The Empathy Project

This year’s primary focus in STEM class is on purposeful inventions, designing something useful or even life-changing.

In grade 7, students started a project designing a practical assistive or adaptive device. For this first project, students learned about the engineering process of Ask, Think, Make, Test. They need to figure out the device’s purpose, devise a working prototype, and determine the intended user(s). Then, they will pitch their design to their classmates, who will offer constructive questions and feedback.

In order to build empathy for those with needs for such devices, the students went through a one-day experiment in which they could only use one arm or were in a wheelchair. They kept a running list of what was difficult or impossible to do because of this handicap. Following their experience, they devised various devices and built prototypes for an easy plate gripper, a wheelchair athlete hydration system, and a stroke hand straightener.

Students will continue to iterate their designs after their classmates share their feedback. At the end of the project, they will reflect on what they learned.