STEM Matters: Guest column – Getting to the heart of technology
06 January 2020
Play is an important part of toddlers’ development and some of the most commonly used toys, like building blocks & puzzles, are based on the principle of assembly & disassembly, to help children acquire dexterity and understand cause & effect. The same idea can be applied to the study of technology.
This guest column was originally featured in the January 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Here, Dave Collingwood, Principal Engineer at metrology & engineering technologies firm, Renishaw explains the benefits of its Technology Teardown workshops, where students, aided by engineers, disassemble domestic technology to understand how its component parts work together to perform the function of the product.
We live in an increasingly throwaway society, so tearing down technology to reveal its design and learn more about the nature and purpose of its components helps young people understand it more. This approach is routinely used in fields such as mechanical, electronic and software engineering, but is also an excellent teaching method to engage young people studying science, technology, engineering & maths (STEM) subjects to help prepare them for an engineering career.
For more than ten years, Renishaw’s engineers have been using Teardowns to inspire the young engineers and scientists of tomorrow. These two-hour workshops, where students, under the expert supervision of Renishaw engineers, are encouraged to take apart everyday objects such as printers, phones and laptops to help understand the many facets of modern day products, are designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists. Broken down parts from these Teardowns can also be taken away for further discussion at school and can go on to form part of pupils’ projects.
This experience allows teachers to proactively engage their classes in core aspects of the school curriculum, for instance, learning the properties of materials, and applying this knowledge to product design. At the same time, students have fun discovering the hidden aspects of their favourite technological gadgets.
The learning opportunity can be further enhanced by offering a guided tour of Renishaw’s Innovation Centre and by giving a STEM careers talk to motivate students to consider engineering as a profession, considering all the options from an apprenticeship to studying at university.
The benefits of a hands-on approach to learning have long been highlighted in education. According to a recent study by Stanford University, students who listen passively during a class retain about 20% of the information they hear. However, this percentage increases to 75% when they are given the possibility to practise what they are learning by simulating a real-world experience.
A hands-on approach like that applied in Teardowns is particularly useful for technology-based subjects. Tearing technology apart helps students recognise patterns in the production of everyday technological gadgets, understand and appreciate their complexity, and see how their many components fit together.
In addition, pupils develop manual skills by learning how to safely use a variety of tools, such as different screwdrivers, pliers and so on. They also learn the importance of recommended safety procedures, such as wearing safety glasses and protective gloves. Finally, they are taught to operate patiently and tidily, without losing or damaging any components.
Running practical workshops also acts as professional development for the staff involved. For example, engineers at Renishaw report that Technology Teardowns provide the opportunity to take a fresh look at how products are made. This process can stimulate their analytical thinking and help them come up with new ideas on how to develop technology. Explaining to students why engineering is a rewarding career also helps to motivate employees.
Renishaw’s Technology Teardowns are part of the company’s extensive education outreach programme, which aims to inspire the next generation of engineers. For more information or to book a workshop, visit www.renishaw.com/educationoutreach or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This column is part of an occasional series of guest columns for STEM Matters. If you have an interesting viewpoint on STEM topics to share with EPDT readers, get in touch with Editor, Mark Gradwell at email@example.com
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