Temperature monitoring systems in the Antarctic Ocean, dust sensors in regional areas to alert change in weather conditions and monitoring systems for cattle were just a few of the innovative ideas generated by the students at St Mary’s College in Term One of 2019. Five teams of students were challenged to code the micro:bit and use this technology as a tool to solve real world environmental issues. Throughout the STEMPunks Innovation Program the students were led through ‘Design Thinking’ processes to understand their user, ideate solutions, use 3D design and printing to prototype their concepts and iterate on their designs. A final Pitch Deck was produced by the teams and delivered to a panel of judges acting as potential investors in the new businesses.
Whether it was measuring moisture levels at Jane’s farm, monitoring Farmer Dan’s sheep or assessing dust levels for Dr. Phil, all of the solutions created by the teams at St Mary’s showed a high level of real-world application. The teams presented viable business models and well considered future improvements to their designs. We look forward to seeing where how these teams progress their businesses throughout the year!
Innovation & Design Thinking
Over the term, the teams were led through four key stages in the design thinking process: Understand, Explore, Prototype and Evaluate. In each stage, students focused on a customer-centric approach to problem solving. Each week introduced or expanded on key STEM tools and fostered a deep understanding of the integration of these tools into problem-based learning. Students learned to program the micro:bit to communicate using radio group signals and attach sensors to monitor conductivity, temperature and humidity. They were able to view their concepts as tangible products or services with the potential to have an impact on the world around them.
The final challenge students faced was to create a compelling story that would connect with the emotions of potential investors. Students outlined the potential for their product or service to create revenue and were given valuable feedback to progress their concept moving forward. The winning team showcased their designed solution to monitor moisture levels in the ground on large farms, mitigating the overwatering of particular land areas.
Curriculum outcomes are were met through the program as students planned and managed their project using an iterative approach, designing and evaluating algorithms for radio communication, and evaluating designed solutions and processes (Digital Technologies, Years 9 and 10 Achievement Standards). They created and connected design ideas and processes of increasing complexity and justified decisions. Students communicated their concepts including marketing for a chosen audience. They collaboratively applied sequenced production plans, making adjustments to plans when necessary (Design and Technologies, Years 9 and 10 Achievement Standards).
Feedback from the Students
Students in the program identified that creating solutions to real-world problems was the most valuable part of the program. Designing in 3D to print prototypes and visual solutions was also highly regarded as an important skill learned. One student commented that the program ‘encouraged deeper thinking and problem solving’ and many students spoke of the importance of building their entrepreneurial understanding in order to pitch their solution to stakeholders.