Student project work
Most technology subjects involve students undertaking independent and group project work. In some cases, teachers determine the nature of project work by specifying design briefs or project topics. In others, students negotiate with the teacher to determine the type of project that will be developed, for example, the major project for the HSC in Design and Technology, Textiles and Design and Industrial Technology.
When setting design tasks and determining the parameters within which students will work, teachers establish the issues to be considered during the development of the project. Safety issues are key considerations throughout the development of all projects. Where hazards are identified, a risk assessment should be undertaken and action initiated to eliminate or control the hazard.
In all cases the teacher must ensure that students or other people are not exposed to unacceptable risks caused by students undertaking unsafe activities or by developing inappropriate projects.
It is not acceptable, for example, for students to produce weapons. In some instances, legal and industrial barriers may limit the involvement of students in certain types of project work for example in aspects of automotive repair and maintenance.
Students involved in web site development need to be aware of the school Internet policy and not disclose personal information that may put themselves or others at risk.
In some cases it may be necessary to contract a licensed tradesperson to complete aspects of projects, or to have products, for example, car trailers approved or registered by a Government authority. It is recommended that electronics projects, developed using voltages in excess of 32V be inspected by a qualified person and approved in writing prior to any circuit being activated.
Students undertaking independent research should be aware of possible risks and work with their teacher to eliminate any risks which could occur in out-of-school situations. A student may take another student with them to interviews to give them more confidence and ensure personal safety. A student conducting taste-testing as a market research tool, for example, would need to ensure hygienic conditions for all participants throughout the experiment. A student using animals for research purposes would need to comply with Animals in Schools: Animal welfare guidelines for teachers published by the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee.
In addition to the risks that may be experienced during the design and production of projects, teachers need to remain aware of how products and systems may be used when they have been taken away from the school. For instance, it is advisable to ensure that parents or caregivers are aware of the dangers associated with surfboards, kayaks and boats before commencement of the project.
The storage of student projects needs to be considered, especially if projects are large. A project may pose a manual handling hazard or a create a risk of tripping if inadequately stored. Bulky, awkward or heavy items require special consideration particularly if stored above floor level.
Strategies that may assist with storage of large projects include:
- limiting the number of projects approved by the teacher that may contribute to storage problems. Teachers may need to negotiate alternate projects for students affected by such safety and logistic decisions.
- assisting students to design and plan their projects in a modular or knock-down style
- delaying final assembly until absolutely necessary, this will also reduce potential damage to projects whilst in storage
- allowing a project to be stored off-site or in another space at school that is secure if the project is completed well ahead of schedule
- stating in the project brief limitations, the maximum dimension of a completed project. This is particularly appropriate for classrooms that are shared by a number of teachers.