Professor and students create a do-it-yourself engineering activities book for kids

There are children’s books out there for just about every imaginable subject: science, math, art, and now engineering can be added to that list. Geoff Wright, an associate professor of technology and engineering studies here at Brigham Young University, and his team of students, collaborated on a book with basic, rainy-day engineering activities for elementary school kids.  

“The purpose of the book is to present engaging engineering activities that will provide an experiential engineering learning opportunity for kids - and an opportunity for teachers or parents to engage students in related conversations,” Wright said. “The outcome is not to create engineers, but to get kids excited about engineering and to expose them to problem solving in a new way - using the engineering design process.”

Students in the Technology and Engineering Studies program at BYU learn all about practical engineering principles as well as skills in creativity, design, invention, innovation, collaboration, and teamwork. A degree in TES specifically qualifies graduates to teach courses in Web design, graphic arts, video production, drafting, electronics, manufacturing processes, furniture design and pre-engineering.

“I love this major because it’s so academically diverse,” said Amy Costello, an undergrad studying TES who worked as an editor on the Rainy Day Engineering book. “I've…taken classes in CAD, ceramics, sculpture and art, floral design, computer science and industrial design as major elective credits. There are also plenty of opportunities to participate in really cool projects (like editing this book) that have provided me with opportunities to learn and develop skills beyond a classroom setting.”

Costello is interested in starting a business that hosts workshops for different craft fields, so learning a lot about different trades will be useful. Editing this book, for example, is an opportunity she didn’t expect but that she embraced for the knowledge she would gain and share as the book is divided into different sections and teaches different principles from different fields—much like her educational goals.

“The book covers principles from electrical, mechanical, civil and chemical engineering, as well as the engineering design process,” Costello explained. “I really like that each activity ends with some open-ended questions that lead kids and their teachers or parents to explore more together outside of the book. Hopefully it becomes a jumping off place for imaginative problem solving and helps kids discover how fun learning can be.”

Whitney Carson, a student majoring in TES with a minor in design, worked on the design aspects of the book. She designed the diagrams and icons and chose color schemes and fonts that would make the book exciting and fun to look through.

“We know that it’s during the elementary years that many children will be figuring out what they like and what they’re good at,” Carson said. “Our hope for this book is that it will make engineering more accessible to children—that they’ll have fun doing the activities in the book and want to learn more. We also hope that as children do these activities with their parents, siblings, and friends, they’ll learn more about working well with others to solve problems.”

When asked where his idea for the book came from, Wright said it had to do with several factors: his background as an engineering educator, participating in outreach with local schools, and his own personal experiences as a father of three. He also remembers a do-it-yourself science book he had as a kid, the memory of which caused him to keep on the lookout for similar engineering books for kids. Working at BYU also acted as a bit of catalyst for his idea.

“We’re always invited to involve our students in projects that have meaning,” he said. “This book has been a good fit because of the student’s interests and abilities.”

For more information about the book, please visit Wright's website.

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