Hands-on Activity: Engineering for the Three Little Pigs
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each group needs:
To share with the entire class:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
What kinds of materials are used to make buildings? Do you know? Some buildings are made of wood, stone, steel, concrete, brick or adobe (List these on the board.) Which of these come from a rock, soil or mineral? Almost all of them are directly made from rocks, soils and minerals. From the list we made, only wood is not actually a rock, soil or mineral. However, since trees need soil to grow, wood is still closely related.
When building any type of structure, engineers need to make sure they pick the right material for the job. Let's think about some examples. (Start a new list on the board of the material properties engineers consider from the examples below.) Why do you think engineers do not build airplanes out of marble? Well, marble is too heavy, and the plane might not be able to lift up into the air! So engineers use aluminum, which is still strong, but much lighter. Engineers do not always have to think about the weight of a material when building something. Why don't engineers build big skyscrapers out of wood? Wood is not strong enough to hold up such a tall structure. We can use wood to build houses, because they are shorter. So, engineers have to think about the strength of the material they are using. However, wood is still cheap and easy to work with. Why don't engineers build bridges out of diamonds? Diamonds are very strong, but they are incredibly expensive, and building a bridge out of diamonds would be very difficult. Engineers have to think about how much a material costs when they are using it as well as how easy it is to work with the material. Why don't engineers build houses out of concrete? Sometimes they do, but usually houses are built out of wood or bricks because people like the way it looks better than concrete. Engineers have to think about the way things look when building something, as appeal is a great motivator for finished products.
So, many of the materials that engineers use when they are constructing come from rocks, soils and minerals. Engineers need to know about the properties of the different materials and how to use them in order to create something that is heavy or light enough, strong, cost effective and aesthetic (looks good), as well as functional, safe and reliable. Today, we are going to create buildings out of different materials. You are going to be the engineers who figure out which materials are best for the buildings we are making, taking into consideration all the properties of materials that we have discussed.
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Part I: Building
About four days before the testing part of the activity, have the students construct four of the buildings as follows.
Part 2: Testing
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
Students may need help peeling the paper cups off their sand buildings
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Poll: Before the activity, ask all students the same question. Have students raise their hand to answer the question. Write answers on the board, and summarize (in percentages or actual number of students) who answered the same or similarly. Ask students:
Activity Embedded Assessment
Prediction: Have students predict which buildings (A, B or C) will hold up best under water (weather) or the brick (weight) and record predictions on a sheet of paper or the board.
Group Question: During the activity, ask the groups:
Engineering Cost Analysis: Ask students to think about the situation if they had to live in a sand house: would they want live in a house like building A, B or C? Engineers also often must consider materials cost and other factors when building a house. Which of these buildings is the most expensive to build? Have the students think about the following cost problem:
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Have students build other buildings using different materials such as cement, clay, plaster and assorted soils. Test these buildings in the same way to determine which are successful and which are not. Then, discuss how these materials come from rocks, soils and minerals to reinforce their importance to engineering.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
Trakhtenberg, Izolda. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, "Soil Science Education Homepage," National Science Foundation, grant no. 9801747, April 20, 2005, http://soil.gsfc.nasa.gov/ Accessed June 19, 2006.
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Science Topics – Earth Characteristics, "Rocks and Deposits," March 17, 2006, http://www.usgs.gov/science/science.php?term=1005 Accessed June 19, 2006.
WGBH Educational Foundation and Sirius Thinking, PBS Kids, Between the Lions, "Huff and Puff," http://pbskids.org/lions/huff/ Accessed June 13, 2006.
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, "Geology," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology Accessed June 19, 2006.
ContributorsGeoffrey Hill, Tim Nicklas, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
Copyright© 2006 by Regents of the University of Colorado
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder
Last Modified: March 12, 2014