Designing to Integrate New Technology in Architectural Applications

Happy Fourth of July weekend to those of you who are in the U.S.! Today at the Engineering Design Club, we focused on two different things: Designing to Integrate New Tech in Architectural Applications and Every Kid Gets a Robot assembly. This blog post was co-written by Brianne Boyer.

Frank Gehry

Architecture is all around us, but why learn about it? It is important for kids to learn how to sift through information, comprehend their findings, and figure out how to come up with complex solutions. Architecture teaches things like sustainability, structure, drawing, planning, and transformative design.

Every Kid Gets a Robot

Every Kid Gets a Robot is a robot that I designed to increase robotics educational accessibility for kids. Robotics education is important because its a hands-on way to teach a variety of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills from electrical work to design to programming in a way that kids will remember. The wheels and chassis is 3D printed, and the kids each have their own kit that we will work on assembling over the next couple of classes in stages. Today. we focused on assembly and understanding each design aspect, more about motors, and wheels. Next session, we will be working on reading electrical diagrams and wiring the robot. The kids will be taking their own robot home at the end of the class!

(1) Designing to Integrate New Technology in Architectural Applications

Lesson Objectives:

1. Learn about new technology and how it is applied to architecture

2. Apply new technology to an architectural design

3. Begin to understand blueprint reading and design

4. Communicate design to peers

In a group, we covered fun new tech and tech that wouldn't be well known by the kids (see below), as well as the basics of blueprint reading.

Everyone had the challenge of designing a building around a randomly selected new technology via an aerial view sketch. A few of the awesome new technologies we learned about:

(A) Paint that can Sense Cracks in a Structure

This works by placing electrodes around the outer layer of the building and then layering a conductive paint over them. Then electrical current in run through them in different combinations, and a computer system hooked up to it can work out where the electrical potential has been altered (by cracks and other deformities) and it gives builders the information they need to fix cracks that aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Smithsonian Magazine

(B) Smart Bricks

Kite Bricks, a new and ever-expanding company, wants to use LEGO as a basis for a new building material called Smart Bricks. These concrete-molded bricks can, in a way, snap together. To make them stay together, a mortar-like adhesive is needed between each set of bricks. The holes running lengthwise can be threaded with rebar for extra structural reinforcement. A portion of each brick can be taken out for access to the plumbing, electrical wires, etc. inside them. Kite Bricks is still working on developing the final versions of Smart Bricks and making them accessible to construction companies.

(C) Plastic that Lights up from air Pressure

This plastic is infused with "colored phosphors made out of copper-doped zinc sulfide” (PhysOrg). This makes it possible for the little plastic tubes on the right to light up when the wind is blowing. Although this material is not yet being used in

construction, it is not far off from becoming mainstream. It could be an easy way to create large amounts of light in a city, or to show the masses what the weather conditions are in that moment.

(D) 3D Printed Walls A company called Branch Technology is currently developing a large 3D printer to create wall modules with conventional materials. The printer uses ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fiber which is filled in with spray-foam insulation and layered with concrete. These walls can be fabricated off-site, but are unfortunately very expensive. They cost more than wood or metal structures. Branch Tech is hoping to improve the speed of the printer, as it is currently printing at a rate of only 1.5 pounds per hour. They want to reach up to 13 pounds per hour in the near future.

(E) Aerogel Insulation Aerogels are highly porous solids which are made by extracting liquid from a gel that dries under a special condition. It produces a material consisting of mostly air. Aerogels are very effective, environmentally friendly, and conducts the least amount of heat of any solid. This makes them a great substitute for normal insulation. They are up to four times more effective than fiberglass insulation. Aerogels are not yet widely used, but are predicted to be mainstream by 2020.


(F) Cool Brick “Cool Brick” is a new and budding 3D-printed alternative to costly HVAC systems. These bricks are made of highly porous 3D-printed ceramic bricks set in mortar. Each brick is printed with a network of moisture-capturing micro-pores. When warm air moves through each brick, the water held in each pore evaporates and cools the air left in the bricks. This, as a result, lowers the temperature of the building in the process.

(G) Spray Foam Insulation Spray foam insulation is an environmentally safe insulation material that seals floors, ceilings, and walls against air movement. Some spray foam insulation can expand up to 100 times its original size, which fills in all cavities. This is unlike traditional insulation which can leak through any space not filled in. It never loses its shape, can control sound, deters mold growth due to its inability to retain water, and reduces air flow and drafts.


(H) Clear Solar Cells

Transparent solar panels open the door to the possibility of homes being close to self-reliant with power and electricity. Windows could be power generators, and humans could completely forget about the dark, ugly solar panels of the olden days. The biggest issue with this material is that it doesn’t have nearly the same level of efficiency as regular solar cells do. In the future, developers of this type of solar cells are hoping to make it meet or surpass the efficiency of the old panels.

The Results

We rotated through two groups during the class period. In each group, the kids randomly selected new technologies to integrate into their design. Here are a couple designs that the kids did:

(2) Every Kid Gets a Robot Assembly

Today we assembled Every Kid Gets a Robot, learning more about motors, voltage, connectors, fasteners, and more! I won't be blogging too much in depth about the robot because we would like to keep this robot off the market. I am very excited for them to take their own app controlled robots home! Other students have said that they've used Every Kid Gets a Robot to edit and implement sensors (like a sonic sensor), to chase around family pets with, and to take apart and rebuild. It has many great purposes that I am enthused to see the kids implement beyond this class.

If you are interested in bringing Every Kid Gets a Robot to your school, reach out to us at! We are testing a school curriculum and would love to have a few participants who are willing to try out the robot before we start sending kits to schools with non-STEM teachers leading the lessons.


Contact Us

Our workshop and classroom is located at 330 E Maple Rd, Suite B, Troy MI USA, 48083. We are not open to the public. Thank you for this donated space, InVanse Technologies.

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 COPYRIGHT © 2021 by THE STEAM CONNECTION. All Rights Reserved. All art is illustrated and the property of Danielle Boyer.