Last week Synapse Product Development was the proud host of 45 Seattle Public School District elementary, middle and high school teachers. Though the Synapse lunch room is typically used for intense ping pong games and Beer:30 shenanigans, it was the perfect central location for Seattle Public School’s all day training on the Next Generation Science and Engineering Standards.
Washington state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013 and is the 8th state to adopt these standards. The goal is to provide consistent science education throughout all grade levels, kindergarten through senior year, with a specific emphasis on engineering and technology. Washington teachers are working toward aligning their curricula to the NGSS standards across all classrooms, for all students. Since 2013, teachers have worked to incorporate engineering projects into their classrooms, but have struggled to teach a subject that they aren’t as familiar with.
Synapse invited the teachers to hold their all-day session in our offices so that Synapsters could help build engineering competence. By seeing an engineering environment, and the type of projects that engineers work on, we were able to show teachers what it’s really like to be an engineer.
The teachers were greeted by Synapse founder, Ross Collins, who spoke about the Synapse story, the work that Synapse does and what makes Synapse different. Ross and three Synapsters led a tour across the Synapse offices, allowing the teachers to take a peek at Synapse products, the climbing wall and even the inside of the lab.
Then the teachers were split into 8 groups of 5, plus a Synapse engineer. The groups were challenged to design a platform to hold weight, using paper clips and pieces of paper. While some teams used their time to create simple, sturdy designs, others took a more creative, but complicated route. The energy in the room was electric as the teachers and engineers stepped up to the front of the room to test the designs out. Everyone held their breath as some designs held up to the test of marbles and a brick, while others burst under the pressure.
The hands on activity really allowed everyone to feel comfortable collaborating, but also to fail. By testing out the different ideas, it was easy to see how bringing this challenge into the classroom could facilitate teamwork, but also promote unique ideas and opportunities to improve.
Synapsters were most excited about the final part of the afternoon, a session of magical chairs dubbed “Engineering Speed Dating”. One or two engineers were placed in a group of 5 teachers and the teachers had free reign to ask the engineers questions. As the engineers made their way around the room, many of the questions were about their speciality, their day to day work, their background and even their work life balance. It was a wonderful way to connect and really understand engineering on a personal level.
As the day came to a close, the teachers seemed excited to take what they learned back to their classroom and thanked Synapse profusely for hosting. Our hope is that we gave teachers information to bring back to their classrooms that will help them teach engineering. If we show teachers how FUN engineering really is, we hope that they will encourage more kids to become engineers!