Throughout our journey as a company, we have continued to embrace the engineering design process in our conversations with educators and makers. When we decided to focus on cardboard as a foundational material, we spent countless hours listening and reflecting on the challenges teachers faced in their STEAM, PBL and makerspace classrooms. Below are the seven common patterns we uncovered and continually design our solutions around.
Optimizing Creative Time
With an already jam-packed standards-based curriculum map, it is understandable that teachers face limited time to implement hands-on experiences for their students. Likewise, dedicated STEAM or maker teachers face a similar challenge of having to see hundreds of students (different grade levels) in intervals of twice a week. It was painfully obvious that we had to optimize creative time for our products to thrive. Our product development focused on making tools and materials easy to set up and break down with a low learning curve for teachers to implement. Many of our small projects can be completed in 30-60 min without sacrificing the core of the learning outcome.
Storage space is a premium and cardboard only adds to the problem as they come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and thicknesses. During our visits, we would find piles of random cardboard boxes taking up unnecessary space in the corner. Teachers had difficulty organizing the boxes and couldn’t easily store them into drawers and closets. It was important to design a consistent cardboard material that can be easily stored and taken out for use. Our Cori Beam was designed to ship as a flat sheet for this purpose. Now teachers can store stacks of hundreds of Cori Beams into a drawer without much effort.
Real Tools...Real Making
The conversations about using tools have run the spectrum of lovers and resistors. It was striking the differences between teachers, but overall, the discussion always centered around safety. How do we balance safety with using real tools? Just like riding a bike, it takes practice. We believe in having all learners train and practice in how to properly use tools. With this generation glued to mobile devices as their main tool, we believe it is just as important to learn with maker tools like saws, glue guns and cutting tools. Just like the good ol days of woodshop, with structured scaffolding, every learner can build with tools. There is a magic to creating with your own hands that every child should experience. Just remember to measure twice and cut once!
When building with recycled materials, it is often difficult to manipulate, cut, and put together parts that are structurally sound for your designs. In particular, recycled cardboard can come in many sizes, shapes and thickness, making it challenging to find the right tools and materials to build a foundation for any project. Creating a consistent material that can be cut easily allowed teachers to facilitate projects that were structurally sound to test load, capacity, force and other engineering concepts. The Cori Beam allows you to create foundations for a tower structure, chassis for a vehicle, or a simple machine for a Rube Goldberg machine. And once the foundation is strong, we highly encourage using recycled materials and other cardboard to add to your design.
Don’t get us wrong, we love quick prototyping and messy maker classrooms. But as engineers, we also take pride in our work and making an impression in our designs is an important part of the equation. We continue to marvel at engineering innovations like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and beautiful mobile devices made by the folks up in Cupertino, CA. There is power in blending engineering with art and it continues to inspire others to innovate. It only makes sense to add the Art in STEAM, and we thrive to make our materials a canvas for creating beautiful projects. We believe in the importance of making your creation stand out and be unique. Unleash your creativity!!!
Time is money and it is our goal to save teacher’s time procuring, organizing and lesson planning an effective STEAM experience. Our focus is to design time efficient and engaging STEAM projects that give teachers back their time to focus on relationship building. We also like to show young creatives that they can prototype, test, and iterate their ideas without having to spend a fortune. A real-life model is a crucial part of product development.
We love how many of the teachers brought up being conscious of their footprint on earth. Teachers and makers thrive on upcycling, sourcing sustainable materials, and partnering with environmentally friendly organizations. It continues to challenge us to not always take the easy way in product development and motivates us to innovate with sustainability at the forefront. We pledge to use locally sourced, recycled, or biodegradable materials when possible. We also strive to minimize the use of packaging and single use supplies.