Engineering Day 3: Trade Offs

After designing an improved paper clip last class, students read a chapter from Henry Petroski’s Invention by Design (the text for the course). The chapter was on the history of the paperclip and included lots of patents for new, improved paper clips. Students loved seeing that the patents had many of the exact same ideas they came up with.

One of the themes for the class is considering tensions or trade-offs in any design task. During our projects, students often ask for more time, more materials, and less constraints, and this year I want to be more thoughtful about how we talk about why there must be constraints, and those constraints depend on the context.

I had students draw a diagram that represents all of the tensions present in designing a paperclip, drawing on their experience last class as well as using the information in the chapter. I liked the diagrams they came up with – and they included a lot of tensions that are present in any design project, so I want to revisit these throughout the year.image

One thought on “Engineering Day 3: Trade Offs

  1. jenrichar

    It’ll be interesting to see how these ideas shift over the course of the year, and in the different contexts. What are the various contexts you’re thinking of having students grapple with?


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