I opened up this semester with a short video clip from Moon Shot, the Google Lunar X Project. While I would encourage everyone to view the entire series, the final episode provides a concise overview of the competition's goals and its contestants. I asked students to think about what mindset these contestants must have, and how they are approaching the design, building and iterating process. I asked for single words or short phrases. After watching the video, here's what the students said:
We launched right into Project #1, "Light Up, Spin!", where students design and construct a simple circuit on a wooden block. During the project, students work through the Design, Build and Iterate process. This is their first exposure to the process, which we will repeat in project two, and finally in their own personal project.
Students start off with a simple hand-drawn design idea for their circuit. This process is always revealing for me, as students at this age haven't yet grasped the concept of planning out their steps in the design process. They are in a hurry to build, and believe a first draft of the design is sufficient to build from.
On day two of the project, I show one of their initial designs on the board, and we all walk through how to take it from a simple to a more detailed design. We make sure to include all materials and electronic components in the design, a path for the wiring, and appropriate labels and measurements so that someone else seeing the design for the first time would have a clear idea of what is about to be built.
During these design days I also instruct students on how to handle a soldering iron, and give them time to practice stripping wire and soldering two leads together, including the use of heat shrink to cover the exposed wire. They also have some time to start gathering their materials. For the remaining days of Project #1, students will build and test their designs, make adjustments as necessary, and share the results with classmates.