Friday, August 23, 2013

Thinking Like an Engineer

Thinking like an engineer is really something that you probably already do in your afterschool program.  You maybe just didn’t know that the thinking you do has a name.  The following graphic shows the ways engineers think—the engineering process.  It is a cycle for continuous improvement that begins by asking a question and then following through on the process. Graphic at  "College of Engineering"

Think about how this design process really “proceduralizes” your process for developing a high-quality program.  Think about planning a club, a class, or another type of enrichment.  What if you began with asking the questions—what are the problems or challenges and what the constraints that you must work through?  Move on to imagining—get input from as many people you can be that youth, families, staff, or any other interested party and then have them help you choose the best possibility.   Move on to making your plan, laying out your steps, your class or club, and then gathering the materials you will need.  Sometimes we are not as thorough with this step as we could be, thinking in depth about our plan and really visualizing each step.  Then of course you need to execute on your plan, check it out and see if it is as good as you think.  And finally you are ready to get together and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and start all over again by asking the questions, what are challenges and the constraints (and of course you might also want to think about what are the best practices so you can keep those in practice.

The Engineering Design Process can be applied to all learning situations.  Let us know how it works for you by emailing us at

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