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Engaging Students In Engineering Design Competitions: Building Future-Ready Skills

In today's rapidly evolving world, it is crucial for students to develop future-ready skills that will enable them to thrive in the ever-changing workforce. One discipline that offers immense potential for fostering these skills is engineering. By integrating the engineering design process into education, schools can engage students in hands-on activities, encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. One effective way to achieve this is through participation in engineering competitions. 

Teachers often overlook engineering, which is the core of authentic STEM instruction, despite being a crucial aspect of STEM education.  Let’s begin by understanding the  engineering design process.  The engineering design process is a systematic approach used by engineers to create innovative solutions to real-world problems.  It consists of four key steps: defining a problem, identifying performance criteria, designing activities, and training student-engineers.


Defining a Problem:

The first step in the engineering design process is to define a problem that is both relevant to students and aligned with curriculum standards. The problem should be open-ended, allowing for multiple pathways to success. For example, students could be tasked with designing a solution to purify a large water source or creating a shoe that "grows" with a child.

Identifying Performance Criteria:

To guide students through the problem-solving process, it is essential to establish performance criteria. These criteria outline what students should be able to do before, during, and after the engineering design project. Performance criteria should not only focus on content knowledge but also emphasize collaborative skills, metacognition, resiliency, and perseverance.

Designing Activities:

Designing activities is where creativity comes into play. Teachers should align the project with STEM standards, determine background knowledge required, identify constraints (such as time and materials), and plan how students will work together, test and gather data, and evaluate their solutions. This step encourages students to think critically and apply their learning in practical ways.

Training Student-Engineers:

Before embarking on an engineering design project, it is essential to provide students with training. This includes sharing expectations, defining group work dynamics, assigning roles, and allowing time for testing, collaboration, and revisions. The goal is to empower students to take ownership of their projects, learn from failures, and continuously improve their solutions.

Why Competitions?

Participating in engineering competitions adds an extra layer of excitement and motivation for students. These competitions provide a platform for students to showcase their engineering skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. Here are a few key benefits:

Engaging Students: Competitions inject an element of friendly competition that piques students' interest and encourages them to fully immerse themselves in the engineering design process.

Building Future-Ready Skills: Through competitions, students develop vital skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and perseverance. These skills are integral to success in the 21st-century and Industry 4.0 workforce.

Real-World Application: Competitions provide students with opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills to solve real-world challenges. This hands-on experience fosters a deeper understanding of engineering concepts and their practical applications.

Diversity and Inclusivity: Engaging in competitions can help bridge the gender and minority gap in STEM fields by providing equal opportunities for all students to participate and thrive.

Where To Begin?

The Dash robot and CoDrone EDU drone are two exciting, user friendly products that offer qualifying competition where students can put their engineering skills to the test. The makers of Dash, Wonder Workshop, runs and annual competition called the Wonder League Robotics Competition.  While the folks behind CoDrone EDU, Robolink, partnered with the REC Foundation to offer an Ariel Drone Competition.

Wonder League Robotics Competition:

The Wonder League Robotics Competition started in 2015 and has now reached more than 78,000 kids. This growing network of coding and robotics teams uses an all-inclusive program to inspire an early love of coding, computer science, tangible learning, and STEAM education. Through a series of story-based missions, the teams utlize the Dash robot to develop problem-solving, growth mindset, and creativity skills while learning to code. Three years ago, the competition invited international teams to participate and continue to see an ever-growing international presence making the Wonder League a truly global competition.  This year’s competition will launch on November 3, 2023.  

Aerial Drone Competition:

Robolink has partnered with the REC Foundation—the folks behind some of the largest student-centered robotics competitions in the world—for their annual Aerial Drone Competition. It's an exciting and educational drone-sporting event full of piloting challenges and autonomous flight. You can build a team at your school and join a local event to compete for a chance to win at a regional championship event.  The Aerial Drone Competition for the 2023 season is called Blackout. This is the official Aerial Drone Competition field basics kit. It includes a collection of arches, keyhole gates, landing pads, cubes, and a blackout curtain, reusable every year in the Aerial Drone Competition. The CoDrone EDU can be used to participate in the competition—it's one of the only drones approved for this competition.

For more information about either of these competitions or their affiliated products, contact us at info@makermaven.net


By incorporating the engineering design process into classrooms and facilitating student involvement in competitions, schools can cultivate future-ready skills that will benefit students throughout their lives. The Wonder League Robotics Competition and Aerial Drone Competition offer unique opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, collaborate, and innovate. Through these competitions, students not only engage in hands-on learning but also develop the skills needed to excel in a rapidly advancing world. Let us embrace the power of engineering competitions and equip students with the tools they need to shape a brighter future!

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