FutureTech, a new 6th grade elective, teaches students the basics of design thinking and other 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving. In this elective, students work in teams to design a technological solution to a problem. They sketch out, design, create, test, and print their projects in three dimensions, and then watch their ideas come to life in front of their eyes.
First taught by director of development Chris Kemph, who sought donor support for the first 3D printer at JCDS, this 6th grade elective has evolved to include more of an emphasis on design thinking and engineering. For example, in addition to using basic 3D printing, students can now incorporate circuitry so an extruded object can be connected to a battery, an outlet, or a computer through USB. Different enhancement modules such as thermometers are also available. This allows students to power what they design. Therefore, the printed object moves beyond a plastic prototype to a working model.
After they learn about circuits, students will create a list of “problems” that they encounter at school, such as turning on lights in a room when students’ arms are full. Working in teams of two or three, they will choose one of the problems to work on. Next, students will use online research to determine the uniqueness of their ideas by looking at what is already available. They will examine their possibilities, print something in 3D from multiple pieces and modules, and then assemble it.
This year the Shark Lab, which was started with support of a generous donor family, found a permanent home in the science lab. FutureTech’s instructor Shannon Johnson’s title was also changed to science/tech integration specialist. Both of these changes reflect the further integration of science and technology at JCDS.
“3D printing is useful in so many ways that we’re not even thinking about yet,” Mrs. Johnson said. That is why she encourages students to “dream big.”