I’m teaching my oldest son about different types of engineers. By helping him learn what different types of engineers do, I’m hoping he’ll have a better idea what an engineer really is! To teach him about being a process engineer, I created a simple game called “How’s it Made?”!
Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it made?”
I spent half of my career working in factories, also called plants. One of my first jobs was at a diaper plant, where I was a mechanical project engineer. My job was to make sure equipment and process upgrades were going to mechanically work. I was part of a project team that included different types of engineers, primarily electrical and process engineers. Electrical engineers were in charge of making sure electrical equipment was properly designed. The process engineers…well their role was a little less tangible. Their job was to look at how all the equipment would work together, and make sure the steps (or process) to make a diaper ran efficiently and properly. They looked at the process both as a whole, and in isolated steps. If it looked like a part of the process was not going to run efficiently, then they would think of a way to improve the process, and work with the electrical and mechanical engineers to make it happen.
How to play:
To show my son what a process engineer does, I made up a little game called “How is it made?”. Its a simple activity, but it goes through the thought process used by process engineers when they are trying to figure out how to mass produce a product. Here’s how the game is played.
- Find an item, like a toy.
- Ask your child to think of the steps it takes to make the toy. If they are old enough to write, tell them to write down the steps. If they’re not old enough to write, ask them to draw each step.
- Next, go to each step, and ask more questions about the step. What machine will be used? Is it a big machine, or small machine? What will it do? Will it cut, squish, stretch, crumple (etc)? What does the item look like before and after each step? It is not important if the machine they describe exists in reality. Let them be creative! After all, new ideas are how the current machines were invented!
My son’s first try at playing being a Process Engineer
My oldest played this the other day. Since he’s only in kindergarten, I asked him to draw the steps, instead of writing them down. Its a perfect activity for him since he loves to draw.
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Step 1: I told him to grab a toy. He chose his toy sai:
Step 2: Next I asked him to draw the steps he thought it took to make his toy. Here is what he drew!
Step 3: I then asked him what each step did. Here is the process he came up with:
- They got a piece of plastic (the white rectangle at the upper left hand).
- Then they cut the piece of plastic with scissors.
- Then they folded the cut plastic until it was in the shape of the sai.
- Last they painted and colored the plastic to match the colors of a sai.
My kindergartner graduate really enjoyed this simple activity, and so did I. I loved watching him draw, but the best part was his explanation. He really had thought about what tools were needed to made the toy. When I asked him why the cut out sai needed to be folded after cutting it, he said it was because the edges of the plastic would be sharp, and folding the plastic would make the edges round. **Proud mama moment**
As he gets older we’ll play it again, and I’m sure the processes will get more complicated. But for now I really enjoyed watching him think about what it took to make his toy. It required both his creativity and critical thinking skills!
Try this activity with your kids! What do their processes look like? What kind of machines did they come up with?
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Looking for other ways to introduce you kids to engineering? Check out some of my other posts!
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