Welcome, First-Time Coach! Congratulations on embarking on an exciting journey as a coach for the Engineering Machine Design Contest. As a first timer, we understand that you might have questions about how to get started and ensure your team’s success. Do not worry; we have got you covered with helpful tips and guidance to make this experience rewarding and enjoyable for both you and your students.  

Getting Started 

  1. Familiarize Yourself: Take some time to understand the contest’s objectives, rules, and annual theme. Visit the official website and read through the provided guidelines and resources. This will give you a clear understanding of what the contest entails and how to proceed. Be sure to watch the Introduction to EMDC video. Take time to thoroughly review the contest rules and guidelines. Understand the evaluation criteria, constraints, and any specific requirements that must be met by the chain reaction machine. 
  1. Form Your Team: Encourage young people (5th-12th grade) with an interest in engineering, problem-solving, and/or creativity to join your team. Diversity in skills and talents can be beneficial, and every member can contribute in their unique way. Seek students with different interests and skills, including creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork. Encourage a diverse team to bring a range of perspectives and ideas to the project. 
  1. Introduce the Contest and Theme: Present the theme of the contest to your team. Share the theme’s possibilities and spark excitement about the engineering challenges they will explore. There is an activity lesson plan later in the Guidebook to help with this! Clearly communicate the contest’s objectives, rules, and deadlines to your team. Set realistic goals and expectations for each stage of the chain reaction machine building process. 

Gathering Materials (without Spending Money) 

One of the most remarkable aspects of this contest is that it can be accomplished without significant financial investment. Most teams spend less than $100 to get setup. This expense might include the cost to build a reusable machine structure – however, not required – and to purchase consumable supplies such as tape, glue, and screws. 

Here are some creative ways to gather materials without breaking the bank:  

  1. Recycle and Reuse: Encourage team members to bring in recyclable materials from home, such as cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, or old toys. These items can serve as the building blocks for their chain reaction machines.  
  1. Utilize Available Resources: Check with your affiliated school/organization for available materials and tools – do not forget to reach out to the maintenance department, they often are very resourceful. You might find that your school or organization already has a stock of supplies that can be repurposed for the contest.  
  1. Community Collaboration: Reach out to local businesses, industries, and community members. Often, they are willing to donate materials or provide support for educational initiatives like this contest. 

Steps to Success 

  1. Brainstorming: Host brainstorming sessions with your team. Encourage everyone to contribute ideas and explore different possibilities based on the contest theme. Foster a positive and inclusive environment where all ideas are valued. Encourage your team to research and explore existing chain reaction machines. Expose them to various designs, mechanisms, and engineering principles to spark their creativity and inspire innovative ideas. 
  1. Design and Prototyping: Once ideas are generated, have your team create paper sketches or basic prototypes of their chain reaction machine components. This helps in visualizing the design and identifying potential improvements.  
  1. Step-by-Step Planning: Break down the machine’s construction into manageable steps. Assign specific tasks to team members based on their strengths and interests. This fosters collaboration and a sense of ownership.  
  1. Promote Safety: Prioritize safety throughout the chain reaction machine building process. Teach your team about potential hazards and best practices for safe design and construction. Ensure appropriate supervision during testing and construction. 
  1. Iterative Approach: Emphasize that it’s okay to encounter challenges along the way. Encourage your team to adopt an iterative design process, making improvements and adjustments as they test and refine their machine.  
  1. Teamwork and Communication: Promote open communication among team members. Encourage them to share ideas, seek help when needed, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Create a positive and inclusive team environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and collaborating with one another. Emphasize the importance of teamwork and effective communication. 
  1. Encourage Documentation: Encourage your team to keep detailed records of their design process, testing results, and any modifications made. Documenting their journey will aid in troubleshooting, reflection, and communication of their work through the Team Journal and Team Presentation.  
  1. Foster a Growth Mindset: Emphasize the value of learning from failures and setbacks. Encourage your team to embrace challenges, persist in the face of difficulties, and view mistakes as opportunities for growth and improvement. 
  1. Provide Guidance and Feedback: Regularly check in with your team, providing guidance and support as needed. Offer constructive feedback to help them refine their designs, troubleshoot issues, and improve the performance of their machine. 
  1. Celebrate Achievements and Have Fun: Remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. Encourage creativity, experimentation, and fun throughout the process. Recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of your team throughout the process. Acknowledge their hard work, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Celebrate both small milestones and the final completion of their chain reaction machine. 

Resources and Support 

Do not forget that you and your team have access to a wealth of resources in the Guidebook and on the EMDC Website. You can always reach out to program and contest organizers with questions. As a coach, your role is to guide and support your team’s efforts, inspiring them to think critically, collaborate, and embrace the spirit of engineering innovation.  

By following above steps and utilizing available resources, you can lead your team to a successful and rewarding experience in the Engineering Machine Design Contest. Remember, creativity and determination are the keys to building a remarkable chain reaction machine without spending a fortune.  

Get ready to witness young peoples’ engineering talents unfold and see the magic of their imagination come to life! Good luck, and happy engineering!