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Dragons’ Den-style practical projects for Senior DT, Music and Computer Science pupils helps develop real world skills

Friday 22 Jan 2021

Pupils of Design & Technology, Music and Computer Science at the Senior School, have been given a challenge to support their studies which will help them to develop real-world skills in these practical subjects. The project will see pupils use their creativity to invent a new product, design and build a website to market it and even create a musical promotional jingle to support its promotion. The concept is called Designing for the Real World and is the brainchild of teachers, James Buxton, Lucy Bloore and John Harrod.

Faced with the tricky situation of remote learning, which more typically practical subjects such as Design & Technology, Music and Computer Science do not necessarily lend themselves to, teachers came together to set their pupils a practical challenge, to be completed over a six-week period.

As part of the project, pupils have been given a choice of two design briefs, whereby they are asked to either come up with an idea for a product under the ‘wearable tech’ category, or a new type of musical instrument which will offer clear value to the music industry.

As well as creating the product concept, pupils are asked to prototype their products if they are able to, using whichever resources they are able to access in their homes. If pupils are not able to prototype the products physically, the teachers behind this project have built in time for instructing pupils on how to use 3D product design software to model the product digitally and submit as part of their work.

Following the creation of the product itself, pupils are required to create a website, using the skills they have developed in computer science, which displays and markets the product and could hypothetically be used, by customers, to purchase their designed product.

Design & Technology teacher, Mr Buxton, said: “In all three subjects, we’re largely project based, and practical. So rather than run through work sheets while the pupils have to learn remotely, we wanted to give them something to really focus on and test their creativity. And it’s been really good to collaborate between the three departments.

“It’s a bit like a Dragons’ Den type project really. So they’ve been given a design brief to follow. And we’ve been brainstorming with them over Zoom and they’ve come up with some really cool ideas.

“It’s kind of complementary to the pupils’ studies, but it really has given a lot of them a whole new challenge at this time as lots of them have taken to it with enthusiasm.”

In addition to creating and modelling the product and displaying it on their website, to incorporate their musical abilities, pupils must create an advertising jingle which could be played on the radio to promote their product specifically. The jingle should represent their product and should be uploaded to play on their website for submission. The pupils will then be assessed across all three mediums: the inventiveness and quality of their design, the quality of their product web offering and the scope of their musical jingle.

Director of Music, Lucy Bloore, added: “Pupils are to compose a jingle to advertise their product on the radio. It should be embedded in the website. There are no restrictions on how they can create them, but they should be along the lines of a short song with a catchy phrase that repeats.

“The idea came about as a good way of giving a purposeful composition brief that linked to a realistic scenario. We liked the idea of combining subjects so that each of the three elements of the project are connected. It seemed like a good way to bring some continuity to their work while we are remote.

“I am excited to see how many different ways pupils are managing to access composition at home. Many of them are able to use Garageband if they already have an Apple Mac, but others are using apps such as Bandlab to be able to sequence ideas together – it means they can write for any instruments, which is exciting.”

The pupils involved in this project will be working on their own individual product concepts and submitting them before the February half term.

We will be following the progress of the project, including the work of a few individual pupils as they develop their design concepts. Here are three pupils explaining their take on the project in their own words:

Health T-shirt (wearable tech) – Katherine Williams, Year 9

“Out of the two different ones, because I’m a Music Scholar, I initially thought I’d go for the musical instrument one. But I’m also really into fashion and the wearable tech brief gave me loads of ideas of things to make. I’m making a health t-shirt. It shows you your blood oxygen levels, temperature and pulse on the front of the shirt. I’ve been doing some research into what kinds of other things have this technology to find ways that I can get a t-shirt to display these things.

The idea is that’s it’s something people who are ill can wear to keep a live reading of their body functions. I’m really looking forward to building the website too. I really enjoy computer science and I think it’s going to be a really useful thing to have for people who might want to run their own businesses when they’re older.”

Recycling old tapes, CDs and vinyl records to make sounds of the future – Edgar Reader, Year 9

“I chose ‘sounds of the future’ because I realised most people in my class were doing ‘wearable technology’ so I wanted to do something different. For my project, I realised that people have lots of tapes and records and CDs they no longer use and pretty soon they are going to start throwing them away, which creates a lot of waste. So, I thought there must be a way I can use them to make music. I’ve been doing lots of tests to see how percussive old CDs are and things like that. I’m looking forward to creating the website as I quite like the technical side of things.

“So many people have come up with so many ideas for this work that I wouldn’t have even thought of. It’s quite impressive really. The teachers have been really good in helping me pick which of my ideas are good to do. You can’t really do anything without having the idea being enforced so the feedback with teachers has been great for me. I’ve had quite a fun time playing with different ideas and seeing what types of sounds I can make with old tapes and CDs.”

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