STEM

Using SCAMPER Thinking Technique in STEM Activities


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“Every idea arises from another idea that exists”

What is SCAMPER?

SCAMPER thinking technique is a technique created to develop different thinking. This technique provides a pleasant environment for creative thinking. SCAMPER is an acronym developed in 2000 by De Bono. Each letter expresses a specific thinking process:

Substitution (S); Thinking of replacing part of the object, idea, or process with something else. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “What else is there instead? Other than that, what approaches, materials or components can I use?”

Combine (S); Consider combining two or more components of the object or approach to create synergy and produce a new product. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “What material/idea/object can I combine?”

Adapt (A); Thinking about what parts of the object or approach can be adapted, how we can change its nature in this way. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “What can I adapt to use as a solution? Who might I emulate? What might I copy?”

Magnify, Modify (M);  Thinking about altering the object or approach completely or partially unorthodox. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “What can I add/remove? What different shapes/components can I adopt?”

Put to Other Uses (P); Thinking about how you might use the object or approach for another purpose. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “Can this be used elsewhere? What are the new ways to use this? If changed, for what other purposes can it be used?”

Eliminate (E); Thinking about what might happen if you remove parts of the object or approach and what you can do in this situation. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “What can I ignore? What can I eliminate? What can I shrink, shorten or lighten?”

Rearrange, Reverse (R); Thinking about what you can do if parts of the object or approach are reversed or the order is changed. At this stage, we can ask the following questions: “What can be rearranged? What other order or order can I adopt? Can the components be changed? Can the roles be reversed?”

How to implement SCAMPEP in STEM activities?

Using this technique in STEM activities will increase students’ creative thinking skills. SCAMPER provides a pleasant environment for all ages to practice creative thinking in STEM activities. Besides, the main questions in the technique provide a concrete system for flexible and fluent thinking.

In this part of my article, I want to explain an application I made in my classroom. As known, Arduino is a tool that can be used in many STEM projects. While working on a water level project with my students, I thought of using the SCAMPER technique. I asked them the following question: “For what other purposes can we use the water level/rain sensor we used in our project?” This question was intended to direct them to the “Putting For Other Uses (P)” topic in the technique.

SCAMPER_STEM ACTIVITY
A selection of pictures from the project practice– The pictures are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

In general, the answers were ideas with which the water level/rain sensor could be used and easily thought of. However, my aim was mostly to get my students to think of using this object for completely different purposes. So I decided to push their creativity with a problem statement. I asked them: “Can you build a weight measuring device (weigher) with a water level/rain sensor?”

SCAMPER_STEM ACTIVITY
A selection of pictures from the project practice– The pictures are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)
SCAMPER_STEM ACTIVITY
A selection of pictures from the project practice– The pictures are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

At the first stage, I could see from the expressions on their faces that there was a surprising question. Could we come up with a design different from the format of a scale used in daily life? To do this, I wanted them to consider what the dependent and independent variables were, as we do in every observation / experimental study. The water level/rain sensor was working depending on the water height. I said that if they can correlate weight and water level change, they can use it in their setup. At this stage, we sought an answer to the substitution title of the technique. They started to modify (M) the products that emerged after the work was done. They started to change their designs completely or partially. Interesting and creative combinations of mechanisms began to emerge.

SCAMPER_STEM ACTIVITY
A selection of pictures from the project practice– The pictures are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

The resulting designs had to work at their best. We were aiming for a cost-efficient and easy-to-use design. At this stage, we worked on the technique of Eliminate (E). In designs “What can I ignore? What can I eliminate? What can I reduce, shorten or lighten?” We sought answers to your questions. This thinking technique also helped to make our designs work most efficiently with the least cost.

SCAMPER_STEM ACTIVITY
SCAA selection of pictures from the project practice– The pictures are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

All stages of the SCAMPER technique encouraged creativity in STEM activities we do with our students.

At the end of our event, we examined the designs they created by combining the laws of physics and technology in one process. We chose designs with the most efficient and ideal benefit/cost ratio. I also let them apply other steps of the STEM approach and improve their designs.

In my next lessons, we made different designs using the SCAMPER thinking technique. Going beyond the known, thinking differently, and being creative emerged as activities that encouraged creativity.

The future belongs to those who make a difference.

About the author: Adnan Akyüz – High school physics teacher | STEM Educator Trainer /Turkey

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