Design Reviews: Problem-Solving, Pivoting, and Persevering

Students in Fine Art Department Chair and STEAM teacher Julie Fisher’s “Explorations in Engineering” class are collaborating on unique projects guided by the EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) curriculum designed by Purdue University. Their ideas serve to better the lives of others, with one group focusing on developing an interactive, engaging way to teach and practice math and another designing a solar-powered set of lanterns to sustainably light the way on campus.
Last week, the two groups participated in their second design review with an advisory panel of faculty. They covered the entire scope from conceptualization to problem-solving obstacles along the way, reporting on the progress since their initial presentations, and forecasting the next steps. “It’s certainly been a project of trial and error,” observed senior Maeve M.

The design review process has been extremely beneficial for the students as they not only gained feedback on their designs but also had the opportunity to hone their presentation and public speaking skills. Below are details on each team’s design. Watch for more news and photos of their progress, as well as the rest of this year's EPICS teams.

Math Teaching Game
Becca C. ’23, Sneha K. ’23, Maeve M. ’22, and Sophie M. ’23

With the goal of developing a teaching tool for mathematics (specifically algebra), this group has pivoted several times since beginning their design journey. Looking to incorporate their love for computer programming into the scope of their project, the group initially began researching the right programming language — exploring Java, Javascript, Python, HTML, and others — to code an interactive and dynamic game that would engage users and motivate them to continue learning. After ruling out an artificial intelligence framework (“Chatbots are boring,” declared Becca) and finding some languages didn’t translate well into a video game format, the group returned to their original purpose — not to build a game, but to teach — and used Google Slides to craft a Jeopardy game — “Algeoparty” — housing a series of math questions covering a variety of topics.

In their design review, STEM teachers Jade Do, Katie Hergenreder, Rylee Simmons, and James Sweeney, PhD, encouraged the group to think about where this tool would be applied, when a teacher would use it, their target audience, and the mode of delivery. They also advised the group to seek input directly from teachers who might use this to better understand what they’d like to see incorporated to make it an applicable practice tool at Foxcroft. They also suggested the possibility of using Spheros, small spherical robots that can be coded to follow instructions, should the girls be interested in exploring another opportunity for computer programming while bringing their video game concept into the physical world.

Solar Panel Lanterns
Eva Bret C. ’24, Ashleigh H. ’23, and Grace P. ’24

Seeking to literally shed light on our campus, this group researched, sketched, and prototyped an aesthetically pleasing solar-powered lantern to light a pathway between Dillon and Applegate dorms. They considered optimal placement and lighting — not too bright and not too dim — and each proposed separate concepts to one another before moving forward on one. “We each made our initial rapid prototypes which was a little scary, to be fully honest,” Eva Bret admitted, “but we got to use the different resources in The Innovation Lab, which was really fun, and we got to use the laser cutter which was cool.” Considering materials, cost, and scope, they presented research on a hexagonal lantern with acrylic panels and a wooden top. The group experimented with materials, shifting to hot glue after finding their original choice of clear epoxy wouldn’t adhere to the wooden housing, in addition to troubleshooting other things along the way.

Project reviewers English teacher Sidney Tilghman, Director of The Innovation Lab Alex Northrup, and STEM teacher Meghen Tuttle, PhD, encouraged the group to experiment with their prototype directly in the environment it will hang, assessing the effectiveness of the light, the durability of the materials when exposed to the elements, the placement of the lantern depending on what already exists in the space, and the duration of the charge based on the hours of sun the solar-powered battery absorbs in that space. Based on those findings, the group will have considerations to make as they finalize their design.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.