Rachel Thompson is Assistant Head of Technology at Stokesley School, a large Technology College in North Yorkshire. As part of the specialist college initiative Stokesley School invested heavily in CAD/CAM equipment and the department now has four 3-axis CNC routers in constant use by pupils from Year 7 to 13. Rachel describes recent developments in the GCSE Product Design course offered by the department.
As a department we made the decision to move away from Graphic Products and Resistant Materials to venture into the world of Product Design, feeling that the course allows pupils the freedom and diversity to design and make outcomes with ‘real’ commercial value. At the same time we strengthened our lower school modules to encourage pupils to experiment with our extensive range of CAD/CAM facilities. We introduced Techsoft 2D Designer and Galaad CAM software into Year 7 for a key fob torch project and Year S pupils were introduced to Pro/DESKTOP to design and make mobile telephones. We have noticed in recent years how pupils are able to be much more independent and take more control over their own design and development.
Managing Creativity & Innovation
Year 10 pupils experience three modules:
• an introduction into graphic techniques, providing the opportunity for pupils to disassemble and analyse existing products and to present their findings through appropriate methods;
• an opportunity to use 2D and 3D CAD packages to redesign a small entertainment device, culminating in a modelling exercise;
- prior to the introduction of GCSE coursework pupils are asked to create a scale model of a piece of furniture
We provide pupils with a choice of two briefs - to design and make a working prototype of a radio or to solve a specific storage problem. The radio is always the most popular, probably because pupils assume this is essentially a packaging task, to contain the electronics in a way that allows the radio to function and to look good. During the design and development stages teachers spend quality time with pupils to ensure that their projects are appropriate, challenging and innovative. In doing this teachers draw on their experience of more traditional methods of manufacture as well as their knowledge of CAD/CAM. We encourage pupils to examine the work of famous designers or to research a period of design history to provide a stepping-stone towards creative ideas.
Pupils often use what they have produced with CAD to create small-scale models for testing and evaluation. They learn the importance of understanding the working parameters of CAM to fully appreciate what is possible and what is not. Foamboard engineering is also used to explore and understand ergonomic issues. This can be a difficult modelling material to use and results do vary considerably.
The Final Outcome
We have very high expectations of pupils which creates some risk. When pupils are being encouraged to be creative there are times when progress can seem very slow. The final outcomes may lack the quality of finish we would hope to see, although we know that the pupils have experienced and learnt many new skills and processes - a ‘Catch 22’ situation. We are very proud of the progress our pupils have made over the last three years and during this year’s moderation it was clear that the balance between creativity and quality is about right with 80% A - C grades achieved. As a department we will always push the boundaries of technology for innovation and this is why Product Design is such an exciting and exhilarating experience for teachers and pupils alike.