Hands-on Activity: Ranking the Rocks

Contributed by: Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Two photos: Two people with headlamps in an angular-walled rock cavern .A hammer rests on a pile of rocks of assorted types and sizes.
What are the best rocks to build caverns?
copyright
Copyright © (cave photo) National Park Service, (rocks & hammer) Utah Geological Survey http://www.nps.gov/jeca/parknews/images/Jewel-Cave-Marc-Ohms-photo.jpg http://geology.utah.gov/surveynotes/gladasked/landscape_rocks/muskratstation.htm

Summary

Student teams assign importance factors, called "desirability points," to the rock properties found in the previous lesson/activity in order to mathematically determine the overall best rocks for building caverns within. They learn the real-world connections and relationships between the rock and the important engineering properties for designing and building caverns (or tunnels, mines, building foundations, etc.).
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineers determine the locations and construction methods to create caverns, tunnels, mines, bridges and foundations. To do this, they look at data from a variety of sources. They consider locations and rock properties as they apply to specific real-world design and construction situations. They make calculations and consider alternative options. They even make calculations to compare solutions to each other. They take all these steps so they make smart decisions that keep people safe.

Learning Objectives

  • Take data from a graph and enter it into a table.
  • Synthesize data from numerous categories and build a concise table of data.
  • Relate rock properties to real-world design and construction applications.
  • Use a mathematical scoring system to rank solutions.
  • Synthesize the best rocks with all previous data to update their candidate cavern locations.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Use data collected to analyze and interpret trends in order to identify the positive and negative effects of a technology. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Interpret and evaluate the accuracy of the information obtained and determine if it is useful. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop and communicate an evidence based scientific explanation around one or more factors that change Earth's surface (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Analyze and interpret data identifying ways Earth's surface is constantly changing through a variety of processes and forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, deposition, solar influences, climate, and human activity (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Gather, analyze, and communicate data that explains Earth's plates, plate motions, and the results of plate motions (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Ranking the Rocks Worksheet

Introduction/Motivation

Your final cavern location should be in rock that has good properties for construction. This activity will help you determine the best properties as apply to our engineering design objectives.

Procedure

  1. Discuss the relevance of the various rock properties to cavern building through a class question/answer session.
  2. Explain that "desirability points" are used to rank the rocks from best to worst.
  3. As necessary, review graphs and what they mean. For example, plot shoe size vs. height and ask students to explain what the graph means. This review helps students understand the desirability graph.
  4. Have student engineering teams complete the Desirability Points and Rock Ranking Table on the worksheet. Walk them through the process for one rock (such as limestone); then have them finish the rest of the table in their groups.
  5. Have student teams answer the rest of the worksheet questions.
  6. Conclude the activity by have each each team share their top location with the rest of the class.

Attachments

Assessment

  • Review students' worksheet answers to gauge their comprehension of the subject matter.
  • As a concluding quiz, give students a dfferent graph for interpretation.
  • Really test students' ability to consider all factors by conducting the extension activity.

Activity Extensions

Have each group write the grid location of one of their choices on a piece of paper. Have teams swap pieces of paper. Give teams five minutes to find the locations on the map grid and study its location on both maps. Write down reasons why you think it is a good choice and why it is might not be a good choice. Call upon each group to share and discuss their findings. Display the big map in the front of the classroom to show the grid locations.

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Acknowledgements

Adventure Engineering was supported by National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 9950660 and GK-12 0086457. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: May 25, 2017

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