As part of Project Lead the Way: Gateway to Engineering, middle school engineers design playgrounds and mini golf courses in Deborah Gaff’s seventh grade student at Greensburg Junior High School.
Students take Project Lead the Way classes in a nine week rotation. It is the leading provider in the United States of Science, Technology, Engineering and math programs.
The students began their project when Gaff asked them to list problems related to playgrounds and mini-golf courses. Then they were to create solutions solving the problems. They worked individually at first and later in groups.
Over the course of about three weeks, students used Inventor engineering software to make 3D models of familiar equipment, such as rock climbing walls or monkey bars. Later, Gaff said, they used the software to design something new.
“They used the same software a real engineer would use,” Gaff said.
Students also watched a Disney-produced documentary that delved into how engineers, or “imagineers” create rides and attractions for Disney theme parks. Gaff said this gave the students a chance to see some real-world applications for engineering.
The project has been very well-received by the students, with many showing a high level of excitement, according to Gaff. After the design stage, students used recycled and repurposed materials to build models of their creations. Occasionally, a design needed to be changed or redesigned when the appropriate materials couldn’t be found.
“I think they are amazing,” GJHS student Zoey Faris said of the projects. “For the golf ones, I like how it’s challenging and kind of stirs you up to do better and create something new.”
Many of the final designs included playable golf courses and moving playground equipment. Several of the projects had themes, like an imaginative crayon themed parked filled with bright colors and crayon posts for equipment, with partners Kelsey Collins and Grace Reiger said served to appeal to children who enjoy coloring