Young Engineers of Today: Spring 2015 Lab 2 – Ancient Engineering

Last night we had another awesome lab! Due to some scheduling conflicts we had one massive lab of 23 students. This is our last time all together before splitting into two labs of smaller groups. The lab was perfect for all of us to get together as we could connect with one another, share ideas, and brainstorm new inventions.

We used the book Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 3 which I highly recommend as it hooks the kids interest and really gets them thinking about engineering in a fun and exciting way.

We started out with a few simple projects as you can see in the slidedeck shared below. I highly suggested they all start with the Tic Tac Catapult. I bought all the materials for this build along with the Tic Tacs. I stressed that they could eat their Tic Tacs, but if they eat them all they would be out of ammo.

I will stress that I don’t like to be a “strict in charge instructor”. Right away a few kids wanted to build the other options and a few wanted to tinker and design their own. I highly encouraged them to at least do the suggested catapult and then move to other projects so that they all walk away with one success project. However, I don’t want to stifle excitement so if they really wanted to experiment and try something I told them to go for it.

This was a powerful lab for many of them. Most of these amazing and awesome kids are not used to failure, mistakes, and things not working on the first try.

Last night they discovered

  • if you don’t follow instructions things might not work
  • your ideas in your brain might not work in reality
  • you have to try new things
  • wonder what would if I ……… (then do it and find out!)
  • you have to do your own thing and not have your hand held
  • sometimes things just don’t work
  • sometimes you will make mistakes
  • sometimes you will break things

All of these events happened and they are powerful learning opportunities. I talked with all the kids at the end of lab about the process of engineering and problem solving. Life is to learn from our experiments and figure out how to make things work. Often times things don’t work and that is not considered failure, but a learning opportunity. I love it when kids try and keep trying.


Unfortunately, some had a hard time. Talking with one they felt devastated and did not want to keep trying. We talked about all the things above. I suggested to him to go back to the Tic Tac catapult and start there. It is always important to build the confidence. Next year I will require the Tic Tac catapult and then move to innovation and design.

I take this moment as a powerful learning tool and a notch in development for students to grow. We don’t always grow through success because we will keep doing the same thing. When things don’t work we have to adapt, change, modify, and tweak ideas and skills to make things work. The power of lab is to create conditions for success and also for errors to occur to allow students skills to develop. My overall goal is for students to learn that mistakes are embraced and through our continuous development of our problems solving skills we can find the answers we want. I want them to feel successful and learn that perseverance, integrity, and grit along with the skill-sets mentioned above create not only a quality engineer, but a productive person.


I loved last night. I loved the excitement of students. I loved watching them get so jacked up when their creations worked. We had Tic Tacs being launched everywhere and if we did not have a low ceiling they would have been flying 50 feet easily.

It was a great night and I just love this group of young engineers and seeing where their minds take us.

Check out a recap of the night

Here is the short slidedeck from the lab



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