We Should Teach BIM Earlier


May 29. 2015  Colleen Creighton 

There is a new generation of students entering our education system. You’ve seen the Youtube videos: babies that have learned how to interact with an iPad before they’ve learned to walk; children who are designing elaborate worlds inside Minecraft and live streaming it to their friends. This is a generation that not only grew up using technology, they grew up thinking with technology. To them, a pencil feels cumbersome. They are a generation with amazing potential, but I worry that our education system isn’t ready for their digital literacy. 

By the end of college, most architectural graduates leave with only a cursory understanding of design technology. Faculties have been grappling with how best to teach concepts like BIM, particularly when there are so many other aspects of architecture that also need to be taught. For most colleges, students are taught about technology for conceptual design, but the technology of production is left to be learned somewhere in practice. 

My education was a little different. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and was fortunate enough to go to middle school and high school in the Clarence School District, where Sean Murray and Jason Urbanek were my teachers. To this day, all students at Clarence Middle School are required to take Science of Technology, as well as Design and Modeling. They are taught how to engage in design processes from technical sketching, to digital modeling, to prototyping. Clarence, while simply a public school, aligns technology courses with subjects such as English, Mathematics, Biology etc. These classes are fundamental to graduate because the school district sees the importance in a technology education based on the skill sets required in the job market. At the high school level, courses such as Computer Manufacturing, as well as Civil Engineering and Architecture are offered to build upon the middle school curriculum. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to these classes early on, and see the results in the way that I work from day to day. 

Each year, the Clarence School Board puts together a budget which requires taxpayers’ votes for approval. This budget allows for the technology department to continue to grow and flourish from year to year. Educators inform the community of the importance of the programs they offer in the hopes of convincing them to vote yes for the budget. Their inspirational stories combined with well documented facts are key to this approval. The programs offered are believed to be of great value to students, which is why taxpayers choose to approve budget increases that support the growth of technology education. My technology education was extremely enjoyable and allowed me to critically apply the concepts I learned in math and science.

While taking these classes, I thought I wanted to be an architect. Yet, after six years of undergraduate and graduate school, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. At first, this was a disappointment; the career I had always imagined myself in was not at all what I really wanted. But this realization forced me to think critically about what it was that I really enjoyed and what it was that fascinated me about the field of architecture before I was actually exposed to it.

I realized that through my technology education at Clarence, my fascination was in the implementation and process of the designed and built environment. My teachers taught me how products and buildings worked, how to understand client’s needs, how to work in a team setting, and how to manage multiple parts of a project using software such as Autodesk Inventor and Revit. 

Unfortunately, my college professors discouraged this way of thinking. They didn’t believe it had a place in the design of buildings. 

My work experience has taught me that architecture is not just the conceptual design of buildings, it is also about the design of processes and workflows in which buildings are leased, designed, built, and occupied.

Every day I work with architects, designers, engineers, owners, and developers in a joint venture to improve the way that the built environment is created. I am able to do this partly because of my education in architecture, but I would say it is largely related to my exposure to technology early on. 

Teaching design technology in middle school isn’t easy. Many schools are struggling financially and might not have the staff expertise to offer such classes. Fortunately, the importance of this type of education is being embraced by the industry in many ways. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs such as Project Lead the Way, are being incorporated into schools’ curriculum and are sponsored by companies such as Autodesk, Lockheed Martin, VEX Robotics, and many more. Autodesk also offers free software to secondary students, college and university students, secondary teachers, and college and university educators. Hopefully this will eliminate the obstacle of cost when it comes to establishing technology programs in school systems. 

We shape the future with the education that we provide to students early on. We currently have an incredible generation of students going through the school system, we need to make sure we empower them with the skills to make equally incredible cities. 

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Source: www.case-inc.com/blog/teach-bim-earlier