Since January, third graders at Cordata Elementary School and engineering students from Whatcom Community College (WCC) have been working together on design projects. Following a balance and motion science unit, Cordata students paired up with WCC students to work through a design process. Pat Burnett, a WCC engineering faculty member helped make the visit to Whatcom possible by connecting with third grade teachers.
WCC was looking for ways for the engineering students to put their work to practice in the community and thought working with students at Cordata would be a good fit. This would allow beginning engineering students to create simple objects and engage with young learners to spark their interest in engineering.
“We wanted to create opportunities for our students to help define the project and engage at a level they are comfortable,” Pat said. “Cordata students have been designing objects to investigate rotational objects. They shared their designs with WCC students who then created a computer-aided design (CAD).”
The WCC students then used 3D printers or laser cutters to bring designs to life. Some of the designs included fidget spinners and toy tops.
“As a student I can say that creating a tangible item from a young students mind is rewarding in that I was able to show them what we do as engineering students is obtainable for them,” said Zoe Wikfors, an engineering student at WCC.
Zoe said one Cordata third grader asked if it was possible to make a figurine. Zoe said of course, which led the student to list all the items he could think of.
“I told him he could create all of those things and more,” Zoe said. “Actually watching the process of a design you created become real is inspiring. I hope that they will see engineering as a subject they could all consider or even pursue as they continue on in their education.”
After three visits from WCC students to Cordata classrooms, on March 20 Cordata third graders had a chance to visit Whatcom Community College. Third graders walked from Cordata to the college, then split into three groups. Each group spent 20 minutes learning about different topics. The rotations included computer-aided design (CAD), engineering lab with a laser cutter and 3D printers with a college resource station.
Bellingham Public Schools volunteer Tom Nelson who helped chaperone the event said the field trip was a great experience for the students who remained enthusiastic throughout.
“The college provided a friendly group of people to help shuffle the kids from building to building,” Tom said. “Each lab received us warmly, and helped engage the kids.”
The plan is for this partnership to continue each winter quarter. Zoe is working on a website geared toward educators which explains how the partnership works. She also describes the use of Onshape, an open source design software and how it can be incorporated into lessons.
This is just another example of how WCC has been a valued community partner to Cordata. Over the last two years, WCC has sent nearly 40 students into classrooms, assisted with recess and supported the after-school program.