Getting to the heart of technology

Play is an important part of toddlers’ development and some of the most commonly used toys, like building blocks and puzzles, are based on the principle of assembly and disassembly to help children acquire dexterity and understand cause and effect. The same idea can be applied to the study of technology. Here Dave Collingwood, Principal Engineer at global engineering technologies company Renishaw, explains the benefits of Technology Teardown workshops, where students, aided by engineers, disassemble domestic technology to understand how its component parts, work together, to perform the function of the product.

We live in an increasingly throwaway society, so tearing down technology to understand its design and learn more about the nature and purpose of its components helps young people understand it more. This approach is routinely used in fields such as mechanical, electronic and software engineering, but is also an excellent teaching method to engage young people studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects to help prepare them for an engineering career.

For more than ten years, Renishaw’s engineers have been using Teardowns to inspire young engineers and the scientists of tomorrow. These are two-hour workshops where students, under the expert supervision of Renishaw engineers, are encouraged to take apart everyday objects such as printers, phones and laptops to help understand the many facets of modem day products; hopefully to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.  Broken down parts from these Teardowns can also be taken away for further discussion at school and can form part of pupils’ projects.

This experience allows teachers to proactively engage their classes in core aspects of their school curriculum, such as learning the properties of materials, and applying this knowledge to product design. At the same time, students have fun discovering the hidden aspects of their favourite technological gadgets. The learning opportunity can be further enhanced by offering a guided tour of the company’s Innovation Centre and by giving a careers talk to motivate students to consider engineering as a profession, considering all the options from an apprenticeship to studying at university.


Getting practical

The benefits of a hands-on approach to learning have long been highlighted by pedagogy. According to a recent study by Stanford University, students who listen passively during a class retain about 20 per cent of the information they hear. However, this percentage increases to 75 per cent when they are given the possibility to practise what they are learning by simulating a real-world experience.

A hands-on approach like that applied in Teardowns is particularly useful for technology-based subjects. Tearing technology apart helps students recognise patterns in the production of everyday technological gadgets, understand and appreciate their complexity and see how their many components fit together.

In addition, pupils develop manual skills by learning how to safely use a variety of tools, such as different screwdrivers, pliers etc. They also learn the importance of recommended safety procedures, such as wearing safety glasses and protective gloves.  Finally, they are taught to operate patiently and tidily, without losing or damaging any components.

Running practical workshops also acts as professional development for the staff involved. For example, engineers at Renishaw report that Technology Teardowns provide the opportunity to take a fresh look at how products are made. This process can stimulate their analytical thinking and help them come up with new ideas on how to develop technology. Explaining to students why engineering is a rewarding career also helps to motivate employees.

Renishaw’s Technology Teardowns are part of the company’s extensive education outreach programme, which aims to inspire the next generations of engineers. For more information or to book a workshop, visit or contact [email protected].

Automation Update