Monthly Editor's Pick

preview of 'Building Tetrahedral Kites' Activity

May 2023

Building Tetrahedral Kites Activity

Working in teams of four, students build tetrahedral kites following specific instructions and using specific materials. They use the basic processes of manufacturing systems – cutting, shaping, forming, conditioning, assembling, joining, finishing, and quality control – to manufacture complete tetrahedral kites within a given time frame.

preview of 'Building a Piezoelectric Generator' Activity

April 2023

Building a Piezoelectric Generator Activity

Build simple piezoelectric generators to power LEDs! In this activity, students incorporate into a circuit a piezoelectric element that converts movements they make into electrical energy, which is stored in a capacitor. Once enough energy is stored, they flip a switch to light up an LED. Students also learn how much (surprisingly little) energy can be converted using the current state of technology for piezoelectric materials.

preview of 'Swing in Time' Activity

March 2023

Swing in Time Activity

Studying the motion of pendulums helps students gain an understanding of the use of timing and intervals in engineering. In this activity student groups conduct an experiment and collect and graph data based on their findings. The test different weights and make predictions about the period of time in which their pendulums swing.

preview of 'Reaction Exposed: The Big Chill!' Activity

February 2023

Reaction Exposed: The Big Chill! Activity

Discover the primary relationships to engineering that exist between bench scale and full scale in this activity, where students investigate how citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) react to form sodium citrate, water, and carbon dioxide. By analyzing the test matrix data, they determine the optimum quantities to use in their own production companies to minimize material cost and maximize carbon dioxide production.

preview of 'Saltwater Circuit' Activity

January 2023

Saltwater Circuit Activity

How conductive is saltwater compared to freshwater, if at all? In this activity, students investigate the conductivity of saltwater and develop an understanding of how the amount of salt in a solution impacts how much electrical current flows through the circuit. They learn about one real-world application of a saltwater circuit — as a desalination plant tool to test for the removal of salt from ocean water.

preview of 'Creating Model Working Lungs: Just Breathe ' Activity

December 2022

Creating Model Working Lungs: Just Breathe Activity

Breathe in... breathe out... ahhh! In this activity, students explore the inhalation/exhalation process that occurs in the lungs during respiration. Using everyday materials, each student team designs a lung model.

preview of 'To Pollinate or Not to Pollinate' Activity

November 2022

To Pollinate or Not to Pollinate Activity

By studying how bees and flowers interact with one another, we can also understand engineering practices related to our environment! In this activity, students engineer a model of a flower to test different materials’ ability to pollinate another flower.

preview of 'Paper Circuits Greeting Cards' Activity

October 2022

Paper Circuits Greeting Cards Activity

Create a sure-to-impress flashing birthday card or design a light-up holiday card—all with paper circuits! In this activity, students are guided through the process to create simple paper circuitry using only copper tape, a coin cell battery, a light-emitting diode (LED) and small electronic components such as a LilyPad Button Board.

preview of 'Edible Rovers' Activity

September 2022

Edible Rovers Activity

Design a Mars exploratory rover, with a tasty twist! In this activity, students evaluate rover equipment options and determine what edible parts fit in a NASA budget that the teacher provides. With a parts list, teams use these constraints to design for their rover. The students build and display their edible rover at a concluding design review.

preview of 'Stack It Up!' Activity

August 2022

Stack It Up! Activity

Learn how to design an amazing engineering marvel from the ancient world: the pyramid! In this activity, students work in engineering teams to perform calculations to determine the area of the pyramid base, stone block volumes, and the number of blocks required for their pyramid base. Students also make a scaled drawing of the pyramid using graph paper.

preview of 'Make Your Own Temperature Scale' Activity

July 2022

Make Your Own Temperature Scale Activity

What's the difference between temperature and thermal energy? Have your students explore these concept as they use the engineering design process to create thermometers using simple materials and to develop their own scales for measuring temperature. They compare their thermometers to a commercial thermometer, and get a sense for why engineers need to understand the properties of thermal energy.

preview of 'Keep Your Cool! Design Your Own Cooler Challenge' Maker Challenge

June 2022

Keep Your Cool! Design Your Own Cooler Challenge Maker Challenge

Keep cool this summer with a student-driven cooler design! In this activity, students work through the engineering design process and brainstorm a design of their cooler and its attributes. They then choose from the materials provided to create a prototype. Students have the opportunity to test their prototype by measuring the room temperature, the starting temperature of the water and graphing, and monitoring the change in temperature over increments time in comparison to the room temperature water.

preview of 'Design Your Own Nano-Polymer Smartphone Case' Maker Challenge

May 2022

Design Your Own Nano-Polymer Smartphone Case Maker Challenge

Students work through the engineering design process to design and create their own nano-polymer smartphone or tablet case. Students choose their design, mix their nano-polymer (based in silicone) with starch and add coloring of their choice. While thinking critically about their design, students embed strings in the nano-polymer to optimize both case strength and flexibility.

preview of 'Protect Your Body, Filter Your Water!' Activity

April 2022

Protect Your Body, Filter Your Water! Activity

Make sense of the problem of drinking water contamination. In this activity, students explore how substances such as prescription medication, pesticides and hormones are found in municipal drinking water sources. Using chlorine as a proxy for pharmaceuticals found in water, student groups design and test prototype devices that remove the contamination as efficiently and effectively as possible.

preview of 'Sink or Float? Engineering Solutions for a Sticky Situation' Activity

March 2022

Sink or Float? Engineering Solutions for a Sticky Situation Activity

Why do some objects float while others sink? Students make sense of this phenomenon by engaging in the science and engineering practices of asking questions and defining problems, using models, and designing solutions. Students then apply what they discover to solve everyday situations, such as preventing a car from sinking.

preview of 'Element, Mixture, Compound' Activity

February 2022

Element, Mixture, Compound Activity

Element, mixture, or compound? In this classic activity, students gain a better understanding of the different types of materials engineers use, such as pure substances and mixtures. They also learn to distinguish between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures by discussing an assortment of example materials they use and encounter in their daily lives.

preview of 'Leaning Tower of Pasta' Activity

January 2022

Leaning Tower of Pasta Activity

A classic TeachEngineering activity! Using spaghetti and marshmallows, students experiment with different structures to determine which ones are able to handle the greatest amount of load. Their experiments help them to further understand the effects that compression and tension forces have with respect to the strength of structures

preview of 'Creating an Electromagnet' Activity

December 2021

Creating an Electromagnet Activity

What are the properties of electromagnets? In this activity, students create their own small electromagnets and experiment with ways to change their strength to pick up paper clips. Learn about ways that engineers use electromagnets in everyday applications!

preview of 'Design a Better Bandage' Maker Challenge

November 2021

Design a Better Bandage Maker Challenge

What might make a bandage better? In this challenge, students follow the engineering design process and use water-absorbing crystals to create a bandage that may be used in a traumatic situation, like a car accident or hiking accident. Students first observe how water-absorbing crystals work and then consider how their function could be applied in a medical setting

preview of 'Mathematically Designing a Frictional Roller Coaster ' Activity

October 2021

Mathematically Designing a Frictional Roller Coaster Activity

What can roller coasters teach us about math and physics? In this activity, students apply high school-level differential calculus and physics to the design of two-dimensional roller coasters while considering frictional forces. In a challenge the mirrors real-world engineering, the roller coaster must be made from at least five differentiable functions. Teams build and test small-sized prototype models of the exact designs using foam pipe wrap insulation as the roller coaster track channel and using marbles as the ride "carts."

preview of 'Design a Solar City' Activity

September 2021

Design a Solar City Activity

In a time when creating clean energy is essential to the future health of our planet, engineers are looking for every way possible to produce carbon-free power. In this activity, students design and build a model city powered by the sun! They learn about the benefits of solar power, and how architectural and building engineers integrate photovoltaic panels into the design of buildings.

preview of 'Operation Build a Bridge and Get Over It ' Activity

August 2021

Operation Build a Bridge and Get Over It Activity

Taking on the role of structural engineers. students learn about forces and load distributions as they follow the steps of the engineering design process to design and build small-scale bridges using wooden tongue depressors and glue. Teams brainstorm ideas that meet the size and material design constraints and create prototype bridges of the most promising solutions. They test their bridges to see how much weight they can hold until they break and then determine which have the highest strength-to-weight ratios.

preview of 'Create a Safe Bungee Cord for Washy! ' Activity

July 2021

Create a Safe Bungee Cord for Washy! Activity

What can bungee cords teach us about engineering? Have your students learn about the role engineers might play in developing the perfect bungee cord length by simulating and experimenting with bungee jumping using washers and rubber bands. Students work as if they are engineers for an amusement park in order to develop a show-stopping (and safe) bungee jumping ride!

preview of 'Simple Machines and the Rube Goldberg Challenge' Maker Challenge

June 2021

Simple Machines and the Rube Goldberg Challenge Maker Challenge

In this challenge, students research simple mechanisms as they learn to make Rube Goldberg machines! Working in teams, students use the engineering design process to design and build their own Rube Goldberg devices with 10 separate steps—and they must incorporate the six classic simple machines.

preview of 'Charge It! All About Electrical Attraction and Repulsion' Activity

May 2021

Charge It! All About Electrical Attraction and Repulsion Activity

Engage in the engineering practice of asking questions and use balloons to perform simple experiments to make sense of the phenomena of static electricity and charge polarization! Students attract and repel objects with their charged balloons, and explore the disciplinary core idea of electronic and magnetic forces and the crosscutting concept of cause and effect.

preview of 'Model Greenhouses' Activity

April 2021

Model Greenhouses Activity

Teach about the advantages and disadvantages of the greenhouse effect! In this hands-on activity, students construct their own miniature greenhouses and explore how their designs take advantage of heat transfer processes to create controlled environments. They record and graph measurements, comparing the greenhouse indoor and outdoor temperatures over time. Students also consider global issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and their relationship to global warming.

preview of 'Creative Crash Test Cars' Maker Challenge

March 2021

Creative Crash Test Cars Maker Challenge

How does mass affect momentum in a head-on collision? Challenge your students to design or improve an existing passenger compartment design/feature so that it better withstands front-end collisions, protecting riders from injury and resulting in minimal vehicle structural damage. With a raw egg as the test passenger, teams use teacher-provided building materials to add their own safety features onto either a small-size wooden car kit or their own model cars created from scratch.

preview of 'Testing Model Structures: Jell-O Earthquake in the Classroom' Activity

February 2021

Testing Model Structures: Jell-O Earthquake in the Classroom Activity

Make sense of the design challenges engineers face that arise from earthquakes and related tectonic phenomena! In this activity, students work to design and construct buildings to withstand earthquake damage by applying elements of the engineering design process by building their own model structures using toothpicks and marshmallows.

preview of 'Creating Mini Wastewater Treatment Plants' Activity

January 2021

Creating Mini Wastewater Treatment Plants Activity

Engage in the engineering design process to simulate a wastewater treatment plant! Drawing from assorted materials such as gravel, pebbles, sand, activated charcoal and others, students create filter systems inside 2-liter plastic bottles to clean wastewater made of soap, oil, sand or coffee grounds. Students aim to remove the water contaminants while reclaiming the valuable water resource.

preview of 'A Shot Under Pressure' Activity

December 2020

A Shot Under Pressure Activity

Explore the world of projectile physics and fluid dynamics and have students calculate the water pressure in water guns! By measuring the range of the water jets, students can calculate theoretical pressure. Students create graphs to analyze how the predicted pressure relates to the number of times they pump the water gun before shooting.

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