Design technology in the primary classroom is usually restricted to building mock ups of final products from card and paper; wooden frames from strip wood that support simple mechanical devices and modifying recipes for food products such as bread.
On the 29th of March, eighteen members of year 6 were chosen to take part in a special lesson that would push back what we thought was possible in an afternoon in a primary school. Using just ten sets of equipment (that comprised of a bench vice, 24V soldering iron, wire cutters and file) the children worked cooperatively to produce a torch from a kit while also learning about electronic circuits and the materials used in their manufacture.
Mr. Woods started the session by talking through the safety implications of using the soldering irons before explaining the assembly procedure of the kits. As he worked through the assembly procedure he explained the function of each component and asked the group to draw on their previous science based knowledge of electricity to answer questions about circuits.
The children were eager to get started and enthusiastically got stuck into the job of soldering the components to the PCBs. One girl remarked that it was a lot fiddlier than she expected while another child said that he found it really pleasing when the solder went where he wanted it to and was nice
and neat. Soon the first switches were being clicked and with it the first shouts of “Mine works!” and the equally expected, slightly disappointed, “Why doesn't mine work?”
We found that the torches that did not work initially provided just as much, if not more, opportunity to learn as the task of finding the fault gave rise to conversations about what a 'short circuit' or dry 'joint' might be. Having completed the electronic part of the torch we then set about fitting the PCB into a housing made from either transparent 16mm tube or a re-cycled marker pen. The PCBs had to be quite heavily modified in order to fit them inside these cylinders, but with a little careful filing all the children left at the end of the day with a torch that they had built from the individual components.
The children had a wonderful afternoon and it really opened my eyes (as coordinator of DT at Herne) as to what could be achieved with just a little equipment. This truly was a cross curricular project and the links to the other STEM areas of science, engineering and maths were obvious to all. I would love to repeat this style of project in the future but taking more time over the design phase of the work.
Many thanks to Kitronik.co.uk for their kind and generous sponsorship of this event and of course to Mr. Woods for the time he spent preparing for and delivering this enjoyable afternoon.
Herne Junior School