Hands-On Remote Learning in Technological Design

Despite school closures and the move to online classes, the resilience and creativity of design technology students at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) is even more evident from the hard work put into their final culminating assignments.

Design technology teacher Christina Shin at St. Michael's College School in Toronto.

Christina Shin, design technology teacher at St. Michael's College School.

“The move to remote learning made it more of a challenge in terms of accessing resources and fabrication,” says Christina Shin, design technology teacher at SMCS.

The practical and hands-on course typically has students working with 3D printing, laser cutting, wood-working, and more. Since students were unable to access the materials and tools they would normally be able to at school, they had to adapt and find different ways to demonstrate their learning from home.

“Many moved to digital platforms, used tools and resources from home, cardboard, wood fabrications, and more,” says Shin.

For design technology, Shin says the design process is the backbone of the course. “Conceptualizing a solution to a problem, brainstorming, research, process, and procedure that is documented (photo and video), final fabrication and testing along the way to ensure progress and changes, as well as collaboration with others and welcoming their opinions and gracious critical feedback.”

“The whole basis for a culminating project is to allow for students to work towards their strengths and interests in summarizing their learning in design technology,” says Shin. “A student could have worked in 3D printing, wood fabrication, laser cutting or 3D architectural rendering throughout the year in individual challenges, but the final project is to give their best effort in an area to explore in more depth.”

The topics for the final culminating project task (CPT) across the grades involved:

  • Creating a car to test for speed and distance
  • Redesigning the school with sustainability, access, and equity of innovation in mind 
  • Creating a device to help with someone with a disability - recognizing that we all benefit from devices
  • COVID-19 and designing for the future
  • Project with their own interest/concept in mind
SMCS student's design technology assignment created during COVID-19 remote learning.

“I think the engagement surprised me the most,” says Shin. “Students were excited to be doing something that did not necessarily involve a screen and to build again in a physical form. Many found joy in completing their project even under these circumstances. As well, the desire to continue learning outside of the walls of the school.”

“One of the things I enjoyed about creating my CPT was the freedom we were given throughout the process,” says Luke De Bartolo ’20, a Grade 12 student. “Because we covered such a wide variety of topics in this course, I had a huge range of ideas for this project. The ability to take these ideas and execute them freely, really allowed me to reach my full potential.”

Take a look at the final projects from three SMCS students:

Grade 10 – Exploring Technological Design (TDJ 2O1)

Grade 10 student working on his final project for design technology

“For my CPT I made a CO2-powered car,” says James Boland, a Grade 10 student. “The car is made from a block of wood and the design is sleek and simple. The power that comes from the CO2 canister makes it fun to launch. Although the finished product looks simple, there was a lot of work to build the car so it had the right alignment and aerodynamics to hit the targets (bowling pins) I set up on the launch day.”

Boland demonstrated his entire process from beginning to end through brainstorming sketches, step-by-step photos with detailed descriptions of his progress, and a final video of the car’s launch.

“I really didn’t know how I would [work on design technology] once school closed because we use all of the tools and machines in the classroom and we rely on working closely with Ms. Shin as she helps us along the way,” says Boland. “During [the pandemic], the stores were not open, so I had to be creative and use what I had learned in class and what we had around the house.”

“I loved being able to choose what I wanted to make, and use the tools to make the car in a creative way,” he says. “To make it work, I actually ended up making the car, a ramp, and a tool that would puncture the CO2 cartridge. It was also fun to document the whole process on video because I like making videos and presentations too.”

CO2-Powered Car

Grade 11 – Technological Design (TDJ 3M1)

“When coming up with this project, I didn’t really base it off of anything specific but the closest analogy in the brainstorming stage was to an indoor greenhouse,” says Joel Rasanayagam, a Grade 11 student. “I simply became inspired by the idea of having a green space for myself during quarantine that would allow me to reconnect with nature, to provide more oxygen, and to cool the air through evapotranspiration! I later got the idea to add in a house to envision and to state how important green spaces and plants/trees are to every neighbourhood.”

Rasanayagam documented his process of growing four different plants from clippings or roots of others, along with his construction of a model home to demonstrate the importance of green spaces.

SMCS student's final design technology project created at home due to remote learning requirements.

Like his classmates, Rasanayagam had to get creative with different materials and tools to complete his project when classes moved online.

“The main way the school closure affected me is that I did not have Ms. Shin to help me in-person (although I did get a lot of help through Zoom),” he says. “I had to be self-sufficient and I had to be quite resourceful.”

“Through this project, I learned how important it is to self-regulate and how crucial it is to have a strong work-ethic and the entire project caused me to do some deep self-reflection,” says Rasanayagam. “A strength of my project is how productive I was at working and the amazing end result of my plants!”

Project Green Space

Grade 12 – Technological Design (TDJ 4M1)

“I chose to redesign the St. Michael’s Arena because I enjoyed the architecture and design units that we completed this year in Design Tech,” says De Bartolo. “I thought that this redesign would be a great way to take this knowledge and apply it in a way that could benefit myself and other SMCS students.”

SMCS student's final design technology project created at home due to remote learning requirements.

De Bartolo, who plans to pursue architecture in university, detailed his entire design of the ‘SMCS East Centre’ from initial sketches, to creating a digital 3D model of the current structure, to designing floor plans and a final digital rendering of the exterior.

When the school campus had to close due to the pandemic, it presented a few challenges for De Bartolo’s final project.

“I found it challenging to create this redesign without having access to the school grounds,” he says. “In order to make my design more accurate, I used mapping software like Google Earth to view and measure the campus digitally.”

“When we switched to online school in March, I was unable to use the school’s workshop and 3D printers to make a physical build of my design,” adds De Barolo. “Due to having limited tools and materials outside of school, I decided that a digital build using online software would be more effective in showcasing my design.”

SMCS East Centre

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