The Mini Engineers is an extension/enrichment group that enthusiastically took up their teacher's suggestion to enter the Transpower Neighbourhood Engineers Awards. The group worked with engineer Chris Andersen who taught them the Technological Practice an engineer would use during a project.
The group decided to look at needs or opportunities based around their school, and discussed a variety of potential projects. They developed some of these ideas further by making up lists of pros and cons, and asked other pupils for their opinions, concluding that a climbing area for years 3–6 would provide the opportunity to climb that other equipment lacked.
The Mini Engineers individually searched for climbing frames on the internet and printed pictures of those they considered suitable, for the group to consider. Chris talked to them about playground safety standards and they made a list of the rules their playground would have to follow, such as maximum heights and soft landing material. They also considered the positive or negative impacts a climbing area would have on the school, for example, that while it would give a new area to play, it would result in a smaller area where students could run.
The group members all sketched their ideas for a climbing frame, then worked in pairs to choose and rank their favourite components. They combined the rankings to select the top five ideas – "spider-web" of ropes, metal frame, slide, ropes and a climbing wall.
They then divided into four groups of four to design a playground made up of those five components. Each group sketched their ideas in 3D and Chris arranged for a draftsman to draw these up on the computer.
The group went to the proposed climbing area, measured it to find out how much space there was and planned where each piece of equipment would go. They next considered what materials they would need and how much. This was quite a challenge, and the team eventually sent the plans to a building centre and asked them to provide prices for the materials.
After getting their computer-drawn designs back, the four groups checked their own, corrected any errors and returned them to the draftsman to change.
Consultation with junior students followed; the Mini Engineers put up a display board in the library and asked them to vote for their preference from the four plans. The pentagon-climbing playground was the clear favourite – this incorporated a swirly slide, two knotted ropes, two metal frames, a spider web net and a climbing wall with holes.
The next step for the group was to confirm the cost of this playground and present their solution to the Board of Trustees.