From drawing board to marketing strategy, your pupils can learn how to develop their ideas. Sarah Farley reports
Decisions, decisions. Should it be the off-the-wall roast chicken flavouring with semi-sweet blue colouring and extra fizz? Or would the more traditional tropical taste, allied with added sweetener, moderate fizz and orange colour perhaps be the winning combination?
Such are the choices facing young fizzy drink manufacturers visiting Making it!, a discovery centre which deals with every aspect of making products.
Housed in the old Mansfield brewery, a series of galleries focus on how ideas are developed from invention through research, design, making and testing, production, marketing and distribution.
The hands-on gizmos and lively exhibits are backed by a team of trained "enablers". Education manager Jeremy Leyland says: "The enablers make sure children really make the most of the visit. We also provide a detailed resource pack which shows how the activities and galleries are linked to areas of the national curriculum."
The Year 6 children, from Studfall Junior School in Corby, have split into two groups, one going round the galleries, the other making a speed machine - one of several kits supplied by Making it!
"We have a choice of eight products in kit form, aimed at different abilities," says Jeremy Leyland, "and every child follows through the process of design from creative idea to a completed, packaged and labelled product that they can take home. If the teacher would like the pupils to design something themselves, we provide a basic pack with motor, battery box and sleeving to which a choice of components can be added."
The first gallery is the essential beginning to all products: "The Idea."
In "Fame and Failure", you watch a 30-second video on a range of ideas, some of which have caught on, others which have not. Then you vote for fame or failure. The original Game Boy, now that was fame, but why was the Victorian Cycle Skate a failure? "I thought that looked really cool," remarked one boy. "I'm sure it would work today." An invention ahead of its time, perhaps?
Then comes the fizzy drinks "Trial and Error", introducing the concept of process through machinery while children invent their own product. Pressing buttons to choose a combination results in a giant straw-sucking mouth which declares it a winner or a disaster, with accompanying noises and flashing lights.
The next galleries demonstrate design, using lightbox drawing boards, finding out how a computer-aided-design machine works, and a section on choosing the best materials, involving a feely box and some evil-looking gloopy substances, thankfully not together.
In the "Test Tower", interactive machines enable you to test shoes and underwear to destruction, you can put your head inside a virtual-reality pod to witness the manufacture of metal, paper and glass and see if you can beat the conveyor belt on the bottle-filling production line. You see how robots can be used, and take part in a chocolate-packaging assembly line.
"Why Would You Buy It?" is devoted to advertising and marketing. Working on computer screens, children can choose how to market, for example, a skateboard, by selecting price, packaging, place of sale and so on. At the end of the sequence, they are given advice as to whether their strategy will work: "Too cheap," it reports back to a girl who has optimistically priced the skateboard at pound;10. "This price will not cover production costs." The girl tries out another combination with a more realistic price:
"Well done! Your product should be a success."
Visits are available for groups of up to 110, KS1-4. pound;4.95 per student for three-hour sessions and pound;6.45 per student for five-hour sessions, including model