Practice Deep Dive: Pupils learn product design by building electronic dice

The electronics giant Philips has been working with teachers on STEM education for more than 10 years and a clever dice exercise, developed with teacher input, is one of the company’s most popular practices.

What is the practice about?

It covers the complete process of product design. Kits and learning manuals are provided to teachers and pupils who, individually or in teams, have to interpret the dice design, assemble the dice and test the final outcome applying basic electronics and welding skills (see pictures). Pupils then have to create their own dice packaging.

How does Philips do it?

Philips develops learning tools such as the dice and a solar power station practice, which involves figuring out how you can capture enough sun to make electricity. The company then runs pre-pilots in schools to see what teachers and pupils think of the exercise.

“We have found that our ideas are often used by schools in an even more positive way than we had intended. For example, the idea of designing housing for the completed dice came from teachers. We never thought about it,” says Arjen Schat, Director of Education/Jet-Net at Philips.

So, why is Philips investing in STEM education?  

“If Europe is to maintain and further develop its economic base, STEM skills are vital. You need people to design products and understand the whole process of innovation from scratch onward. No machine can invent for you,” says Arjen.

And why has Philips decided to become a partner in the European Commission’s inGenious initiative?

“Economic growth comes from innovation and most innovations are technologically driven. We want the European Union to be world class, therefore, we need young people to guarantee Europe’s position in the world. But STEM studies seem to have become less attractive to young people over the last decade. We need to show pupils that studying STEM is not a dead end street. You may start in technology and end up as a manager. There is long and varied career behind a person’s beginning in this sector.”

“I have worked in engineering and technology for over 30 years starting in development, becoming a product manager, then a marketing manager and now I am in an education and corporate social responsibility role. I have travelled all over the world as a technician, product specialist and marketing manager in an exciting internal work place. STEM isn’t about sitting behind a desk.  It allows you to conquer the world,” says Arjen.



Learn more about Philips’ activities with schools

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Philips is a member of Jet-Net a joint venture between 80 Dutch companies and 180 pre-college schools in the Netherlands. Jet-Net companies help schools enhance the appeal of their science curriculum by using a great variety of activities. They also help students gain a better understanding of their future career prospects in industry and technology.