Continuous Learning: High Schoolers Take On Automata Engineering Challenge

Continuous Learning: High Schoolers Take On Automata Engineering Challenge
Shawnee Mission School District

Freshman Xavier Williamson’s project took about two weeks.

Once finished the Shawnee Mission Northwest student created a moving, working automaton built with a “Space Invaders” theme. An automaton is a machine that can follow a set of operations and Williamson designed and constructed his out of cardboard. 

“I learned that sticking to things and not giving up can be very rewarding,” Williamson noted.

Williamson and other Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) high school students have been in the middle of an automata challenge, part of Project Lead the Way Engineering curriculum.

Each student is encouraged to build their automaton with a story they want to tell and develop a plan. Engineering design students were also prompted to learn a cloud-based computer aided design software to work on the project, Leslie Selzer, Shawnee Mission South math and engineering teacher explained.

Some examples of themes for automata this year have included a woodpecker trying to get a worm out of a tree, an engine block, pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and a bird flying.

“It’s such a fun project that I didn’t want to let it go just because we were learning from home,” Selzer shared.

The assignment helps students problem-solve through issues related to friction reduction, stability, rotary and linear motion through the use of an axle, cam, and follower. It also helps students apply the six step Project Lead the Way design process, Donna Pedersen, Shawnee Mission Northwest engineering and math teacher said.

“It encompasses so much more,” Pedersen added. “Design, planning, creativity, budgeting, 3D design and print, and more.”

“I’ve been so encouraged by the students who have persevered in this on their own at home,” Pedersen noted. “Some did the physical build, some 3D computer modeling, and some did both.”

Teachers have been sharing the projects on Twitter as one more way to help students feel connected to people outside their homes, Selzer, shared.