Engineering involves messy, complex design problems that are solved through collaboration among engineers and other specialists. The Ingenuity in Action exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science explores this theme by exposing visitors to open-ended engineering design challenges that frequently involve collaboration. Specifically, the challenges are to invent a creation that flies in a wind tube, manipulate wheels on LEGO cars to traverse ramps, and design a bridge to withstand forces and span a distance. Oftentimes, visitors collaborate synchronously in creating a design. Visitors also asynchronously collaborate across time and groups by adopting and modifying the designs of other visitors. Focusing on the wind tube activity, we present results from observations of 32 visitor groups and two case studies. We found that as collaboration increases, visitors engage more deeply in the iterative cycles of the engineering design process. In other words, social and environmental contexts influenced the design. We also found that both synchronous design and evolutionary, asynchronous design are correlated with greater learning gains in science and engineering. This study will detail the interactions between collaboration and design within the natural, free-choice environment at the museum.
|Keywords:||Engineering, Design, Learning, Collaboration, Informal Education, Museum|
Graduate Student, Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
Director of the Public Science Center, Community and Visitor Programs, Lawrence Hall of Science, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA