Steps to a Construction Kids Project

Steps to a Construction Kids Project

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How did you come up with that idea? What made you think of that? How did you know the students could build that? Why is this piece this way on the project? These are just a few of the questions we are asked daily about the design process at Construction Kids.

The design process at Construction Kids will sound familiar to anyone in manufacturing and fabrication. We also have a further layer of additional reviews and controls that we follow to ensure the project is tailored to our builders and their stages of development.

Our design process starts with an idea. Our inspiration comes from many sources resulting in a variety of unique projects. For example, our Elevator Project was sparked by our Senior Educator Brian Anwar’s work as a union elevator repair person in NYC buildings. Our Caravel Boat Build started as an idea from an amazing 5th grade Teacher, Dan Ragsdale at The Browning School. Or my personal favorite, our Xylophone Project, was inspired by my love of jazz!

Regardless of the source of an idea, our process starts with our team of Senior Educators, Brian, Caleb, and Edwin sitting down and talking about the idea and if they see the value in the project. They ask:

  • Would it interest students?
  • Would it fit into a core grade curriculum?
  • Which grade should we teach it to?
  • How would we teach it, and what are the core educational principles of the project?

We then have Brian build the first version, which we call a “proof of concept model”. This step is to determine if we can build the idea. This is by far the most time consuming and frustrating part of the process. Many, many ideas end at this stage. Our “dustbin” of failed ideas is overflowing. About 60% of all projects never make it past this stage.

Once we have our proof of concept we sit down with our Senior Educators, our Head of Logistics, and our Wood Cutting Team and talk about how we would fabricate the project, and how we would package, store, and transport it to schools and venues. Our Educators comment on which ages are appropriate for the project now that they have a model, and design tweaks we need for teaching. Then we decide how we would teach the build sequences to accomplish the project. Build sequences are extremely important for student builders if they are to be successful.

The Logistics Team will then comment on pieces needed or materials, and any changes they would recommend, such as controlling the projects weight and size, and how it can be packaged. The Wood Cutters then share any fabrication concerns recommending changes necessary to make fabrication practical. And estimate how long they believe it would take to fabricate the project.

After everyone has weighed in with their comments, concerns, and input we decide if we are going to proceed with the project to the next stage. The next stage is to fabricate and build a working prototype of the project. Every single step and dimension is painstakingly catalogued. Which size boards should be cut in fabrication, which ways the grains should face, which bolts are used and what are the tolerances in dimensions, and allowances for how wood changes over time in storage.

The working prototype is then given to our testers to play with in our shop. These testers are our students. While they play, we consider:

  • How do the testers play with the project?
  • What interests them about the project?
  • Do they play with the project in the way we designed it?

About 15% of projects end at this stage. We sometimes find out the kids don’t see the project as we did when designing it and it does not work for them, or the project may be too heavy or large for a certain age. Assuming the project passes our Testers, we build a third prototype, which we call our “production prototype”. This prototype is kept in its component pieces, which are then used as a template for production.

Then, we produce a run of the project. This initial run of 25 to 75 projects is then used to teach a class. It is at this point that we decide ultimately if the project works in an educational setting. Approximately, 95% of our projects that get to this stage we keep. But, for 3% we find a design flaw based on how the students build it, and we adjust and fix the design. Sadly, that leaves the approximately 2% of projects which we decide are not up to our standards..

If we decide to keep the project and add it to our class offerings, we then get the project drawn professionally so we have a production drawing for future fabrication. In total, not including the fabrication run for the initial project class, it takes us about 100 hours of staff time to create a complex project like our Elevators!

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