The Engineering Design Process In Action: Learning through MAKING (ocMakerChallenge)

Our Wolfpack member, Eva Wolf, joined Jack Gupton from Walker Jr. High and Jillian Johnson-Sharp from the Orange County Department of Education/CTe Partnership on Oct. 11, 2016 at the 2016 STEM Symposium for a presentation, The Engineering Design Process in Action: Learning through MAKING (ocMakerChallenge).

Mrs. Johnson-Sharp is a pioneer in the field of Making with 3D Printers in the Classroom. She has been following the Maker scene since 2005 and 3D printing technologies since the early 2000’s.

After a successful career in the consulting industry, Mr. Gupton touches upon his second career and experiences as a STEM educator. He has been participating in the OC Maker challenge since it’s inaugural year and has inspired many award winning students.

This is a recap of the presentation. It is also available for download.



The topic of this material revolves around “Learning through MAKING” and covers the following topics
+ Introductions
+ Making in the classroom (background)
+ Our pivot to making (County Maker Competition, a.k.a. OC Maker Challenge)
+ Executing in the classroom (Engineering Design/Build Process)
+ Role of Arduino in a Maker Classroom
+ Results

Making through 3D printing, coupled with Arduino can be a powerful learning vehicle that empowers and engages students — and inspires them to be the inventors and innovators of tomorrow. STEM Educators present at the event were presented with examples of the engineering design process in action and ideas for implementing a MAKER-oriented class through 3D Printing and Arduino.

A winning team from Walker Jr. High accepts an award for their invention, the Sleep Friendly Smoke Detector.
An ocMaker Challenge-winning team from Walker Jr. High accepts an award for their invention, the Sleep Friendly Smoke Detector.

An “everyday” teacher shares his background in “Learning through MAKING”
+ Jack Gupton began as a middle school woodshop teacher (2011/2012)
+ Added an electric guitar building club (2012/2013)
+ Expanded to a pilot STEM class (2013/2014)
+ Tripled in size and added a Science teacher (2014/2015)
+ Added two additional periods of “intro to STEAM” (2015/2016)
+ Current year: added a Math teacher, creating a three-teacher cohort for planning cross-curricular activities and beginning to collaborate with English and History

If Mr. Gupton did it, so can you!

What is the OC Maker Challenge?

It is a county-wide challenge to students and a call to action to invent: “Design and build, or significantly repurpose, a product that will solve a problem, need or want.”

Created in 2012 by the CTE Partnership, the intent was to:
“deliver an authentic experience and creative environment that combined STEM technologies, Art and Design in a culture of inquiry, problem solving, and active engagement.”

The OC Maker Challenge is putting the STEM in “making”

img03-putting-stem-in-makingMaking in education allows students to engage in creative hands-on activities with a purposely narrower scope. The OC Maker Challenge niche is to group teams in grades 7 – 14 with a focus on “using Making as a vehicle for high-end STEM competencies across curricula.”

The frame is creating a product and purposeful application of purposeful STEM competencies.

The mission is to enjoy technology in every classroom by including technologies like 3D modeling, 3D printers, and microcontrollers. Finally, don’t’ forget the “A!” “A” is for “Art,” which turns “STEM” into “STEAM.” It’s not enough to be functional; it is better if it is also beautiful.

Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs put it best when he said,

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough – that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”


The OC Maker challenge is a response to multiple instructional initiatives & standards in ONE MOVE!

img04-response-to-initiativesWhen describing Maker Challenge and activities in classrooms, words like “creativity”, “innovation”, “perseverance”, “technical skills”, etc. are often echoed by many, particularly in the current educational initiatives such as:
+ The Next Generation Science Standards
+ 21st Century Skills
+ College and Career Readiness

We believe that the OC Maker Challenge’s opportunity for “MAKING” in the classroom is a way incorporating all of these instructional initiatives IN ONE MOVE!

img05-21st-century-skills21st Century Skills 4 C’s
Each project that was entered in the OC Maker Challenge was highlighted in a video. That is to say, that all participants had to produce a video to communicate the product and explain the problem, thereby exercising communication skills. Students had to work with a team and practice collaboration. They also worked together to identify the solution, further reinforcing their critical thinking skills. Finally, they had to create a model, which involves some creativity and innovation. Students used all of these 21st century skills!

Taking It To The Classroom

So…how does this work in the trenches?

Well here are some excellent examples of participating students’ videos:
+ Filament Storage (Arduino)
+ Cuplate Video
+ Sleep Friendly Smoke Detector- Walker Jr. High – AUHSD


How Do Educators Engage Students?

Educators can provide students with:
+ Skills that are relevant and in-demand
+ Access to tools that allow them to create
+ The freedom to create and change their world

How many of us ever felt or wondered, even for a moment, if we would ever use what we were “learning” in school?What tangible, demonstrable, marketable skills did you see on display in those videos?

The right tools are also essential for engagement. How many people actually have seen a 3D printer operating? How many have seen a child/student who gets to see it for the first/second time? What did they observe? There is no doubt that a 3D printer is definitely a student-magnet — they can stand there and stare at it for hours! Also, don’t underestimate the power of “coding.” For many students, coding with 3D design equates to super powers!

Mr. Gupton’s approach: Ask students to look at their world and think about the problems they or the people around them encounter. Now have them find a way to solve that problem or overcome that challenge. Rarely is a 13-year-old what they want to do! Put them in charge. Talk about student voice and choice!


This is one of Mr. Gupton’s favorite projects from the inaugural year of the OC Maker Challenge. This group of students — all girls, we might add — created this project to solve a problem or challenge in Mr. Gupton’s life. This actually has happened every year (he has such wonderful students!). The second year of our program, the kids created an air-conditioned t-shirt!


Our Secret Sauce

There is no doubt that making through 3D printing, coupled with Arduino and the EDP, can be a powerful learning vehicle that empowers and engages students and inspires them to be the inventors and innovators of tomorrow. Both 3D printing and Arduino are a huge part of the Orange County Maker Challenge.

Mr. Gupton shared this great resource for obtaining good quality, low-price arduino unos (and many other electronics devices): Arduino Uno on Bang Good.

He also brought in several presentation boards from prior years student project.

Engineering Design Process


“The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow when they are trying to solve a problem and design a solution for something; it is a methodical approach to problem solving. This is similar to the “Scientific Method” which is taught to young scientists. There is no single universally accepted design process. It seems as though most engineers have their own twist for how the process works. The process generally starts with a problem and ends with a solution, but the middle steps can vary.” – VEX EDR.

Engineering Design Process

There is no single universally accepted design process…
img10-engineering-design-processThis is the process used in Mr. Gupton’s classroom:
+ Identify the problem to be solved
+ Define requirements (what conditions must be met in order to solve the problem)
+ Research existing options (maybe this isn’t necessary!)
+ Brainstorm several solutions
+ Discuss and identify constraints (time and money are almost always a part of the conversation)
+ Revisit potential solutions based upon constraints and select or revise existing until a potential candidate is chosen.
+ Build
+ Test (for function and against requirements)
+ Revise (a build/test/revise loop is often a really critical portion)
+ Share

Engineering Design Process in a Maker Classroom

What constraints do you often encounter in your classroom (what things hold you and your students back)?

Two of the biggest constraints that teachers encounter are:
+ Tools/Equipment
+ Skills (students and teacher)

A Maker Classroom can help your students overcome these constraints.


Tools/Equipment in a Maker Classroom

Some tools/equipment that I’ve found helpful in our Maker Classroom:
+ 3D printer(s)
+ Computers that can run programming environments (like Arduino) as well as 3D modeling apps (I use Sketchup – the free version)
+ Arduino micro-controllers or other micro-controller or micro-computer & various components
+ Woodshop type tools (hand saws, small power tools, drills, screwdrivers – all the way up to the big items like table and miter saws)
+ Hot glue guns
+ Laser cutters
+ CNC Mill

Don’t be afraid. Start small and build your way up. In the first year of the ocMaker Challenge, Mr. Gupton had one 3D printer and still managed to field six competitive teams.

Arduino and related electronics can be acquired very cost effectively (try and

Airwolf 3D, a high-tech employer,also uses laser cutters and other types of equipment. The company actively seeks employees with real-life making experience. Common questions during an interview include: Do you have RC car experience? Can you change a tire?

Please note: Exclusive virtual way experience can actually hurt some students.

Differentiating through Arduino

CREDIT: Arduino
CREDIT: Arduino

Arduino helps set the kids apart.


“School is pretty boring, but it could be a lot more interesting and interactive,” said 12-year-old electronics prodigy Quin Etnyre. Quin Etnyre wanted to make education more fun, so he became a teacher…

Mr. Gupton’s students are so engaged with Arduino and 3D printing that they have signed petitions and required him to come to school every single Spring Break since this program began, so they could work!

Building Skills (teacher & student)

Half of all high paying jobs in the US require this skill: coding.

Programming is highly focused on problem solving and critical thinking – adding in electronics increases the opportunities for kids to build their own abilities for these two highly sought-after skills.

img14-white-arduino-boxLessons learned:
+ Learn WITH the kids – you don’t have to know everything at the start
+ Find a way to be their tour guide (get out of their way!)
+ Ask questions, try not to solve problems
+ Give them challenges to overcome and let them do it
+ Embrace a culture of failure!
+ Don’t be afraid – if you wait till it’s perfect, you will never start

Don’t feel like you have to be an expert to get started. Don’t feel like you have to have ALL of this stuff to get started. It’s OK to start small and build — heck, all Mr. Gupton had when he started was a woodshop!

Building Skills (Resources)

There is no limit to the free resources available. The internet and YouTube are both fantastic resources for guides and tutorials
Great starting places:
+ Google
+ YouTube
+ Getting started with Arduino
+ Arduino Tutorial
+ Arduino Language Reference


What Is The Significance of 3D Printing Here?

3D printing helps students bridge the gap between a 2D-image on a screen and a real, tangible product that they can hold and make with their own hands. Students love to design, they just need to be presented with tools.

3D Printing Will Help With Improved Spatial Reasoning Abilities

Do you have what it takes?Which of the patterns, when folded, will make the cube shown?


The answer is “B.”

The same strategy can be used to solve these questions. Remember not to be intimidated by these problems, even if imagining things in three dimensions does not come easily to you. The problem always can be reduced to the relationship between three elements, which you then can try to locate in the answer figures.

See more at: Psychometric Success

Learning through MAKING

These are real-world examples of how the engineering design process has been implemented though the OC Maker Challenge/3D Printing/Arduino and delivered to the classroom over several consecutive years, with an overview of classroom processes, student work examples, and teacher resources.


By The Numbers – It’s a Huge Success!

It has grown substantially over the last four years:
+ 40 student entries in 2014
+ 90 student entries in 2015
+ 170 student entries in 2016



As promised during the presentation, here is a list of contacts and resources for learning more about the engineering design process in the classroom.

Jack Gupton, Educator, Walker Jr. High STEAM, Industrial Arts

To Join the Orange County Maker Challenge:
Jillian Johnson-Sharp, OCDE/CTE Partnership

Not part of Orange County?To get help with starting a maker challenge in your community, please contact:
Eva Wolf, CEO, Airwolf 3D

+ Download a copy of this presentation

+ Free 3D Printing Curriculum

+ Recap of 2015-16 OC Maker Challenge

Other Resources

+ Getting started
+ Tutorial
+ Arduino Language Reference
+Arduino-Like Boards

3D Printing Curriculum


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