Charting a new course in design

The blend of high tech with trades in a single course was new to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district.

Todd Goodman and Ryan Harmon stand in front of a wildcat skeleton created by their students.

Todd Goodman and Ryan Harmon stand in front of a wildcat skeleton created by their students.

UBC has a blue whale skeleton on display in its Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Now Westview secondary – home of the Wildcats – has a saber-toothed tiger skeleton hanging from the roof of the school’s library.

It’s Styrofoam, not bone, but there’s a solid story behind it, about the way kids are learning in schools.

It starts with a shop teacher getting together with a tech teacher to devise a new industrial design course for kids in grades 11 and 12.

The best year of professional development in the 12-year career of Westview shop teacher Ryan Harmon was last year, which he spent with tech teacher Todd Goodman.

And vice versa, agrees Goodman.

Harmon teaches metalwork and welding, but he had never before worked alongside a teacher with Goodman’s tech know-how, including computer animation and coding.

The blend of high tech with trades in a single course was new to the district.

“In the real world, they work together all the time,” said Goodman.

From a course design standpoint, the two Westview teachers could whip their weight in Wildcats.

Their kids had to solve numerous problems in building the saber toothed tiger skeleton.

They were off to the new computer lab at the school to design it, using Adobe Illustrator, built a model, then did the math to scale it up.

“We blew it up as large as we could,” said Harmon.

The “bones” were cut using a CNC laser. The backbone was nine feet long, and the kids had to “invent” their own hot wire bandsaw to cut that piece.

The students soon found that the epoxy glue they wanted to use was melting their Styrofoam bones, and learned a little chemistry along the way.

Then they went to work on a pinning solution that ultimately kept the entire skeleton together.

“Being able to work through problems is the important thing,” said Harmon.

The new course has been built around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competencies, and fits with the goals of B.C.’s new curriculum.

Their new industrial design class also had kids building battle bots and remote control helium balloon airships.

“We had a blast. There’s nothing like coming to work and having the kids excited to be there,” said Harmon.

“Lots of kids said it was the hardest class they had ever taken, but it was also amazing,” said Goodman.

They get a chance to become familiar new high tech tools, such as the school’s 3D printer, and CNC lasers and plasma cutters – all industry standard equipment.

Now Goodman and Harmon have gone separate ways, with Goodman starting a new version of the their industrial design class at Thomas Haney secondary.

They see a natural rivalry developing for blimp battles and robot wars.

They are planning to race cars powered by mousetraps, and are going to hold a regatta in the Haney water fountain. The kids will create their vessels based on Leonardo DaVinci’s paddle boat design.

They are also arranging a video conference with a vehicle designer from Hyundai in Los Angeles.

This year Westview is offering the industrial design course to 55 students in two classes. The course is already proving popular at Haney, and the hope is to expand it further.

“We hope every school in the district will eventually offer industrial design,” said Harmon.


Maple Ridge News