Using the Engineering Design Process as the Structure for Project-Based Learning: An Informal STEM Activity on Bridge-Building
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2016 IEEE. The challenges posed by STEM education are highly complex and require the efforts of both formal and informal educational approaches. Informal settings allow for greater flexibility for integrating across multiple STEM fields as well as allowing greater freedom for students to explore potential topics and skills within STEM. As such, informal STEM learning experiences not only develop students' interest in STEM but also influence their identity as STEM learners. In this paper we present and discusses a bridge design and construction project-based learning (PBL) activity that was conducted as part of a two-week STEM camp run by Aggie STEM at Texas A&M University. The PBL was designed around a real-world scenario that the students could tackle in a smaller scale as an initial prototype solution. An engineering design process was utilized throughout the activity and students had multiple objectives to meet. As the problem had no single solution, students could safely be creative in their approaches and final solutions, as they were not focused on finding the one right answer. Learning outcomes of the project were: 1. the reality of problems having multiple acceptable solutions; 2. the realization that the existence of multiple acceptable solutions does not mean that all solutions are acceptable; and 3. that there is room for creativity in meeting the design specifications with the allowed resources.