Using the Engineering Design Process in History Education


We all have our strengths. I have learned long ago that science and math aren't strengths of mine but I've continued to challenge myself in areas of weakness in order to grow. My Business Calculus college course comes to mind--I've never been prouder of a sub-par grade before! (I also didn't need the class to graduate when I switched majors!)

Another realization I've made over the years is that the need to provide opportunities and connections for my Historians that aren't necessarily in my realm of expertise is important. This might give students their "aha!" moment and help them see the impact social studies has on their lives. It's up to me to step out of my comfort zone and provide this.

I implemented Genius Hour in an elective course two years ago and promised myself it would be put into practice in History this year (using the National History Day competition structure). While researching Genius Hour makerspaces and the engineering design process kept popping up. Making the connection and linking National History Day to the design process came later, though, now that the projects are complete. Here is an example:

Engineering Design Process
1. define the challenge
2. research and brainstorm
3. develop a solution/thesis
4. test the solution
5. evaluate and reflect on feasibility
6. (repeat steps 2-5 if necessary)
7. share findings with others

National History Day Process (using the 2017 NHD Theme: Taking a Stand in History):
1. define the challenge: who has taken a stand in History?
2. research and brainstorm: Jesse Owens may be a great example. Can I find compelling primary source documents?
3. develop a solution/thesis: Based on these documents, Jesse Owens took a stand against racism at the 1936 Olympics.
4. test the solution: develop persuasive analysis to defend claim
5. evaluate and reflect: develop reasoning to defend evidence
6. (repeat steps 2-5 if necessary if thesis isn't defended strongly)
7. share findings at History Day exhibition and online, depending on project type

It's been very exciting to see how the seemingly unrelated disciplines of History and engineering are in fact very similar. I will be making this connection with students clearer next year. 

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