Dr. John X. Wang's latest book Industrial Engineering Design: Inventive Problem Solving was featured as ISE Magazine May 2017 Book of the Month. The book was dedicated “To the beautiful Sonny Wang Kindergarten where engineering dreams start”.
Poetic thinking is about finding inspiration from different facets of life in aid of the production of an industrial engineering design, as well as helping the functional design achieve an emotional impact as an engineer’s best inspiration. Let’s start from the story about the Mother’s Best Flower. Lisa always expects flowers from our kids, especially on Mother’s Day. However, I believe the best flowers for any mother is her kids live an impactful life that inspires others to live with more passion, more love,and renewed vision.
My inspiration starts from my son Sonny’s story, starting from last year’s Mother’s Day. My wife Lisa checked the door of our home many times, hoping the flowers from Sonny would magically appear by the door. Unfortunately, both Lisa and I knew we could not receive flowers, because Sonny died tragically in a fire accident one and half months before. However, it was also on that day we received the good news of his church missionary. That good news reminded me of a childhood story about the best flowers for a mom.
Many years ago, a young man was going away for his mission, dangerous and noble. Before leaving his mom, he said, “Mom, I will send my horse with the best flowers to you if I cannot return to you, to my sweet home.”
The mom sealed his mouth with her hand, and said, “No, son. If I can hear the good news of your accomplished mission, if the horse can carry the good news back to our sweet home, that is the best flowers for me.”
Magically, we have been always receiving good news of Sonny’s Mission on Mother’s Day:
Three years ago, we received the news that Sonny accomplished his trip to Wisconsin as a Church’s youth director.
Two years ago, we received the news that Sonny accomplished his trip to Nebraska to help the Native American community there.
Last year, after Sonny passed away, we received the news about Sonny Wang’s Kindergarten from the Mission Starfish, a church in Haiti.
It was on Mother’s Day last year, on the bank of the beautiful Grand River, Lisa and I read a letter about Mission Starfish. With the help of money from Sonny’s life insurance policy the Mission was able to build the Sonny Wang Kindergarten, established in Haiti to honor our Sonny who extended his love far beyond his church and community. As shown by the attached photo (Courtesy of Mission Starfish Haiti), in Haiti, the beautiful Sonny Wang Kindergarten has classroom space for 135 kids and worship space for over 100 people!
According to research, engineering dreams start from kindergarten classrooms. Concepts about the world—the beginning of engineering— begin at birth. Young children, particularly kindergarten-aged children, have inquiring minds and are natural engineers. Kids enter kindergarten classrooms with curiosity and the ability to explore. These make them enthusiastic about learning about our world. They wonder about
How things work,
Why things change, and want to experiment, touch, and
What happens if ….
According to a research at the University of Maryland, where Sonny attended the Center for Young Children (CYC) many years ago, learning about engineering builds on this period in kindergarten children’s development. Engineering offers children the opportunity to do what comes naturally:
Ask questions (what, how, and 5 whys …),
Communicate their thinking through actions, words, drawings, or constructions, and
Build things together (group technology).
It’s in kindergarten classrooms that kids get the early ideas: engineering
is a way of doing. Engineering is solving problems, using a variety of materials, designing and creating, and building things that work.
On the bank of the river, I recalled it was here that Sonny and I talked about:
Never too old to learn, and
Never too young to learn.
Sonny, were you talking about future kindergarten classrooms, where many engineering dreams would start?
Today the Sonny Wang kindergarten building comes to our world as Creole-based digital tools are entering classrooms to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in Haiti. Historically, Haitian children have been educated exclusively in French, a language in which most of the population are not fluent. Using Creole for Haitian education will provide Haitian children quality access for STEM education.
While Haitian children feel most comfortable with Creole, the use of French in Haiti’s classrooms has been a national education policy. School exams as well as national assessment tests are mostly conducted in French, rather than Creole. STEM course materials have been available exclusively in French, too. In Haiti’s classrooms, most children do not like to ask or answer questions because they are constantly struggling to translate from Creole into French or from French into Creole.
The use of French creates problems for teachers as well. Haiti’s teachers prefer to teach in Creole because that is the language with which they feel most comfortable also. They like to make jokes when they teach. That humor is essential for good teaching—to wake the students up, to keep them alert, and to make them feel relaxed.
Now the work of pro-Creole educators both in Haiti and in the Haitian Diaspora starts to show the key benefits of a Creole-based education at all levels of the education system. Earlier this year, Haiti adopted a new educational policy that will allow students to be educated in Creole, which is as capable of conveying complicated intellectual concepts as any other Indo-European tongue.
Creole-based digital tools meet crucial needs in Haiti by introducing modern techniques for interactive pedagogy while helping to develop digital resources in Creole. Digital tools including STAR, Mathlets, and PhET have been translated into Creole and provide proof of concept of Creole as a necessary ingredient for active learning in Haiti.
The initiative of using Creole-based digital tools will have a profound impact on the way people think about teaching STEM in mother tongues, and serve as a very important model for similar initiatives around the globe. Across large swaths of Africa and the Americas, indigenous languages continue to face systematic marginalization. This new initiative provides a guide for these populations to empower their children with engineering tools to mitigate risk and uncertainty in STEM education.
On the bank of the beautiful Grand River, Lisa and I read about Sonny Wang’s kindergarten classrooms, where beautiful engineering dreams will start. Looking at dreaming a creative tool—a catalyst—for productivity and problem solving, the new kindergarten will show explored free flow of thoughts as a design method, how daring to dream leads to final creative output.
For industrial design engineering, continual improvement process is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. Sonny lived an impactful life with a renewed vision reflected by the Mission Starfish:
Every action, no matter how small, can make a difference.
Here is the Mission Starfish Story as told to me:
A young boy walked along the beach and found thousands of starfish washed up because of a terrible storm. When he came to each starfish, he would pick it up and throw it back into the ocean. People watched him with amusement, and said, “Boy, why are you doing this? You can’t save all these starfish. There are too many. You can’t really make a difference!” But the boy continued to bend down, picked up another starfish, and threw it as far as possible into the ocean, and said, “Well, I made a difference to that starfish.”
By conclusion, let me call to action—for each of you, you never know what day will be your last, so live an impactful life that will send the good news of your mission to your mom. That is the best flowers you can send to your mom just as Sonny sent the best flower to his mom Lisa.