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STEAM Education: Making an Impact Across the Curriculum with a Controllable Vehicle Project

As a teacher in school, I didn’t focus on STEAM education, and yet, that is exactly what the Controllable Vehicle Project that I’m going to tell you about was! The Learning was fun, motivating and engaging and covered science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. The approaches to learning incorporated vital communication skills, taking thoughtful risks, working collaboratively, persisting in solving problems and working through a creative project.

Having taught Controllable Vehicles in similar way for the past few years, I was looking for complete transformation on how this project was taught. Utilising the power of technology was key and how to incorporate other curriculum subjects that would further develop pupils’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.

This project covered:

  • Design & Technology (Engineering): The design and making of a controllable car
  • Science: Using wires, batteries, motors, pulleys and a switch to control the car – forwards and backwards.
  • Technology/Literacy: Using the mobile technology to support learning and as a tool to create car adverts videos and digital car brochures.
  • Art & Design: Designing a unique net and logos/brand for their vehicle
  • Maths: Calculating the costs to make the cars using spreadsheets formulas
  • Communication: Writing and presenting script to showcase their car designs to an audience at a car show.

Independent Learning: Creating a Controllable Vehicle Digital Guide
A ‘how to build a controllable vehicle’ video guide was created for the pupils to follow. The purpose of the controllable vehicle guide was to demonstrated to the pupils the steps to make a controllable vehicle – this involved filming each section, adding a list of equipment required for each step and instructions.  The pupils could pause, rewind and watch the video as many times as they needed to, as they progressed through the controllable vehicle project. This allowed the children to work in a much more independent way and more importantly at their own pace. When the children were ready to move onto the next section there was a list of equipment they would need that was available at the front of the hall. The guide was shared to multiple device using Airdrop and accessed by the pupils via the iPad. 
Controllable Vehicle Project
The hall was set with table and chairs for 60 children and all the necessary materials and equipment the pupils would need to make their controllable vehicles. 1 iPad was given to 4 children to access the controllable vehicle guide.

After a brief introduction concerning safety; protecting the iPad from saws, glue etc, how to access the digital guide and having been shown an example of a finished product the children were raring to go.
Benefits of this approach
There were many benefits to this approach which include:

  • Access to the digital guides made the pupils secure and confident to try and retry things and by having constant access to instructions in video and text it opened the door to more advanced thinking and problem solving. For example, some children wanted an on/off switch on the side and other investigated the use of extra batteries.
  • Pupils were encourage throughout that failing was part of the learning process and they should be prepared to try and learn from any mistakes and improve next time.
  • The headteachers commented “there was an incredible working atmosphere!”
  • Teamwork and communication was a real focus.
  • This project gave the freedom to think creatively and critically. A huge majority were producing work of a superior quality compared to previous attempt in other years.

The use of digital technology to support the children’s learning was a huge success. It was an outstanding learning experience for the children with such a challenging topic.
Creative use of technology across the curriculum
In the second part of this post I will cover how I continued this creative project following on from designing and making a controllable vehicle – utilising the power of technology and how to incorporate an integrated approach to learning involving other curriculum subjects and keeping the learning meaningful to the controllable vehicle project.
I’d like to share with you the activities which were incorporated into the car project which culminated in an excited Car Show’ to parents.
The projects included:
1.Used a spreadsheet to consider costings for their project, including costs and number of parts and hire of equipment per hour.

  1. Planned a car advert using a storyboard. Watch a selection of car adverts (these could be found on Vimeo or Youtube). Focus on the camera angles, mood and the language used to persuade audiences.

  1. Filmed and used the iPad’s camera to take videos and still shots of the car, Which would be later edited in iMovie to create a 30 second (maximum) advert for their car. Incorporating self-composed jingles created in, songs and backing music.

  1. Researched and created a persuasive and informative brochure using marketing words for their vehicle and published this as a digital book.

  1. For science the pupils labelled electrical components in a circuit and explain how the forward and reverse switch works using key vocabulary.

  1. Prepared for and delivering a showcase presentation to parents/carers and Key Stage 2 children. Presented and evaluated their controllable vehicle, showed their car advert and car brochure on the big screen.

Benefits of this approach

  • The children produced high quality car design.
  • There was an increase in writing levels in blogs and brochures and they produced outstanding video adverts.
  • Pupils had made sure their parents attended the Car Show because they cared about and valued their work. There was more parental interest and attendance for any other project that we’d been involved in.
  • When the children spoke they demonstrated an astounding depth of knowledge, understanding and confidence. The standards of their spoken presentations were unexpectedly high.

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The author

David Andrews formed Mr Andrews Online back in 2012 with a vision to deliver better learning experiences for children using mobile technology. Since 2012 he has worked alongside hundreds of schools and teachers, delivering classroom experience days for primary school children up and down the country. He has recently written a ‘Creative Computing Curriculum’ for a leading Academy, as their previous scheme had become stale and didn’t allow the teachers to exploit cross curricular opportunities. They wanted the scheme to ‘wow the children and be aspirational’. The innovative Mr Andrews Online Creative Curriculum is now available to all primary schools.

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