Virtual learning environments are particularly tricky for engineering, design, and art teachers. Unless you can send packets of activity-specific supplies home with your students, you have to be flexible and work around the resources available in each student’s home, which can vary greatly. You can’t always rely on students having paints, construction paper, or popsicle sticks readily accessible. Even what were once household staples like paper-towel rolls may not be available in some eco-friendly households that only use reusable cloths. So how can educators provide a complete STEM course with these variables in mind?
One of the best ways to tackle this is by using resources that virtual students have access to — the Internet. Tinkercad is a free online-based design software that allows individuals to engineer and design in 3D space. This skillset is a great introduction to 3D engineering and design and helps build the spatial-reasoning and creative problem-solving skills necessary for pursuing those careers. Tinkercad is particularly great for students in Years 1 - 9. In Years 10 - 13, it can be used as an introduction to 3D space and 3D modeling, but students may quickly want to progress into more complex software such as industry-standard Fusion 360 (free to educators and students).
Another outstanding feature of Tinkercad is its free classroom management resources. You can set up Tinkercad classrooms to view the designs students are creating in real time which allows you to provide in-the-moment feedback. Tinkercad is intuitive and simple, with built-in tutorials and endless possibilities. This is why we use it for our STEAM Design Challenges available on MyStemKits.com. From fun projects such as designing a dream house to solving real-world renewable energy issues by creating wind turbine blades, there are a variety of engineering, art, and design challenges. By doing so in a free online platform, the playing field is level for your students. What will you have them design? - Avatars of themselves or their pets? - Household tools like desk organisers or holiday decorations? - Bridges? There are so many possibilities!
Tinkercad has recently added a section of shapes for “Making at Home” with to-scale objects like crayons, bottles, popsicle sticks, and so forth. Students can engineer as if they were using the real objects, or as a way to plan prior to actually building their creations in the real world. Whether the creations are being built to be 3D printed, live only in the computer, or recreated using real-world mediums, the options are limitless.
If you’re looking for more ideas on how you can bring Tinkercad and design to your students or are interested in training on this software, check out our STEM-focused STEAM Design Challenges. These challenges address grade-appropriate math and science standards while integrating the challenges of engineering design. Happy engineering!
For more information on MimioSTEM solutions for all learning environments, including the virtual classroom, go to global.boxlight.com.