Youth Practice Design Thinking with FLEx and Photography

Kids try design and STEM workshop from Iowa State colleges and 4-H

January 9, 2017, 2:07 pm | Madison England, Pete Evans, Clark Colby

AMES, Iowa – Iowa youth are learning and practicing 21st century design thinking skills, thanks to an Iowa State University partnership.

The College of Design, the College of Engineering and ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development are engaging young Iowans with design and STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Kids have all kinds of opportunities to imagine themselves as designers and scientists, and explore careers.

Case in point: 55 middle schoolers from Louisa, Des Moines, Henry and Lee counties took part in a FLEx and photography workshop at the Iowa State campus this past fall.

Oculus RiftFLEx stands for Forward Learning Experience. It’s a mobile learning program for advanced design technology aimed at youth in grades 3 through 12 and beyond, said Pete Evans, who coordinates the FLEx outreach program. FLEx combines STEM with design thinking and 21st century skills, and includes things such as virtual visualization, digital to real prototyping, circuit bending and visual programming.

During the FLEx portion of the workshop, the middle schoolers experienced an interactive virtual reality station, with Oculus Rift virtual reality and 3D printing and electronic prototyping. Afterward, the students worked individually on iPads to develop their own designs with 3D modeling software. Several of their designs were uploaded to the cloud so students could work on them at a later date, Evans explained.

In the photography session, the students were taught the history of photography as well as its use and its purpose in modern society, said Clark Colby, who is an arts, communication and design program specialist. Each student made cyanotype photograms using objects of nature, as well as hand drawn negatives using tracing paper and markers. They also explored using film negatives. The students made a collage, exposed it to UV light and rinsed it to complete the photographic process. Each student was able to represent his or her vision with this piece of art.

The youth also were introduced to digital photographic panoramas using digital SLR cameras and tripods. They worked in teams of five with a mentor to create a 360-degree circular digital panoramic photograph. Each person’s image was incorporated into his or her team’s final photograph. Each team used roughly 24 digital photographs that were combined and edited live on the projection screen to show and learn the process. One final photograph from each group was printed and displayed to show off the final product, said Colby.  

“The partnership between 4-H and the College of Design has provided a unique way to impact youth with STEM and design,” said Evans. “By combining the Iowa 4-H STEM program and the College of Design ‘creativity’ and design expertise, the partnership is able to provide a unique and strong program that addresses identified state priorities with STEM, 21st century skills and the universal constructs from the Iowa Core.”

“Special thanks to Christine Carr, Jennifer Anderson, Jennifer Nieland, Cassie Kilby, Yicheng Hao and Triadi Wisesa, who helped with the logistics, provided equipment, worked as mentors and technical specialists, and helped set up the final exhibition,” said Colby.

Kids Taking Photos

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