Lesson Plan: Building Trebuchets and Teamwork

As we saw in this week’s episode, community colleges and industry have come together to prepare students for in-demand jobs. But as we’ve been hearing from many ATETV viewers, employers are looking for more than just technical know-how. They’re also looking for employees who know how to communicate and who can work well in a group.

To that end, this week we’re presenting a lesson plan used by Jerry Duncan, head of the Process Technology program at College of the Mainland featured in this week’s episode. In this exercise, teams of students work together to build trebuchets — a kind of catapult that uses a counterweight to launch its ordinance.

“Each team is given the same plans and material to build a trebuchet, then the competition begins,” explains Duncan. “The team with the most accurate, longest throwing trebuchet receives the highest grade. The students are also peer graded on their work and contribution to the team.”

But what does a medieval siege weapon have to do with Process Technology? It all comes down to teamwork and the changing workplace. “Modern manufacturing sites have computerized and modernized their work processes so that many layers of supervision are gone,” explains Duncan. “The employees typically work in teams. They have few supervisors, so they have to work together with minimal direction to meet their production and quality goals.”

Duncan reports that the lesson is a big hit with his students. “They spend hours building, testing and refining their trebuchets,” he says. “They have learned teamwork skills, mechanical skills and basic troubleshooting skills, all of which will help them in their new careers in Process Technology.” And although Duncan uses this plan with community college students, it’s easily adaptable to high school classes.

Click here to download the lesson plan. Thanks to Jerry Duncan for his help with this week’s blog entry!

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