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1st-Year Engineers Exhibit at the Boston Children's Museum

April 26, 2017

About Me

Joshua Hertz is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the First Year Engineering Program. He has a B.S. in Ceramic Engineering from Alfred University and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT. He has been at Northeastern since 2014.

1st-Year Engineers Exhibit at the Boston Children's Museum

On April 9, 2017, students from Prof. Hertz's Cornerstone of Engineering classes exhibited their final projects at the Boston Children's Museum. For over four hours, all museum attendees were able to come to the exhibit, entitled "The Next Makers of Play," and enjoy 32 interactive, electronic games and puzzles produced by the teams of 1st-year engineers. Each team of 4 students was required to conceive, design, program, and build from scratch a puzzle or game for children.

A few hundred children and their parents attended the exhibit. One project favored by many kids was a Jupiter-themed pinball machine that included a screen displaying images of the planet, ramps that moved in and out of the ball's path, and traps that required the child to answer a Jupiter trivia question in order to release the ball. Another favorite was a Pirate-themed puzzle requiring kids to match a randomly generated code by placing different colored balls in the correct bins.

"BCM visitors and staff loved Northeastern University’s Next Makers of Play." said Steve Schroth, Culture and Performing Arts Educator from the museum. "The students and their projects exemplify the creative, thoughtful, and interdisciplinary education opportunities we seek to offer our visitors. The projects were beautiful, engaging, sometimes funny and we are looking forward to collaborating with them in the future so that we can continue to learn together."

While the day was a lot of fun for the student engineers and the museum attendees, there was some serious work happening, too. Many of the engineers were busy collecting data on how the children played with the games in order to evaluate their project's success and opportunities for improvement. This iterative approach to design is a central learning objective of the Cornerstone class.

Nationwide, very few engineering programs ask freshman students to present their work publicly, and the exhibit's success speaks strongly to Northeastern's innovative 1st-year engineering curriculum. Accomplishing these projects required the students to use all they had learned this year about user-centered design, prototyping, teamwork, computer programming, 3D printing, and more. In addition to math, science, and elective courses, they have worked on these projects as part of a yearlong Cornerstone of Engineering curriculum. In the Cornerstone, students gain a foundation in how engineers think using Northeastern's signature experiential learning approach, with hands-on, team- and project-based learning.

The exhibit was a collaboration between Northeastern, the Boston Children's Museum, and Kadence Arts. Kadence is a Boston-based nonprofit focused on community art making and learning. Periodically during the semester, artists from Kadence met with the student teams to provide feedback at various stages of project completion. Funding to support the collaboration was provided by a Full-Time Faculty Development Fund grant from the Office of the Provost.