Recently, 19 middle school students from WISD’s Gifted and Talented program completed a 3D design workshop series held at Waxahachie Global High.

April Moon, WISD STEM Coordinator, and Global High seniors, Kayla Johansen and Wyatt Hawkins, planned and facilitated four workshop sessions throughout the month of January.

Members of Global High’s ENGINEERING NOW club assisted with the workshop and often provided one-on-one guidance to the participants. The ENGINEERING NOW club is made up of high school students who are passionate about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and work to promote STEM and increase problem-solving skills in our local schools and community.

On Jan. 15, at the first workshop session, participants enjoyed snacks while completing a pre-workshop assessment, and then they shared a few laughs during an icebreaker activity.

Afterwards, Hawkins helped them discover the 6 degrees of freedom in 3D space, and Moon taught the participants how to create different types of 3D sketches.

Johansen provided an overview of Autodesk Inventor, a professional-grade 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) program, and then guided the participants in an activity where they created simple 3D houses in Inventor.

At the end of the night, Joshua Garcia, an eighth grader from Howard Junior High, received a prize for creativity; Lane Graham, an eighth grader from Finley Junior High, received a prize for teamwork, and Nicole Olson, an eighth grader from Howard Junior High, received a prize for leadership.

At the second workshop session, held Jan. 19, the participants learned the steps of the engineering design process and received a design brief that explained the requirements of their project challenge.

The basic goal of the challenge was to design a robot that would help a child with a physical disability carry out a daily task.

The students were not restricted to the type of disability or the type of task but were rather allowed to make choices based on what they were personally passionate about. They quickly went to work discussing their ideas with other participants while sketching and documenting their plans.

Before being allowed to move to the computers, the participants had to propose their ideas to the facilitators and get feedback and approval.

They were often asked to refine their designs to better reflect the connection between design functionality and form, and many were asked to expand their thinking to ensure their solution offered value beyond existing products already on the market. Once approval was obtained, the students started building their designs in Inventor.

On Jan. 25, during the third session, the robots took on their 3D forms in Autodesk Inventor.

While building their designs, the participants explored different features in Inventor and increased their spatial reasoning. Spatial reasoning, the ability to think about objects in three-dimensional space based on limited information, such as a 2D sketch, is a vital skill to have when one is “swimming” around in the virtual 3D world and constantly transitioning between 2D sketches and 3D views, a requirement of most CAD programs.

Also, during the third session, the students participated in a teamwork activity that taught them how to effectively brainstorm, a step in the engineering design process where quantity of ideas is valued above quality.

At the conclusion of the activity, Brittney Minx and Alexis Rodriguez, eighth graders at Finley Junior High, were awarded prizes for their superb brainstorming skills.

At the final workshop session, held Jan. 28, the participants learned how to communicate engineering designs in a multiview format and were able to create and print out multiview drawings of their own robots. Then, they learned the basics of building physical prototypes with both 3D printers (an additive process) and CNC machines (a subtractive process) and even had the opportunity to observe a design being printed out in plastic on Global High’s 3D PolyPrinter.

Parents joined the students during the last 30 minutes of the final session for a slideshow and the presentation of participation certificates, and as an award for the most creative robotic designs, Jerome King, an eighth grader from Finley Junior High and Nicole Olson, an eighth grader from Howard Junior High, received 3D printed models of their personal robots!

A post-assessment was also given on the final day, and the results were outstanding! The participants’ engineering design knowledge and interest in STEM both increased. On the knowledge portion of the assessment, every participant at least doubled their score, three participants tripled their scores, and eight participants quadrupled their scores!

This month, ENGINEERING NOW is hosting another workshop series for third through fifth grade students from 4:15 to 6 p.m. each day on Feb. 9, Feb. 23 and Feb. 29.

Participants will learn the engineering design process and build 21st century skills, such as teamwork, creativity, and problem solving. Hands-on activities include building straw rockets and balloon-powered buggies! Registration for the event has already ended, but coming up in March, there will be a workshop series for girls interested in robotics.

Then, in April, open work sessions will be offered on several afternoons to help guide elementary and middle school students as they come up with their own project solutions/designs and properly prepare documentation for an Engineering Design Fair that will be held in May. More details on these events will be given in the near future.

It is the policy of the Waxahachie ISD not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender or handicap in its Career & Technical Education programs, services or activities as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, as amended.