Paper Airplanes: Building, Testing, & Improving. Heads Up! Middle School Activity
Students learn the different airplane parts, including wing, flap, aileron, fuselage, cockpit, propeller, spinner, engine, tail, rudder, elevator. Then they each build one of four different (provided) paper airplane (really, glider) designs with instructions, which they test in three trials, measuring flight distance and time. Then they design and build (fold, cut) a second paper airplane design of their own creation, which they also test for flight distance and time. They graph the collected class data. Analysis of these experiments with "model" airplanes and their results help them see and figure out what makes airplanes fly and what can be changed to influence the flying characteristics and performance of airplanes.
Potato Power Elementary School Activity
Students use potatoes to light an LED clock (or light bulb) as they learn how a battery works in a simple circuit and how chemical energy changes to electrical energy. As they learn more about electrical energy, they better understand the concepts of voltage, current and resistance.
Physics of Roller Coasters Middle School Lesson
Students explore the physics exploited by engineers in designing today's roller coasters, including potential and kinetic energy, friction and gravity. First, they learn that all true roller coasters are completely driven by the force of gravity and that the conversion between potential and kinetic energy is essential to all roller coasters. Second, they consider the role of friction in slowing down cars in roller coasters. Finally, they examine the acceleration of roller coaster cars as they travel around the track. During the associated activity, students design, build and analyze model roller coasters they make using foam tubing and marbles (as the cars).
Engineering: Simple Machines Elementary School Lesson
Simple machines are devices with few or no moving parts that make work easier. Students are introduced to the six types of simple machines — the wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, and pulley — in the context of the construction of a pyramid, gaining high-level insights into tools that have been used since ancient times and are still in use today. In two hands-on activities, students begin their own pyramid design by performing materials calculations, and evaluating and selecting a construction site. The six simple machines are examined in more depth in subsequent lessons in this unit.
Testing Model Structures: Jell-O Earthquake in the Classroom Elementary School Activity
Students learn how engineers design and construct buildings to withstand earthquake damage by building their own model structures using toothpicks and marshmallows. They experiment to see how earthquake-proof their buildings are by testing them in an earthquake simulated in a pan of Jell-O®.
Designing Bridges Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the types of possible loads, how to calculate ultimate load combinations, and investigate the different sizes for the beams (girders) and columns (piers) of simple bridge design. They learn the steps that engineers use to design bridges by conducting their own hands on associated activity to prototype their own structure. Students will begin to understand the problem, and learn how to determine the potential bridge loads, calculate the highest possible load, and calculate the amount of material needed to resist the loads.
Powerful Pulleys Elementary School Lesson
Students continue to explore the story of building a pyramid, learning about the simple machine called a pulley. They learn how a pulley can be used to change the direction of applied forces and move/lift extremely heavy objects, and the powerful mechanical advantages of using a multiple-pulley system. Students perform a simple demonstration to see the mechanical advantage of using a pulley, and they identify modern day engineering applications of pulleys. In a hands-on activity, they see how a pulley can change the direction of a force, the difference between fixed and movable pulleys, and the mechanical advantage gained with multiple / combined pulleys. They also learn the many ways engineers use pulleys for everyday purposes.
Pill Dissolving Demo High School Activity
In a class demonstration, the teacher places different pill types ("chalk" pill, gel pill, and gel tablet) into separate glass beakers of vinegar, representing human stomach acid. After 20-30 minutes, the pills dissolve. Students observe which dissolve the fastest, and discuss the remnants of the various pills. What they learn contributes to their ongoing objective to answer the challenge question presented in lesson 1 of this unit.
What Is Energy? Elementary School Lesson
With an introduction to the ideas of energy, students discuss specific energy types and practical energy sources. Associated hands-on activities help them identify energy types in their surroundings and enhance their understanding of the concept of energy.
Properties of Mixtures vs. Solutions: Mix It Up! Elementary School Lesson
Students are introduced to the distinctive properties of mixtures and solutions. A class demonstration led by the teachers gives students the opportunity to compare and contrast the physical characteristics of a few simple mixtures and solutions. They discuss the separation of mixtures and solutions back into their original components as well as different engineering applications of mixtures and solutions.
Straw Bridges Middle School Activity
Working as engineering teams, students design and create model beam bridges using plastic drinking straws and tape as their construction materials. Their goal is to build the strongest bridge with a truss pattern of their own design, while meeting the design criteria and constraints. They experiment with different geometric shapes and determine how shapes affect the strength of materials. Let the competition begin!
Design a Parachute Middle School Activity
After a discussion about what a parachute is and how it works, students create parachutes using different materials that they think will work best. They test their designs, and then contribute to a class discussion (and possible journal writing) to report which paper materials worked best.
Creating an Electromagnet Elementary School Activity
Student teams investigate the properties of electromagnets. They create their own small electromagnets and experiment with ways to change their strength to pick up more paperclips. Students learn about ways that engineers use electromagnets in everyday applications.
Levers That Lift Middle School Lesson
Students are introduced to three of the six simple machines used by many engineers: lever, pulley, and wheel-and-axle. In general, engineers use the lever to magnify the force applied to an object, the pulley to lift heavy loads over a vertical path, and the wheel-and-axle to magnify the torque applied to an object. The mechanical advantage of these machines helps determine their ability to make work easier or make work faster.
Water Bottle Rockets Middle School Activity
What makes rockets fly straight? What makes rockets fly far? Why use water to make the rocket fly? Students are challenged to design and build rockets from two-liter plastic soda bottles that travel as far and straight as possible or stay aloft as long as possible. Guided by the steps of the engineering design process, students first watch a video that shows rocket launch failures and then participate in three teacher-led mini-activities with demos to explore key rocket design concepts: center of drag, center of mass, and momentum and impulse. Then the class tests four combinations of propellants (air, water) and center of mass (weight added fore or aft) to see how these variables affect rocket distance and hang time. From what they learn, student pairs create their own rockets from plastic bottles with cardboard fins and their choices of propellant and center of mass placement, which they test and refine before a culminating engineering field day competition. Teams design for maximum distance or hang time; adding a parachute is optional. Students learn that engineering failures during design and testing are just steps along the way to success.
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