D-Day that our nascent engineers put their vehicles to the test.
Once we had made our initial runs, further problems were identified and it was back to the work benches. Greater speed was identified as a desired factor and our host introduced the children to gearing to allow for higher velocities. Once again, we tested our constructions and all managed to make a faster vehicle. Finally, with lunch beckoning we had the enjoyable opportunity to destruction-test our creations and they were set off at their newer, higher speeds into one of the museums walls. As one might expect, the wall was the winner, but fun nonetheless.
The power source that the children used to provide the required motion was a battery pack but after our break we investigated alternate power sources. We once again split in to teams and with the aid of a solar panel we sought sources of solar energy around the building. This culminated in a trip to the outside where it was demonstrated that the best solar power source is the sun. Even on a grey March morning, the power generated outside was better than any of the lights within the museum.
To finish our day, we were given the opportunity to explore the museum. Much fun was had dressing up in military uniform and everyone enjoyed sitting climbing aboard an armoured personnel carrier. It was a tremendous day out and the children were given a fantastic introduction to the world of engineering and the mindset required to succeed in this field.
Thom Ruane, Year 3 Form Tutor