Curricular Unit: Intro to Engineering through Sports and the Olympics

Quick Look

Grade Level: 4 (3-5)

Choose From: 6 lessons and 6 activities

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

Three photos show legs of soccer players around a ball, athlete with arms raised and medal around her neck, interior of a huge, modern stadium filled with soccer-watching fans.
Olympics and Engineering
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Students are introduced to the basic principles behind engineering and the types of engineering while learning about an always-popular topic—the Olympics. The involvement of engineering in modern sports is amazing and pervasive. Students learn about the techniques of engineering problem solving, including brainstorming and the engineering design process. The importance of thinking out of the box is stressed through a discussion of the engineering required to build grand, often complex, Olympic event centers. Students review what they know about kinetic and potential energy as they investigate the design of energy-absorbing materials, relating this to the design of lighter, faster and stronger sports equipment to improve athletic performance and protect athletes. Students consider states of matter and material properties as they see the role of chemical engineering in the Olympics. Students also learn about transportation and the environment, and the relationship between architecture and engineering.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Working in teams, engineers approach creative problem-solving by using the techniques of brainstorming and following the cyclical steps of engineering design process. Engineers are challenged to think "outside of the box" as they envision, design and create complex projects, structures, products, materials and processes. Engineers are intimately involved in transportation, the environment, architecture, sports—and really everything in our human-made world.

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 (

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.

NGSS Performance Expectation

2-PS1-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties. (Grade 2)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer a question.

Alignment agreement:

Different kinds of matter exist and many of them can be either solid or liquid, depending on temperature. Matter can be described and classified by its observable properties.

Alignment agreement:

Patterns in the natural and human designed world can be observed.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 3 - 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem.

Alignment agreement:

Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.

Alignment agreement:

At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs.

Alignment agreement:

Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits, to decrease known risks, and to meet societal demands.

Alignment agreement:

Suggest an alignment not listed above

Worksheets and Attachments

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More Curriculum Like This

Olympic Engineering: Design Process to Create Competition Venues

The Olympics are introduced as the unit theme by describing the engineering required to build grand and complex event centers. Then students are introduced to the techniques of engineering problem solving, specifically brainstorming and the steps of the engineering design process.

Time for Design

Students are introduced to the engineering design process, focusing on the concept of brainstorming design alternatives. They learn that engineering is about designing creative ways to improve existing artifacts, technologies or processes, or developing new inventions that benefit society.

preview of 'Time for Design' Lesson
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Exploring Nondestructive Evaluation Methods

Students learn about nondestructive testing, the use of the finite element method (systems of equations) and real-world impacts, and then conduct mini-activities to apply Maxwell’s equations, generate currents, create magnetic fields and solve a system of equations. They see the value of NDE and FEM...

Do You See What I See?

Students explore the concept of optical character recognition (OCR) in a problem-solving environment. They research OCR and OCR techniques and then apply those methods to the design challenge by developing algorithms capable of correctly "reading" a number on a typical high school sports scoreboard....

preview of 'Do You See What I See?' Lesson
High School Lesson

Unit Schedule


© 2006 by Regents of the University of Colorado


See individual lessons and activities.

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program and Laboratory, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


This digital library content was developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and the 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.

Last modified: August 7, 2019


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