Plastic Potential Fulfilled - Look at what we made!

Following on from last week's blog (it was very short, but if you'd like to read it, you can do that here) about plastic potential....

This week's blog is all about our 105 new Freshers tackled (and excelled) at this fun and unusual task! 

This is how the day played out:

We provided the students with hundreds of metres of plastic, a brief, and a request that they worked together and put their imaginations to the test. They didn't disappoint. 

The day started with the students being put into randomly selected teams. This was to help them explore their collaboration and communication skills. Remember that this was Day 4 for them at HCA! 

Then, we asked them to use the materials provided to design and make an inflatable structure of epic proportion. Students were advised that the design of each structure was integral to its ultimate success, and as such the task could be broken down into three stages:

1. Design

Generate ideas, problem solve. 

Working together, and using only the materials provided, students worked to generate a range of design ideas. As a group, they discussed, and identified one idea with the most potential, and developed the design further. They were reminded that at this point, scaling their component parts of their design in order was an important part of transferring the design to the materials.
Design tip: Students were also advised that geometric structures with large internal spaces allow better air flow, and result in better inflation and structural stability.

2. Make 

Scale up designs, plan, cut, and construct. 

Using only plastic and tape, students transferred their designs and began to cut and construct. During this stage of the task, students explored planning, time management, delegation of tasks, identifying skills - all at the same time as continuing to communicate and work together. 
Make tip: Students were advised that careful planning and measuring at this stage is important for the final structure to be a success.  

3. Inflate

Bring designs to life.

Wind machines were lined up alongside one of our workshop buildings. HCA staff operated these to allow each inflatbale the best chance for success. 
Inflate tip: Students were encourageed to plan for mishaps! They were encouraged to take tape, scissors, and spare plastic outside to patch any holes or tears. 

The resulting inflatable structures drew cheers and applause across the lawn and from staff looking on from the windows of the main building. Each team's sculpture was inflated one at a time - to allow each team a moment of glory, and also time to fix any rips. One team had to actually clamber inside their sculpture (the shark) in order to properly inflate it! With sculptures ranging from animals (shark, squid, cow), to humorous (dropped ice cream cones), to much more absract sculptures, the day was a triumphant celebration of teamwork and creativity. 

What did students learn, and what did they get from the day?

Students successfully worked together and experienced:
  • collaboration (listening, negotiating, encouraging and supporting one another)
  • creativity (the first stage of the task included ideas generation, and students took to this with high levels of energy and enthusiasm)
  • problem solving (students anticipated problems in the design stage, planned for them in the make stage, and worked to resolve them in the inflate stage)
  • time management (planning their time and working to those plans)
  • delegation of tasks and skills identification

Lots of staff came out to spectate as the inflatables went up, and were able to celebrate the students' successful output from the day. Prizes were awarded for:
  • Best Overall Inflatable - the shark
  • Best Teamwork - 'Team Squid' 
  • Best Design Sheets - cow's head

The best result of the task, however, was watching students celebrating not only their creations, but also the new friendships they had made throughout the day. Students wandered off campus at the end of the day in happy, fulfilled, boisterous groups - a wonderful outcome!

Thanks go out to all the tutors and technical staff who guided, helped, and supported students all day - all at the same time as documenting the whole project!