One of the best things about homeschooling is that we have the flexibility to dive into materials and courses that interest our children. Instead of being stuck in a classroom studying the same required subjects everyday, we get to branch out and explore lots of different areas of interest. I think it’s when kids are excited about a particular area that they begin to really enjoy the learning process and things begin to make sense and stick for them!
Over the past few weeks we’ve been able to do just that – explore a brand new subject area with Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe. How exciting to get a taste of what engineers do from our own home!
Innovators Tribe is an online program that offers two courses: Thinking Like an Engineer and Thinking Like an Architect. These courses are intended for kids in grades 6-12. Each course is about 30 hours, which includes the video lessons, taught by Mr. Kroeplin, and hands-on challenge activities. The course is self-paced so you can move through the lessons according to your own schedule.
We received a two year subscription to Thinking Like an Engineer for my son, who is in the 7th grade. Although my son was the primary user, Dad helped out a lot on as he went through the course and it was a great way for both of them to spend time together doing some problem solving.
The course comes with a handy printable syllabus and materials list.
Thinking Like an Engineer contains five main units:
- Introduction to Engineering?
- Introduction to 3D Design
- Engineering Rollercoasters
- Engineering Bridges
- Nano Engineering
There is also a Thinking Like an Engineer course conclusion with a bonus mini-course.
My son completed about one lesson and one challenge activity per week. The challenge activities took longer than we had anticipated, with lots of trial and error!
Here’s a look at what the first unit, Introduction to Engineering, includes:
- Lesson 1 – What is Engineering
- Lesson 2 – Types of Engineers
- Lesson 3 – Engineering Clean Water
- Lesson 4 – Grand Challenges of the World
Thoughts and Usage
My son was super excited to get started with this course! He logged in and started watching the videos and told me he didn’t want to stop. The videos were very engaging and interesting and my son always wanted to watch the next one. However, we did stop and do the challenge activities between the videos and those activities were the best part of the whole program!
My son, at first, tried to complete the challenge activities on his own, but afterwards would go to Dad for help. Here’s what my son and husband had to say about the challenge activities.
“We had a lot of fun with the challenge activities! The first challenge asked us to make a tower using 4 sheets of paper and one foot of masking tape. We failed on our first few attempts but we kept at it! We finally ended up using strips of paper that we folded into triangular rods. We taped the rods together using a thin strip of masking tape. We made three legs that we taped together in a tripod and then added a paper rod pole on top with a paper flag to finish it off. We realized that there are many possible solutions to engineering problems and a design doesn’t have to be perfect to get the job done.” – Dad
“Our second challenge was a weight challenge. We were asked to make a structure that could hold a stack of books one inch off the floor using one sheet of paper and two feet of masking tape. This second project worked on our first try thanks to more careful planning and construction. We made our base by cutting one piece of paper into 11 one inch strips. We folded each strip into triangles. We might not have had to use any tape at all, but to add strength and stability, we taped the triangles to the floor. We arranged the triangles to spread the weight of a large book evenly over the 11 triangles. Then we carefully placed books on top and took a picture until the triangles collapsed after the last book was added.” – Dad
“The challenge activities were difficult but a lot of fun! I didn’t know how to make a bunch of books be held up by just a sheet of paper. It was amazing that we were able to stack to many books on top of the paper triangles. After it collapsed, we looked at which triangles were the weakest.” – Son
My son and husband have really enjoyed the videos and activities and definitely recommend them. For a 12 year old, the challenges are a bit difficult, but with some adult help, it’s been a lot of fun.
My son is very excited to start the second unit, Introduction to 3D Design, because Dad uses 3D software CAD modelling at his work! Pretty cool!