Understanding the “Designed World”

A young person’s ingenuity starts with a basic understanding that the “designed world,” comprised of the human designed and made products that fill our lives, does not appear magically. They are designed and made with a specific purpose in mind, to meet some specific human desire or need. In the case of commercial and industrial products, they are thoughtfully and thoroughly researched, analyzed, and optimized by engineers, designers, manufacturers, an others. What you see that you might otherwise take for granted is the result of oftentimes thousands of hours of time on task in research and development.

Young people need to know that technology is not magic. They need to begin to appreciate the designed world beginning at a very young age. This is not only for the future engineers among us. This core appreciation and understanding will help all people be informed consumers and creators of new technologies.

How do you begin to build this understanding? Have young children take things apart and explore their inner workings. Before you toss that broken Wii remote in the garbage, help a young person carefully and safely explore its insides.

Ask them questions about the toys and games that fill their lives. Where do you think that board game was made? Who do you think invented it? What is it made of? Was it made in a factory?

Asking questions and encouraging inquiry and hands-on activity at a young age will begin to develop the kind of lifelong learning and abilities that will ensure the future success of young individuals and our society. And, in some cases, it will lead to the next great inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and designers.


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