Inventions: The Creativity of Engineering - Mill Hill Schools

Head’s blog

Inventions: The Creativity of Engineering

My assembly on inventions was the outcome of hearing Dr Ruth Graham speak at the IAPS Head’s conference. Ruth trained as a mechanical engineer specialising in aeronautical fatigue. She has been working with Imperial College London since 2002 and is responsible for directing the EnVision project which has seen a drastic change over the past 5 years in the approach to undergraduate education in many engineering departments at universities world-wide.

Previously the courses would consist of a traditional model, with students being teacher directed and focussing on acquiring extensive technical knowledge. However feedback from industry explained that as soon as graduates entered the work place they found the expectations very difficult to meet because they could not apply their knowledge, be creative or work collaboratively with others.

The approach has now transformed so that students learn to

  • Prepare and develop new machines and systems
  • Be makers and discoverers
  • Shape their education around the way they learn best
  • Think creatively
  • Have a humanistic approach

Naturally this means that approaches to teaching and learning have transformed so that students work collaboratively in teams on projects and there is discussion, research and problem solving at the heart of their learning experiences. The most exciting part of this picture though, is that the results for the students participating in modern undergraduate programmes exceeded by some considerable measure, the results of those learning in a more traditional way – even on technical knowledge and detail. Whilst Engineering Departments are leading the way in Higher Education, Ruth made it clear that other departments are following in their footsteps on global level.

This allowed me to reflect positively and with confidence on our own creative, interconnected curriculum at Grimsdell and the skills children acquire through task time. Our style and approach is genuinely meeting the needs of our pupils now – and in the future. Perhaps the universities should come to Grimsdell to get some ideas for how to shape an effective skills based curriculum. We would love to help!

In bringing this subject to the children I put together an assembly that focussed on Inventions and selected some of the most important inventions in history – the wheel, the lightbulb, fire (although technically a discovery rather than invention!) and the internet. We understood that inventions are often useful or make things easier – and that the best inventions actually help people or help the world.

The children were excited to learn that anyone can be an inventor – not just scientists and professors – but even children! Not only that, but inventing is actually enjoyable. We then looked at some fun inventions, some of which I hadn’t come across before and thought about why they were useful…for example:

Then we explored some inventions designed by children, which had been made into real products!

The children were so excited to go away and think of their own ideas. In fact I have been visited by a number of pupils this week with their wonderful inventions including; a ‘Mary Poppins Flying Umbrella’ and a ‘Robot –Making Robot’.

I even shared my own invention which is a ‘Popper Sock’ to stop socks becoming separated from their partners in the washing machine! Patent pending of course.

Mrs Simons ‘Popper Sock’