Engineering and Digital Arts

Engineering is the application of mathematics and scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to invent, innovate, design, build, maintain, research, and improve structures, machines, tools, systems, components, materials, processes, solutions, and organizations. The discipline of engineering is extremely broad and encompasses a range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied science, technology and types of application.

Citizens of the future will need to create and invent solutions to human problems using technology. Design thinking (see illustration above) is a variation of the well known engineering design process. A key piece of this is empathy, the ability to deeply understand human needs and to include the intended user in all phases of the design process.

Empathy helps students successfully define the problem to be solved. Students will work in teams, which develops collaboration skills needed in today’s workforce. Students must be creative and flexible to respond successfully to the problem they are solving to ideate possible solutions. They must also persist and adapt when initial concepts and prototypes have issues. Students will understand there are many different possible solutions to any given problem. Students must think critically to successfully test and improve their design prototypes.

Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners are natural engineers and designers. They love sand castles, blocks, fairy houses, and other projects that support their creative, fantasy play. We support this natural engineering instinct in preschool and kindergarten classrooms with blocks, LEGOs, sand and water tables, and other activities. As students reach first grade and beyond, we remove all these activities from school. Yet we still expect them be interested in engineering when they get to high school and college. Our goal is to support students’ natural engineering design interests all through their K-12 education here at the Pioneer Valley Regional School District.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image


Engineering and Digital Arts

John Heffernan, PhD

Courses

  • Digital Arts 9-12
  • Introduction to Engineering Design 7/8
  • Engineering Design 9-12

Course Descriptions

Introduction to Engineering Design (IED - G7 - 2 sections, rotation) Students will learn technologies and processes needed to understand and experience the engineering design process focusing on robotics and structures. Students will undertake, document, reflect on, and present solutions to a variety of teacher assigned challenges using the technologies learned.

Introduction to Engineering Design (IED - G8 rotation) – Students will learn technologies and processes needed to understand and experience the engineering design process focusing on robotics and structures. Students will undertake, document, reflect on, and present solutions to a variety of teacher assigned challenges using the technologies learned. Students will move at a faster pace than IED Grade 7 and students will receive an introduction to design thinking.

Engineering Design (ED - G9-G12, full year) - Students will learn technologies and processes needed to understand and experience the engineering design process. Technologies include robotics, programming, forces, and electronic circuits. Students will undertake, document, reflect on, and present solutions to a variety of teacher assigned challenges using the technologies learned. Some basic woodworking will be included some as a way to fabricate parts. Students will receive and introduction to design thinking, and learn additional technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting. Students will do at least one project of their own choosing for a client.

Digital Art (DA - G9-G12, full year ) – Students will learn digital art technologies such as digital photography, video, stop motion animation, digital message boards, podcasting, and multimedia presentations. There will be a strong emphasis on designing in for a purpose and context and evaluating and documenting designs and their design process. Audience considerations will be explored including effective and appropriate use of social media.

About the Instructor

John is currently Innovation Center Teacher at the Pioneer Valley Regional School (PVRS). John has designed and implemented innovative technology curriculum that provide deep, rich, engaging technology experiences integrated with standards. Key projects have included multimedia, robotics, video game programming, and animation. John’s most recent project has been the establishment of an Innovation Center at PVRS that focuses on design thinking.

In 2009, John wrote and received a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education grant to provide a hybrid model of on-line and face-to-face instruction for STEM education in elementary and middle schools using robotics. In his own teaching practice, John developed an innovative PK-6 elementary engineering curriculum, fully aligned to standards. The curriculum is available at http://www.kidsengineer.com/ and also in his book Elementary Engineering: Sustaining the Natural Engineering Instincts of Children.

John Heffernan was previously an Educational Technology Consultant for the Collaborative for Educational Services. John has worked on a number of distance learning projects. John also worked on training Western Massachusetts teachers to integrate technology into standards-based curriculum science and social studies lessons.

Prior to his work with the Hampshire Educational Collaborative, John taught third grade in Amherst for seven years. John was a pioneer in using technology in the Amherst Public Schools. John received a Superintendent's award for Technology Integration and taught numerous workshops in the Amherst Public Schools.

Before becoming a teacher, John was a Principal Software Engineer and Project Leader for Digital Equipment Corporation. He worked on both network management and database software and also received 2 patents.

John earned BSEE and MSEE/CS degrees from Tufts in 1981 and 1983 and a Masters of Education degree from Lesley College in 1992. In 2008, John received the MassCUE (Massachusetts Computer Using Educators) Pathfinder Award for Technology Leadership. John received a 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. John is a current member of the LEGO Education Master Educator Advisory Group. John recently received his Ph.D. in Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he researched developmental characteristics of elementary students engaged in open ended engineering challenges. John is a part time lecturer at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) TEEP (Technology Engineering Education Program) program.

At home, John enjoys coaching baseball and basketball for his 13-year son Aidan’s teams. He also enjoys running, playing bluegrass music, and reading literary mysteries.