Tuesday, November 7

Innovators Tribe {Review}

Thinking Like an Engineer









As our out-of-the-box son matures into his teen years, we’re trying new approaches to schoolwork…one of which is the self-directed, hands-off approach.  When we were offered the chance to try out Thinking Like an Engineer, from Innovator’s Tribe, I knew that this would be right up his alley…and it is!

Innovator’s Tribe actually offers three courses, currently, including Thinking Like an Architect, Thinking Likean Engineer, and Thinking Like a Carpenter.  Each comes with a “mini-course,” Thinking Like an Innovator, which is designed to inspire and encourage students to learn how to thinking creatively and become problem-solvers.  This mini-course primes students for the coursework that is to come, and includes its own set of challenges and projects.

Following the completion of the mini-course, he dove right into Thinking Like an Engineer!  The course is divided into four main sections : What’s an Engineer, Intro to 3D Design, Rollercoasters, and Bridges.  In the first section, students are introduced to real-world engineering challenges and encouraged to become problem-solvers around the house.

The lessons in this course are given in a powerpoint-type format, and include videos for students to watch that introduce and reinforce concepts.  Each lesson is about ten minutes long, with additional videos ranging anywhere from five minutes to forty-five minutes.  The course moves quickly enough to keep the attention of teenagers, but not so fast as for them to get lost.

One of the activities from the first section is a challenge to build a structure that will support a stack of books – but you can only use one sheet of paper and two feet of masking tape!  I have to admit that I was a bit dubious as to how on earth this would work, but he surprised me by building a structure held TWENTY-SIX books!  This momma was blown away!  (And, based on photos from the lesson, other students had built much stronger structures.)

In the second section, students download the software and learn the basics of computer-aided design.  Then, they use that knowledge in the third and fourth sections.  While we’ve just begun the section on roller coasters, my son is rapidly progressing with his computer designs and is excited about creating structures of his own design.  My husband works in a field that requires him to use CAD on a regular basis, so he was happy to have a little father-son time working with the program.

One of the things that I like about these videos is that they introduce science concepts (like potential and kinetic energy) as well as the corresponding math concepts.  Your student does NOT need to be able to do the engineering math.  The lessons simply introduce the concepts and formulas and show real-world applications for them.

In the final section of the course, students learn about the history of bridge building, including some disasters.  Again, they learn some science and math concepts to go along with bridge engineering, and they are taught in an applied sense.  Students are then challenged to build their own suspense bridge using only cardboard, string, tape, and craft sticks.  Being as our son is a craft scavenger…always repurposing trash…he is greatly anticipating this project!

COURSE DESCRIPTION

This is an online, self-paced course (not live) that teaches about engineering and its applications.  The lessons are completely taught online, and are interactive, so that you (the parent / teacher) can have a break to work with other kids.  There are several hands-on activities with each lesson, including design challenges, building challenges, and an exercise journal.  There is also a free download of the design software, which is yours to keep even after the 18-month course period has expired.



COURSE CURRICULUM

  • Introduction to Engineering 
  • Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design) 
  • Engineering Rollercoasters! 
  • Engineering Bridges 
  • Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World) 
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion

A FEW NOTES

  • You only need to purchase the course once, and it can be used by all of the children in the household during the 18-month access period.
  • Each course (Architect, Engineer, and Carpenter) comes with a mini-course, titled Thinking Like an Innovator.
  • Courses are designed for grade 6-12.
  • There are no grades; however, there is a course journal for accountability.
  • Course software runs on both Mac and Windows.
  • Customer service responds within 24 hours, and even faster during business hours.
  • Courses are priced at $149 and offer 35 hours (or ¼ credit) of instruction.


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