PCA in Teaching: Empowering the public with Lego-based solutions to real problems

Through the winter semester this year 2nd year students at the University have completed PCA projects as part of their core teaching.

Focusing on developing designs that anyone can build at home to reduce their risk of transmission,

Students were tasked to develop devices that removed the need for contact with surfaces and buttons on public transport, using only Lego and other items that can easily be built at home. Following a good technical design process they had to develop technical requirements, come up with ideas and then test them in the real world, in their homes to start with and outside when restrictions allowed.

We had more than 60 different solutions submitted, with all kinds of grabbers, pushers, holders, catchers, and even the occasional grappling hook! Check out the video (coming soon) to see some of our highlights.

A really important part of the problem was that they were designing for the general public, not for themselves. Many people have the tools to create at home and the potential to reduce their own transmission risk, but they aren’t engineers or designers. By producing simple designs and the instructions that make them, our students are helping to empower people to engage with the issues and create their own solutions, in a way that’s accessible to all.

Underpinning the fun and on the seemingly-superficial task were then a few really important questions:

  • How can we empower the general public with the means to reduce their own transmission risk?
  • Can we help people create their own solutions, rather than rely on new products that may ultimately become unsustainable waste?
  • How can we use fun and accessible activities to engage people with the complex problems around virus transmission?

Chris Snider

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