Our Chicago office—which is usually filled with adults in dress shoes and professional attire, working away at the latest web app or developing a custom FileMaker solution for a client—was taken over by a rush of youthful energy. The conference room bubbled with giggles and shouts of excitement. Desk drawers were opened and shut, chairs were twirled, and the halls of Soliant’s Chicago office were filled with tiny innovators.
The program for the day was developed by an organization called, Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work, which “encourages girls and boys across the country to dream without gender limitations and to think imaginatively about their family, work and community lives … connecting what children learn at school with the actual working world.” In short, kids ruled the day. And, if this group of nearly a dozen three to twelve year-olds was an indication, our future is in good hands!
Once everyone had eaten breakfast and the name tags were distributed, we commenced with Engineering Challenge 2016. The first step was to learn about engineering. For the older kids, this took the form of a video and a discussion of the engineering design process. The younger kids took an “Invention Walk,” learning that almost everything around us—the paperclip, the telephone, a sandwich—was invented by someone.
Next up was the HEXBUG maze, in which kids and their parents teamed up (though we know who’s really running that meeting) to create mazes for these colorful robotic creatures that behave like real bugs.
Using office materials like card stock, paper cups, bendy straws, and toothpicks, we created an impressive set of mazes for the HEXBUGs to navigate.
Following clean-up and lunch (everyone needed some sustenance after a long morning of HEXBUGs maze-building) kids shared what they learned in the engineering challenge during a retrospective (Scrum style!), and drew life-sized outlines of themselves working in their dream job.
As engineers for the day they learned to plan, test, and fail early, and of course how to make really cool mazes. And who wouldn’t want to spend their days making mazes and playing with robotic bugs? Whatever they end up doing in their job, we can rest assured that it will be impressive.
And the best thing is that everyone got to take their HEXBUGs with them. So the innovation can continue at home!