Think like an Engineer!

With generous funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious fund, the 'Think like an Engineer!' project brought together innovative engineers from a broad and diverse range of engineering disciplines, with school children in South Yorkshire.

Projects for Schools

The Think Like an Engineer programme provided participating schools with ten class projects inspired by different areas of engineering and profiled by a project engineer. Each school received ten class project resource kits (plus two extra bonus resources) and access to the project website containing all the information needed.

Twenty-four primary schools took part in the project and were mainly from the Sheffield City Region which includes Rotherham, Doncaster and Bassetlaw. Several schools from Bradford in West Yorkshire also took part.

Children were aged between 3 and 11 years old, with a total of 3,485 children taking part.

Inspired by real engineers

Twenty-one volunteer engineers supported the project representing a variety of engineering disciplines from across academia and industry including product design, digital, civil, mechanical and environmental engineering.

Classes were able to take part in live Q&A sessions with the engineers. One teacher commented on how valuable this experience was.

"A lot of our pupils have quite low aspirations - they don't know about careers (..) having the engineers there talking about it was really beneficial (..) they (pupils) actually like seeing and listening to people and then they think well I could do that, that can be me, and it sparked an interest."

Class projects

10 Class projects were designed around different engineering disciplines.

Learning to think like an Engineer

The programme was carefully designed to support the development of maker mindsets in children. With big overlaps in 21st century skills. Key maker mindsets developed in this project were:

  • Creativity

  • Problem finding

  • Problem solving

  • Innovation

  • Collaboration

  • Questioning

  • Tinkering

  • Iteration

To support children in developing a maker mindset, they were asked to utilise a cyclical approach when tackling projects. Our simple Maker{Cycle} is based on the engineering design process and encourages children to look closely, think about what is happening or how improvements could be made, make a prototype or adjustments and test at regular intervals. This process is revisited many times throughout a project, supporting mindsets such as problem solving, tinkering and iteration.

What teachers are saying

This project trialed a new Maker{School} approach to teaching curriculum areas such as computing, science and design technology that integrated with wider curriculum areas and focused on the development of maker mindsets that are linked to 21st-century skills. The feedback on this approach from teachers was fantastic.

For many teachers, this new approach was very different to how they normally teach, with the focus on developing maker mindsets over the importance of the final product. Not knowing the outcomes before the lesson starts was new for some teachers and took them out of their comfort zone, but feedback shows how positive this experience was.

“I was dreading the tinker time elements but that was the best lesson! The children loved it. Super team work skills, loads of perseverance and resilience shown by the children.”

Many of the teachers were struck with how well the children engaged in this type of learning, with one saying,

“The children were so interested in the tasks and projects, the year 6 children showed the most interest they had all year. As a result of their participation the teachers linked other projects the following week with English lessons.”

"The project enabled some learners, who sometimes find other more traditional ways of learning hard, to shine, with one teacher commenting,“We have been really surprised at how much the children are capable of. We were able to spot several children who have a clear talent for making, but are not academically able. It has given us confidence to tackle more challenging and technical activities."

"The whole process (steps, maker cycle, video clips, slides) was clear and easy to follow. You didn't need to be an expert in anything. The children worked well with their partners to follow the maker cycle and eventually you could see the children thinking deeply and using the skills learned."

Run Think Like an Engineer in your School

We offer access to the classroom resources for free.

We can also run an introduction session for teachers, a 'Meet an Engineer' online live Q&A and a project celebration event for a school or cluster of schools for a small charge.

The Think like an Engineer project was made possible with the support and funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering.