Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it made?” 11

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I’m teaching my oldest son about different types of engineers. By helping him learn what different types of engineers do, I’m hoping he’ll have a better idea what an engineer really is! To teach him about being a process engineer, I created a simple game called “How’s it Made?”!

Be a Process Engineer by Playing "How's it Mades?"! | A fun game to teach kids about being a Process Engineer

Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it made?”

I spent half of my career working in factories, also called plants.  One of my first jobs was at a diaper plant, where I was a mechanical project engineer.  My job was to make sure equipment and process upgrades were going to mechanically work.  I was part of a project team that included different types of engineers, primarily electrical and process engineers.  Electrical engineers were in charge of making sure electrical equipment was properly designed.  The process engineers…well their role was a little less tangible.  Their job was to look at how all the equipment would work together, and make sure the steps (or process) to make a diaper ran efficiently and properly.  They looked at the process both as a whole, and in isolated steps.  If it looked like a part of the process was not going to run efficiently, then they would think of a way to improve the process, and work with the electrical and mechanical engineers to make it happen.

How to play:

To show my son what a process engineer does, I made up a little game called “How is it made?”.  Its a simple activity, but it goes through the thought process used by process engineers when they are trying to figure out how to mass produce a product.  Here’s how the game is played.

  1.  Find an item, like a toy.
  2. Ask your child to think of the steps it takes to make the toy.  If they are old enough to write, tell them to write down the steps.  If they’re not old enough to write, ask them to draw each step.
  3. Next, go to each step, and ask more questions about the step.  What machine will be used?  Is it a big machine, or small machine?  What will it do?  Will it cut, squish, stretch, crumple (etc)?  What does the item look like before and after each step?  It is not important if the machine they describe exists in reality.  Let them be creative!  After all, new ideas are how the current machines were invented!

My son’s first try at playing being a Process Engineer

My oldest played this the other day.  Since he’s only in kindergarten, I asked him to draw the steps, instead of writing them down.  Its a perfect activity for him since he loves to draw.

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Step 1:  I told him to grab a toy.  He chose his toy sai:

Be a Process Engineer by Playing "How's it Mades?"! | A fun game to teach kids about being a Process Engineer

Step 2: Next I asked him to draw the steps he thought it took to make his toy.  Here is what he drew!

Be a Process Engineer by Playing "How's it Mades?"! | A fun game to teach kids about being a Process Engineer

Step 3:  I then asked him what each step did.  Here is the process he came up with:

  1. They got a piece of plastic (the white rectangle at the upper left hand).
  2. Then they cut the piece of plastic with scissors.
  3. Then they folded the cut plastic until it was in the shape of the sai.
  4. Last they painted and colored the plastic to match the colors of a sai.

My kindergartner graduate really enjoyed this simple activity, and so did I.  I loved watching him draw, but the best part was his explanation.  He really had thought about what tools were needed to made the toy.  When I asked him why the cut out sai needed to be folded after cutting it, he said it was because the edges of the plastic would be sharp, and folding the plastic would make the edges round. **Proud mama moment**

As he gets older we’ll play it again, and I’m sure the processes will get more complicated.  But for now I really enjoyed watching him think about what it took to make his toy.  It required both his creativity and critical thinking skills!

Try this activity with your kids!  What do their processes look like?  What kind of machines did they come up with?

Looking for other ways to introduce you kids to engineering?  Check out some of my other posts!

Tinker Crate: Circuits and Optics
Teach Your Kid to be a Reliability Engineer!

Teach Your Kid to be a Mechanical Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Project Engineer!
Learn about Forces at the Splash Park!
Exploring Energy: How are Height and Distance Related?
An Explosive View of a Dinosaur
10 Books that Inspire Kids to be Engineers
Toys that Teach Engineering

11 thoughts on “Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it made?”

  • Georgiana

    What a great activity! My youngest kids are middle-school aged, and I think this would be perfect for critical thinking. Thanks for the tip!

    • From Engineer to SAHM Post author

      Thank you! Try seeing of they can come up with some new kinds of machines!

  • Shirley Corder

    Clever idea. we used to play a “game” of “What ifs” with our kids. We let them conjure up some emergency situation that could occur like the stove going on fire, the water pipe bursting, etc . . . and then work out the steps to sort out the problem. We hoped if they were ever in any of those situations they would keep their cool and know what steps to take.

    • From Engineer to SAHM Post author

      That’s a great idea to practice emergency preparedness. I need to start practicing that with my oldest!

  • Amy

    This is great! You should put them in a little book with his age. It’ll be cool to see how they get more detailed. He had great thought processes – you must be very proud!! Do they ever watch the show How It’s Made? I love those.

    And…thank you for bringing me back through memory lane as a process engineer. 🙂 I’d describe it as making sure the equipment makes as much product as possible, as quickly as possible, as safely as possible with as few defects as possible. Did I miss anything? 🙂

    • From Engineer to SAHM Post author

      That’s a great idea! And I love your description of a process engineer.

  • Tiffany

    This is soo smart! It’s exactly the kind of thing we’re looking to teach kids in school. In what application would each process or learning be used? What is the process of an engineer? zoologist? geologist? etc. Brilliant!

  • Kristy B

    Love that you share your love of engineering with your boys in this way! You are an inspiration to mommy engineers and future engineers everywhere.

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