Students in the Middle School 3-D Design class came together this week in an event their teacher, Mr. Tihen, described as “a celebration of self-directed learning”. During this course, this hardworking group of students has taken charge of their own learning, designing 3-D printed model sailboats and devising advertising strategies. They began with simple prototypes and marketing ideas and, with research and group collaboration, slowly built towards more complex models and business plans.
All of this hard work culminated in Shark Tank—an hour-long event in which students pitched their designs to an audience of 35 “investors”, each equipped with 1,700,000 in play money. In order to sway investors to place their trust (and funds) in their design, students’ business pitches had to excel in five fields.
Firstly, students had to use effective, professional communication throughout the duration of their presentations. Next, students were to give demonstrations of how well their sailboats were able to stand up to adverse conditions; this included measuring how much weight the models were able to support and how straight they were able to travel when faced with wind. Students were then asked to acknowledge how other groups aided in their design process, showing how well they were able to listen to suggestions and make adjustments to their prototypes. Similarly, students discussed how they collaborated within their project groups and described the roles each member played. Lastly, students were asked to demonstrate their applied knowledge by comparing their final product to previous models.
Our Middle School students met the challenges of the day with enthusiasm and their projects didn’t fail to impress! They came together with thoughtful, articulate presentations, well-researched and designed 3-D models, clever brochures, company names, and backstories, and implemented a number of strategies used by real engineers.
In the words of a student, the Shark Tank assignment teaches participants about “teamwork, communication with each other, how to program, and how to use a 3-D printer.” It’s also a testament to the value of self-regulated learning, and just how much students can accomplish when they are motivated by their own curiosity.