The Power of Collaboration: Math, Science & Engineering Students Work Together to Create a Bicycle

Sep 2, 2015 | Impact, Innovation, Maker, Uncategorized, Upper School News

Mount Vernon US students are applying what they learn this year in Algebra II, Physics, and Engineering. By putting students in the driver’s seat through a human-centered design project, together they are discovering how to design a bicycle by hand.
Design & Engineering teacher TJ Edwards, math teacher Robin Mathews, and science teacher Zach Strother came up with the idea to work together, and through a summer learning grant, funded by the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation, they created the real-world interdisciplinary unit.
The first part of the project involved testing out theories of resistance through science experiments. “Each of our classes were excited for different reasons. The math students were excited to dip their toes into some complex math calculations, knowing at the same time they’re contributing by pulling real understanding from their measurements. On the flip side, the physics students were excited to hear they have someone else who can come in and do the brute force repetitive calculations that they know how to do, but take up a ton of the time. It’s a divide and conquer approach, where everyone is getting something out of it,” shares science teacher Zach Strother.
“Often in math class students don’t see how the math applies outside of the classroom; we can bring in science formulas, but it’s still not the same, and so by actually doing some science experiments with our physics students, they’re seeing how the math applies and that it does make a difference and that there is a need for it,” says math teacher Robin Mathews.
Through a partnership forged by Design & Engineering teacher TJ Edwards, the engineering students were inspired by Mission Bicycle, a company based out of San Francisco that builds practical and customizable bicycles by hand, designed by riders. As a part of the project, the engineering students invited users – mountain biking enthusiasts – into the classroom to be interviewed, and through those discussions they will begin to prototype bicycle designs that will benefit a specific user.
TJ adds, “Students in the engineering class disassembled bicycles to learn firsthand about each element and for what purpose it was designed. With this knowledge, they took inspiration from their interviews with users to propose a single component of the bike to be redesigned. It was incredibly validating to see student groups research patents for their new ideas and uncover the incredible amount of innovation happening in bicycles…some of which are similar to ideas that they, themselves, came up with in only a few days.”
By working together each of the classes will take part in a real-world learning experience throughout fall semester. We’ll be sure to follow their progress!

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