21st Century Problem Solvers

Half a century ago, American writer Eldridge Cleaver famously stated, “You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” So we must ask ourselves, on the international-educational road, facing all the challenges of the future, how are we equipping our children to be solution-finding problem solvers?

This simple question was responded to at the recent ‘City Shaper Project Exhibition’ organised by BWYA. 

18 teams from Grades 8 and 9 took part in the week-long exercise, as countless present-day design conundrums were discussion, debated, and developed, bringing fresh ideas to the forefront. How do we optimise use of existing urban buildings and public areas? Seemingly a very professional question, but attracting great interest from our students. Stair-lifts for the blind, window insulation, earthquake defense for buildings, and modern car-parking solutions were also amongst the many design challenges being considered. 

Grade 8 students Summer Tian and Coco Liu were both ‘Engineering Genius’ team members. Their team project was about improving the efficiency of hot-water heaters in detached dwellings. “We researched different types of water heaters on the market, but found each has its own shortcomings. Therefore, we decided to learn from their strengths and combine all of their advantages into one.”

“Furthermore, our team’s division of labor was very clear. When writing the report, some of us were responsible for the technological research, some responsible for market research, some for producing design concepts and sketches, and others responsible for ensuring the entire report was one clear document. This involved a lot of communication and feedback, and of course it also helped with our teamwork and problem-solving skills.”

“The whole process not only helped us understand the difficulties that designers must face every day, but also realise the importance of new design solutions for our developing world. We additionally gained new knowledge and skills, such as how to use Gantt charts, and product design processes.”

Organiser of the event, Mr. Danny Yu, explained to us, “This unit is called Collaborative Problem Solving and Promotion. As the title suggests, we want students to learn how to work collaboratively to solve a problem, and, at the same time, how to promote their solution to their communities.”

“I am quite encouraged by our students’ work ethic and attitude. According to their self-reflections, they all appreciated the 6 core values of our teamwork model (Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Teamwork, Inclusion, and Fun). Most of all, they had fun and were thrilled by a lot of unexpected learning.”