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Authentic Design Projects

In 2013, when Brookwood teacher Rich Lehrer first had the idea to involve his eighth grade students in a project to build his 3-year-old son a 3D printed prosthetic, he couldn’t have foreseen the authentic design journey on which this project would lead him and Brookwood. The success of this revolutionary project launched the school into the national spotlight.  The authentic design work sparked by the Robohand project now spreads throughout divisions, has been the impetus for a variety of innovative initiatives, and also led Lehrer to being named the Education Coordinator of the Enable COmmunity Foundation from 2015 to January 2017.  Read about Rich's work as Innovation Coordinator.

Another groundbreaking 3D design initiative that grew out of this work is Brookwood’s 3D Design Problem Bank In the Problem Bank, community members submit to the website problems in need of design solutions and Brookwood students then put their innovation, design, creativity and problem solving skills to work, designing authentic solutions to these real life problems. Other schools are now adopting this model and setting up their own problem banks based on the pioneering initiative started at Brookwood.

A number of community 3D design projects such as the DZign Girlz Steep Week group have now grown out of this initial Problem Bank idea. Initiated in 2016 by teachers Rich Lehrer and Annie Johnson, the group of six girls collaborated with residents at Harborlight House to create assistive devices that would have a tangible benefit to the seniors.  Read about the D-Zign Girls Project with Harborlight House seniors and the Harborlight Community Partners’ 2016 Service Partner Award, watch the WGBH video featuring the Brookwood students: WGBH Design Squad Global video and check out other Steep Week work.  

Drawing on the success of the D-Zign Girlz pilot, this community design and problem bank work is now part of the entire sixth grade experience. Divided into teams of 5+ students, the entire grade meets monthly with senior residents from Beverly’s Turtle Creek and Turtle Wood developments to partner, brainstorm, design and collaborate with the residents on solutions such as a new bingo chip, card holder, key sleeve, iPad holder, to name just a few. 

Innovation work at Brookwood continues to broaden.  Rich and fifth grade science teacher Henry Oettinger are spearheading a unit focusing on 3D printed prosthetic work, building 3D printed enable hands and designing prosthetic inspired grabbers. As part of the fourth grade human body unit in science, Rich is working with Lower School science teacher Ben Wildrick on students designing assistive technology for playground activities.  In the spring term, Dan Riles and Tim Wright will expand the sixth grade technology focus to have students design solutions to a variety of real life challenges.