Last week, more than 16,000 elementary students from 160 local schools descended upon Honda Center as the Anaheim Ducks hosted the 15th annual First Flight Field Trip.
As the largest component of the award-winning Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education), the event aims to bring education to life for students in the community through the sport of hockey.
This year’s curriculum was the Ducks boldest step yet into providing a way for students to explore the elements of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Each participating school was provided with workbooks titled, “Build a Better Puck” that challenged the students to “think like an engineer” by using design-based problem solving to study the elements of a hockey puck.
From the material, to the shape, to how it moves across a surface, 3rd – 6th graders spent time in their classrooms getting up close and personal with the properties of a hockey puck, examining why this small object made of vulcanized rubber is designed the way that it is.
And this year, for the first time, the curriculum provided an online component for schools to take the learning even further through the “Build a Better Puck” Challenge.
The Ducks organization teamed up with Autodesk, one of the leading providers of 3D design software, to offer a way for students to take what they learned about hockey pucks through the workbook and apply that knowledge toward developing their own original designs.
Launched as a part of Autodesk’s Project Ignite, a free educational tool that provides hands-on interaction with integrated design tools, teachers and their students were able to go online and use Autodesk’s Tinkercad program to design their own hockey pucks. Many of the participating teachers attended training sessions to be able to facilitate the project in their classrooms.
“What we’re trying to do with the Anaheim Ducks and the First Flight Field Trip is integrate, match and complement what they’re doing with their STEM content,” said Amy Bergin with Autodesk. “Step by step, the students are guided through the elements of our Tinkercad software. It matches the content in the workbook, it’s hands-on design-based learning and the students are getting it through a non-traditional method. We’re proud to be a part of this.”
On the day of the field trip, students and teachers were greeted in the Honda Center parking lot by “The Playground” segment of the event, where interactive stations were set up for the kids to continue to explore the concepts of engineering and design-based problem solving.
From examining different shapes to constructing forms out of materials such as marshmallows and pasta, the stations served as a great way to get the kids in the creative mindset before heading inside for “The Classroom” portion of the event.
“We see events like First Flight as being important to the future of our industry,” said Danny Craig, Public Relations Lead for Stantec, one of the program’s partners. “We see a deficit in the number of future engineers and leaders who are interested in the engineering industry. So with First Flight, there’s a real opportunity to inspire future leaders. Hopefully events like this help show the students that engineering is about creativity and problem solving and not about being a math wiz.”
Inside the arena, the students and educators were in for a treat as they got to watch the Ducks practice while they were guided through some of the “Build a Better Puck” lessons by hosts Kent French and Phil Hulett.
Ducks Emerson Etem, Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson explored geometry by demonstrating different angles used while stick handling and passing. Cam Fowler, Jakob Silfverberg and Kyle Palmieri ran drills using pucks made of alternative materials, such as glass, plastic and wood. And Nate Thompson and Andrew Cogliano tried to work with pucks of different shapes, including a sphere, cube and pyramid.
All of these on-ice demonstrations aligned with the First Flight curriculum and were meant to demonstrate to the students not only the design elements of a hockey puck, but the process used in examining those elements.
The field trip closed with the Ducks participating in a skills competition that showcased three winning puck designs chosen from over 500 submissions from participating schools through the “Build a Better Puck” Challenge.
Using actual pucks that had been manufactured to the specifications of the students’ winning designs, the players competed in the hardest shot contest, relay race and longest shot contest.
Ducks defenseman, Ben Lovejoy, praised the puck design used by his “orange” team in the relay race.
“We won the relay race and I went over and thanked that classroom, because their design actually helped us win,” said Lovejoy. “That classroom should take credit for the orange team winning that race.”
The winning puck designs were submitted by Hannah Yoon’s classroom from Merton E. Hill Elementary in Garden Grove, Kim Brooks’ classroom from Canyon Vista Elementary in Aliso Viejo and Laura Camastro’s classroom from Turtle Rock Elementary in Irvine.
Kim Brooks’ classroom, which was represented by the “orange” team, used Chrome Books recently purchased for her clasroom to create their winning puck design.
“The kids were mesmerized with the possibilities of designing a new puck,” said Brooks. “The best thing was, they designed their pucks having very little training on this software. Students are still begging me to be able to go to Autodesk so they can create more 3D objects. This opens up a brand new door to get more kids involved in engineering.
Autodesk teamed up with Robo 3D and Stantec to provide the three winning schools, along with Hermosa Drive Elementary School in Fullerton, a 3D printer and PC workstation for use in their classrooms.
“What a great opportunity and what a great way to connect math and science with something so fun!” said Laura Camastro. “We learned a lot about 3D design during this project and we’re so excited to learn more with our new 3D printer.”
In Hannah Yoon’s classroom, the learning and exploring is continuing at the request of her students, even after the field trip has ended.
“My class has decided that we need to have monthly design contests using Tinkercad and print the top 3 designs,” said Yoon. “I know that other teachers at my school also want to have their classes use Tinkercad and print their designs as well. I am very thankful to the Anaheim Ducks for providing me and my class with such a wonderful curriculum centered on math, science, and technology.”
As for the players, they seemed to enjoy hosting the 16,000 enthusiastic kids as they used the sport of hockey to teach these educational concepts.
“When we started going over the lessons with our guys here in preparation, it’s amazing how much [about hockey] can be tied into science and math,” said Ducks forward, Kyle Palmieri. “It’s cool to bring it to a real life experience for them. Hopefully they had as much fun as we did, and hopefully they learned something from it.”
And in addition to the learning, it wasn’t lost on the players what an impact attending a NHL practice can have on both young fans of the game and those kids who may not be as familiar with hockey.
“That would have been the highlight of my year as a young hockey player,” said Lovejoy. “I never got anywhere near as close as they were today. I grew up idolizing professional athletes and the Boston Bruins and having the kids here for a casual practice I thought was very special.
“I just thank them for coming today. That was spectacular. It makes coming to an everyday practice so much more fun.”