Pupils enjoy a challenge. There can be few design and technology teachers who have not used open-ended problem-solving activities to develop students' confidence and teamwork skills. They are an integral part of many schemes of work, but need careful planning - many pupils use sophisticated strategies to give the perception of working during team activities while coasting along quite happily.
Support for teachers planning such activities is now available from INPUT, a collaborative venture between education and industry which started in the north of England. The project has been extended with support from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to provide courses for pupils aged nine to 19, reaching 10,000 pupils a year throughout the United Kingdom.
The material has been published in three booklets covering projects for junior schools, short projects lasting from 60 to 90 minutes, and long projects lasting from three to six hours. Familiar topics such as building structures from rolled paper tubes and making cranes sit alongside aeronautics and video communications projects. Full details on planning sessions include drawings for any test rigs required.
The packs emphasise the role of the teacher, mentor or neighbourhood engineer as an attached adviser to the team, leaving pupils free to develop their creative skills. Packed full of ideas, these booklets will provide inspiration for engineering challenges in many schools and colleges.