By John Bass
Technology Education Teacher, American Fork Junior High
I want to tell a story, I don’t tell very many stories but I want to tell this one. It’s about my ninth grade intro to manufacturing class and the mass production unit, where my students are given a problem to create a wooden vehicle that has three or four wheels. The vehicle is no bigger than a piece of paper and has three or more parts. You will notice that I didn’t say car or truck, I said vehicle. Anything that transports people counts and I have had some amazing ideas from my students.
The whole project starts with brainstorming and sketching. It’s one thing to have a bunch of ideas, but it’s another thing to start drawing the ideas on paper to see how they look. Each student draws at least four ideas. Using a computer-aided design (CAD) program, they pick their two favorite ideas and create a three page set of plans from those sketches.
Once each student has created two sets of plans they whittle their ideas down, by pairing up with a friend. From their four sets of plans they choose one that they like and build it in the woodshop as a prototype. From the prototypes I choose the one that I like the best and that all my classes will mass produce. I don’t mean 20 or 30 vehicles per class. I mean 350 vehicle packets made by my students using jigs and fixtures, so that each vehicle has identical and interchangeable parts.
I understand that 350 vehicle packets may seem a little excessive, but it’s for a much greater purpose. My eighth grade classes collaborate with every third-grade class, in every elementary school, that feeds into our junior high school. That means that we are mass producing enough vehicles for every third-grade student that comes into our junior high school. On the day of the field trip my students take the bus out to the elementary school and become the teachers, as they teach and explain how to build the vehicle. With hammers, that they have premade earlier in the semester, they help the third-grade students build the vehicle. Then they give it to them as a gift.
Of course this activity takes almost the entire term to pull off. But the feeling of accomplishment and the sense of pride felt by my ninth grade students is well worth it. As an added bonus, this activity meets almost all of the standards for the ninth-grade introduction to manufacturing class. Manufacturing is a team effort, everyone has a part to build, and each part must be perfect or the class fails. When we start the mass production section of this unit I tell my students you must succeed, you are not allowed to fail. And they do succeed!
This activity has become a tradition shared between my ninth-grade classes and the third-grade classes of every elementary school in Alpine School District. I am at the point in my teaching career that when I introduce the mass production unit to my students I say, “Do you remember in third grade when a ninth-grader helped you build the vehicle?” Eighty-five percent of the hands will shoot-up and they will shout out, “I do. I made a diesel.” or “I do. I made a motorcycle and I still have it.” Then I get to say, “Now it’s your turn.” And off we go.
This semester we made a fire truck with a moving ladder. What a great time!