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Monthly Editor's Pick

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.

preview of 'Element, Mixture, Compound' Activity

November 2020

Element, Mixture, Compound Activity

How can we distinguish between compounds, elements, and mixtures? Gain a better understanding of the different types of materials as pure substances and mixtures and have students identify the differences between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures. In this activity, students discuss an assortment of example materials they use and encounter in their daily lives.

preview of 'Make a Sticky-Note Fan with Arduino' Maker Challenge

October 2020

Make a Sticky-Note Fan with Arduino Maker Challenge

All sorts of real-world devices—ranging from toys to large industrial tools—use electric motors. In this maker project, students design their own systems using little motors and learn how to control them using Arduino microcontrollers. Learning how to use microcontrollers correctly to control motors is the first step to using motors in all types of projects!

preview of 'Soil from Spoiled: Engineering a Compost Habitat for Worms' Activity

September 2020

Soil from Spoiled: Engineering a Compost Habitat for Worms Activity

A unique activity for young learners that combines engineering and biology, students design an optimal environment for red wiggler worms in a compost bin using the engineering design process. Students learn about living and non-living things, the habitat of red wigglers, how red wigglers help convert organic waste into soil, as well as composting in nature and as a sustainable practice.

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

August 2020

Keep Your Cool! Design Your Own Cooler Challenge Maker Challenge

Engage students in this refreshing summer project that focuses on design thinking! In this challenge, students prototype an ice cooler and monitor the effectiveness of its ability to keep a bottle of ice water cold in comparison to a bottle of ice water left at room temperature. Along with engaging in the engineering design process, students assess the effectiveness of their cooler by measuring the room temperature, the starting temperature of the water and graphing and monitoring the change in temperature over time.

preview of 'Prodigious Printing Possibilities ' Activity

July 2020

Prodigious Printing Possibilities Activity

3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is transforming the way engineers design, prototype, and build. Engage your students with this unique introduction to the mechanics of 3D printing as they transform into engineers and they work in teams to carry out a 3D printing task. Their mission: "print" using a blunt-tip needle syringe and a variety of colored liquid materials (shampoo, conditioner, aloe, and hand sanitizer) into a small plastic box filled with a gel base.

preview of 'Toxic Island: Designing Devices to Deliver Goods' Maker Challenge

June 2020

Toxic Island: Designing Devices to Deliver Goods Maker Challenge

A classic engineering challenge involves designing and building devices that can deliver necessary goods to “Toxic Island,” an island that has been quarantined by the World Health Organization due to a nasty outbreak of disease. In this maker challenge, students design a device that must not touch the water or the island, and must deliver supplies accurately... and quickly!

preview of 'Insulation Materials Investigation' Activity

May 2020

Insulation Materials Investigation Activity

Engineers design thermal insulation for countless products and purposes, including pipe installations, shipping and handling for food and beverages, space travel, and even our clothing! In this activity, students learn about the role that thermal insulation materials can play in reducing heat transfer by conduction, convection and radiation, as well as the design and implementation of insulating materials in construction and engineering.

preview of 'The Dirty Water Project: Design-Build-Test Your Own Water Filters' Activity

April 2020

The Dirty Water Project: Design-Build-Test Your Own Water Filters Activity

Create and test a water filter at home! This hands-on activity allows students to investigate different methods for removing pollutants from water, including aeration and filtration. Have your students design, build, and test their own filter prototypes by conducting their own "dirty water projects."

preview of 'Out-of-the Box: A Furniture Design + Engineering Challenge ' Maker Challenge

March 2020

Out-of-the Box: A Furniture Design + Engineering Challenge Maker Challenge

Engage students in a unique approach to engineering and aesthetics with cardboard furniture designs! Challenge students to design and build architecturally inspired cardboard furniture, cultivate their industrial engineering and design skills, and allow them to explore how to meet functional, aesthetic and financial requirements of a given plan. Let form follow function!

preview of 'Trebuchet Design & Build Challenge ' Activity

February 2020

Trebuchet Design & Build Challenge Activity

Ready, set, launch! Students explore a classic engineering design used during the Middle Ages to launch projectiles over or through castle walls as well as study modern day examples used in events such as the "Punkin’ Chunkin’." Students work in teams research how to design and build their own trebuchets from scratch while following a select number of constraints. They test their trebuchets, evaluate their results through several quantitative analyses, and present their results and design process to their classmates.

preview of 'Be “Cool” with Popsicle Engineering' Activity

January 2020

Be “Cool” with Popsicle Engineering Activity

Engage young learners in a tasty activity to help them understand the basic steps of the engineering design process! Students are introduced to what engineers do in their daily lives through several books on engineering and then role play as engineers to produce a set of purple popsicles. They follow the steps of the design process and learn how engineers solve problems through products that make the world a better and more efficient place.

preview of 'Visualize Your Heartbeat' Maker Challenge

December 2019

Visualize Your Heartbeat Maker Challenge

Challenge students to become biomedical engineers who design, create, and test a medical device! This project allows students to explore basic coding, utilize the capabilities of microcontrollers, and understand how sensors gather data about the human body so they can dive into the expanding world of wearable tech. This is a great project for a high school senior design team!

preview of 'The Benefits of Inclined Planes: Heave Ho!' Activity

November 2019

The Benefits of Inclined Planes: Heave Ho! Activity

Engage students' understanding of a classic simple machine: the inclined plane! A great activity for young learners, students use a spring scale, a bag of rocks, and an inclined plane to explore how dragging objects up a slope is easier than lifting them straight up into the air. Students are also introduced to the scientific method and basic principles of experimentation. Engineers continually look for new tools to make life easier, and the inclined plane is certainly one of them!

preview of 'Mathematically Designing a Frictional Roller Coaster ' Activity

October 2019

Mathematically Designing a Frictional Roller Coaster Activity

With their breathtaking elevation changes and thrilling speeds, roller coasters rides are the star attractions of amusement parks—and engineering plays a huge role in their design! All the various loops, curves, and dips work because of gravity, inertia, and friction. Guide students through the engineering design process as they build a simple roller coaster, all while considering the same forces that professional engineers do when designing rides.

preview of 'Creative Crash Test Cars' Maker Challenge

September 2019

Creative Crash Test Cars Maker Challenge

How does mass affect momentum in a head-on collision? Using a raw egg as a "crash test dummy" students take on the challenge of designing safety features for wooden car kits. By running the prototypes down ramps into walls, collecting distance and time data, and videotaping of their crash, students make calculations and look for relationships between car mass, speed, momentum and the amount of crash damage sustained by their vehicles.

preview of 'Creating an Electromagnet' Activity

August 2019

Creating an Electromagnet Activity

We may not even realize that we interact with electromagnets on a daily basis, but engineers use them in a wide range of designs including refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, doorbells, and even clocks. When it comes to using electromagnets, the possibilities are endless! This activity is an attractive way to engage students in building and testing the properties of several electromagnetic designs right in the classroom.

preview of 'Spaghetti Bridges' Activity

July 2019

Spaghetti Bridges Activity

Explore the world of civil engineering and become a bridge designer using a favorite food: spaghetti! In this activity, students play the role of civil engineers by making bridges out of spaghetti, and then test their designs by applying weight in order to see when they break. Allow your students to create designs using a variety of different pastas and see which bridges can last the longest under stress!

preview of 'Sled Hockey Design Challenge' Activity

June 2019

Sled Hockey Design Challenge Activity

Engineering helps democratize sports by introducing designs that allow individuals with physical disabilities to compete. Explore the engineering behind one such innovation used in sled hockey: the sled hockey stick! By applying geometric methods to solve design problems as well as through tension and flexure testing, students build hockey sticks that can face-off against the rigors of game play on the ice. Shoot for the goal in this unique engineering challenge!

preview of 'Cool Puppy! A Doghouse Design Project' Maker Challenge

May 2019

Cool Puppy! A Doghouse Design Project Maker Challenge

Design a doghouse to keep our furry friends safe during the summer! Students use the engineering design process to build and test doghouses that will shelter a "puppy" from heat and light sources. This maker challenge lets students build a number of doghouse designs while considering material, size, and cost constraints. Later, students test them by taking thermometer readings under hot lamps and then think of ways to improve their designs—a great project for learning about energy transfer, absorption, insulation, and material properties.

preview of 'Engineering Polymers from Potatoes' Activity

April 2019

Engineering Polymers from Potatoes Activity

What can the properties of a potato tell us about polymer science? Have your students take on the role of chemical engineers to create and test a plastic made from starch extracted from an everyday tuber! After testing their potato-based plastic, students design a product that takes advantage of the polymer’s unique properties. This activity guides students through the fundamental engineering concept of why a change in the chemical structure of polymer molecules affects the properties a plastic.

preview of 'A Zombie Got My Leg Challenge: Making Makeshift Legs' Activity

March 2019

A Zombie Got My Leg Challenge: Making Makeshift Legs Activity

Engineer a prosthetic leg and save a team member from a zombie horde! The scenario: a group of students must rush to build a prosthesis for an injured individual who "lost" their leg to amputation. Using the full engineering design process, students act as engineers to design and fabricate a replacement limb using specific starting materials. The students also face the additional challenge of overcoming a set of constraints, but time is running out... and the zombies are approaching!

preview of 'Requirements & Constraints: Making Model Parking Garages' Activity

February 2019

Requirements & Constraints: Making Model Parking Garages Activity

Draw like an architect, design like an engineer! In this cross-disciplinary activity, students learn what it means to follow a set of requirements and meet given constraints as they create their own model parking garages. Student teams follow the engineering design process as they design, build, and test their models. Along with drafting blueprints of their designs, students select construction materials and budget their expenditures. They also test their structures for strength and calculate maximum loads. Which model garage can hold the most cars while standing up to the challenge?

preview of 'Descriptive Measurements: Don't Confuse Your Qs!' Activity

January 2019

Descriptive Measurements: Don't Confuse Your Qs! Activity

What's the difference between a "qualitative" measurement and a "quantitative" one? In this activity, students examine these key measuring concepts and learn how engineers use them when designing or evaluating a product. After gaining an understanding of what goes into a qualitative and quantitative assessment, students put their newfound knowledge to the test by using a ruler, scale, and pencil to describe and measure a variety of classroom objects.

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