Today I asked students to think about all of the problems with the current design of the paper clip.
After generating a list of problems, each group chose 1 problem and designed a new paper clip that would address that problem. After 15 minutes of designing, groups shared their new paper clips to the class.
After each group shared, I let the rest of the class ask questions. These are all seniors and are very comfortable with each other, so they immediately started challenging others’ designs.
“Won’t the rubber ends make it hard to take the paper clip off the paper?”
“Won’t the coils stretch out?”
“Doesn’t that make the paper clip like twice as heavy but it doesn’t hold that much more paper?”
“Didn’t you just reinvent the C-clamp?”
I was glad that they were critical, but it felt a little too much like Shark Tank. This year i want to emphasize more collaboration between groups – last year students were very competitive, which sometimes felt uncomfortable (to me and to some students who talked to me about it). Some competition can be good, but not if it stifles creativity and risk taking.
How do you promote a positive, collaborative atmosphere, especially during engineering design tasks?