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New Summer Integrated Engineering Program for Kids is a Hit

September 13, 2017

girl welding circuit board
The KCI partnered with De Anza College Community Education this summer to offer a robust suite of integrated engineering courses and camps for 6th through 9th-grade students. The overall program, Integrated Engineering, was first offered through the De Anza Community Education’s Extended Summer Year program that took place June 19 through July 14. The Extended Year sessions were followed by two five-day camps, which were even more intensive and challenging. Students spent their time in creative hands-on activities that focused on the intersection of electronics, engineering and coding.

Students in the program, taught by mechanical engineer turned teacher Ken Hawthorn, built a series of increasingly complex projects that set the foundations for high school and college math, exploring the intersection of multiple coding languages, electronics, and rapid prototyping. The aim is to tap student creativity so they leave the program with the mindset of, “if the machine I want doesn’t exist, then I will build it!” Projects included autonomous machines with a focus on iterative prototyping process, using a variety of power tools, 3D printing and CNC cutters.

During the five-day camp, students designed and built intelligent machines by learning to weave professional engineering and development tools together in order to build complex Internet of Things (IoT) machines. All tools introduced in the program are used in professional engineering environments. During the camp, the students were guided in using tools designed for education as well as more complex tools used in industry. Students experienced a breadth of activities from iterative design to machine control theory and practice, and they had the opportunity to build their own touchscreen Linux tablet computer. The goal of the camp is for students to learn to see the world of machines as accessible, modifiable, and hackable.

What sets these courses and camps apart from others is the integrated focus. Most student camps focus on a single discipline—for example, coding. During the Integrated Engineering camps, students learned to handle equipment such as power saws, CNC cutters, soldering tools, and 3D printers. They gained experience using hardware like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controls. Students were also introduced to coding such as Java and Python.

This highly innovative engineering program is capitalizing on the interest of both students and parents and provides opportunities for students to have access to creative, hands-on experiences that are fun, educational, and challenging. The camp also supports a project-based learning approach to STEM topics, where students work on creative problem solving. The students were thrilled with the experience and one wrote to the instructor, “Thank you so much for dedicating your time to helping and encouraging students like me to explore the vast world of engineering. This camp has been an absolute pleasure and I have learned so much more than I expected in just one week.”

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