Plastic fantastic

9th November 2007 at 00:00
Junior design and technology is coming out from behind the sofa. Stephen Manning finds out how Doctor Who is transporting pupils.Trying to invigorate pupils' creativity by means of popular culture is fraught with the problem of, well, what is their popular culture?

So teachers who grew up between the 1960s and 1980s must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when Doctor Who was revived a few years ago. The production values might have altered somewhat, but those extravagant creatures from across space and time that kept them behind their sofas as children can get their most junior pupils excited, too.

This is why Pauline Hannigan, advanced skills teacher for design and technology at Nancledra Primary, Penzance, Cornwall, has chosen a Doctor Who theme for her school's biggest challenge to date.

Nancledra is giving a demonstration at next week's Design and Technology with ICT Education Show in Birmingham. Pauline will supervise four of her Year 6s, who will use resistant materials - wood, plastic, mouldable foam - to produce two models of creatures based roughly on the theme of a character from Doctor Who. It could be a slimy alien, although it's more likely to be some kind of robot.

The result will need to be both presentable and functional, perhaps as a toy. It will blend a mechanical component and an electronic component.

Pauline's team will start with a project analysis, getting their hands on clockwork toys and cam toys. They will also look at images of Doctor Who characters, as well as pictures of insects and animals.

"I get them to look at everything and get excited by the images and possibilities, and then put down initial ideas without worrying about how to realise them," says Pauline.

Once the brainstorming is over, it's time to get real and consider what materials are available. This is what it's all about for Pauline. "There are many transferable skills within design and technology: planning, teamwork, and the satisfaction of having an idea and seeing it to fruition."

The 30th Design and Technology with ICT Education Show will be held at the Birmingham NEC from November 15-17.



Software Mechanisms and Fairground Rides are within the QCA framework for primary study, and Focus Educational software's two CD-Roms Focus On Fairground Rides and Focus On Mechanical Toys (licences from pound;29.95) feature animated diagrams and clips.

Website Download-a-Dinosaur has designs for easy-to-make paper dinosaurs (, and Carousel has a host of downloadable animals.



Software Focus on Metals (Focus Educational software, licences from pound;29.95) demonstrates sophisticated processes in metal working in detail. www.focuseducational. com. Focus on Climate Change (Focus EducationalCD-Rom, pound;49.95), a sustainable design and energy resource, has diagrams, photographs and animated sequences.

Website Totally Absurd Inventions

Amusing American website with a series of images to get pupils into a creative and reflective frame of mind.

Bill Richmond



Software Sketchup6 is a free Google software product for pupils and teachers to produce realistic and dramatic 3D illustrations. A great tool for architecture, packaging and model illustration, but with the potential for stunning results from more serious users.

Book Design Secrets: Products and Design Secrets: Products 2 (Rockport Publishing, pound;30 and pound;20), two US books, giving insights into real-life design projects such as the Segway transporter (a personal transportation device), the Motorola NFL headset and the BMW Streetcarver streetsurfer (a super-sophisticated skateboard).

Website Luigi Colani's Swiss website (www.colani.chmovie.html) has movie clips, photographs and a gallery, while his German site ( has a wide range of exemplar designs.

Bill Richmond is advanced skills teacher in design and technology at Winton arts and media college, Bournemouth, Dorset. His website is

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today