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Thinking Like an Engineer Review by Jennifer Smeltser

(Online Course for Grades 6-12)

Deciding the direction of your future is a challenging experience. Making that decision is one your middle school or high school child will eventually have to do once they grow up. It will not be easy, so finding opportunities for them to learn about different professions will be advantageous for them now. Innovators Tribe opens the eyes of your children to possibilities and the doors to knowledge with the STEM courses it offers.

Innovators tribe currently offers three online, self-paced courses: Thinking Like an Engineer, Thinking Like an Architect, and Robotics and Automation Each course is geared towards students in sixth through twelfth grades. The only reason I would suggest your student wait until high school to take one of the courses is, so they can complete it for elective credit towards graduation. If your child is in middle school and ready to start learning, do not hesitate to introduce them to Thinking Like an Engineer.

Thinking Like an Engineer has six units of lessons. The best way to start thinking like an engineer is learning what engineers do and the different areas of engineering students can pursue. Unit 1 - Introduction to Engineering kicks off the fun with Mr. Wayne Kroeplin (A.K.A. Mr. K.), who is not only the creator of the curriculum, but also the teacher. Parents and teachers can sit back and let Mr. K take over instruction of the course. Mr. K is quite qualified having a degree in technology education and a masters in e-learning. He also has a background in teaching teens, so Mr. K knows how to present material that engages students and motivates them to want to learn.

The course videos are high quality and that excellence carries into the presentation of the material. It is evident Mr. K. not only enjoys the study of engineering, but also teaching students.  Although the course is topic focused (about engineering), your child does not have to be interested in an engineering career. Thinking Like an Engineer encourages students to be creative, problem solve and to be innovative. Those are all areas in which any teen can benefit regardless of what profession they decide to pursue.

Each unit has interactive video lessons at varying lengths. The syllabus is helpful and breaks down the material, so you can easily create a lesson plan and fit the study into your student’s school. Because of River’s course load, I found it easier to have an engineering focused day once a week where he works through the material.

What I really love about the course are the challenge activities. The challenges are not easy and really do require the student to think like an engineer. Some of the challenges are based on structures that already exist like the Burj Khalifa. Students also delve into 3D design, build a suspension bridge and other cool challenges like designing a fidget spinner in Fusion 360. The challenge projects are involved and do take some time to complete. Some are more than three hours long from which the student will learn much. I will say it made me happy to see River working through the challenge activities that really made him think. He is learning.

Thinking Like an Engineer gives students hands-on experience on real-life projects they could possibly be commissioned to complete as an engineer. Even though the scale of the project may not compare to the size of what a professional engineer may be assigned, the activities and challenges are real. A materials list of items you will find around your house is included, but some of the items are ones the student has to determine based on the goal of the activity or challenge. Mr. K. wants the student to always be thinking (like an engineer).

Thinking Like an Engineer is a quality curriculum. Students are not just reading about what engineers do but are completing projects that engineers actually do.

If your child has an interest in becoming an engineer, by the time they complete the Thinking Like an Engineer course, they will have a very good idea as to what it is like to be an engineer.

-Product review by Jennifer Smeltser, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2018