Coordinates and the Cartesian Plane Middle School Lesson
A brief refresher on the Cartesian plane includes how points are written in (x, y) format and oriented to the axes, and which directions are positive and negative. Then students learn about what it means for a relation to be a function and how to determine domain and range of a set of data points from the modeling game found in the associated activity.
Energy Resources and Systems Middle School Lesson
Several activities are included to teach and research the differences between renewable and non-renewable resources and various energy resources. Students work with a quantitative, but simple model of energy resources to show how rapidly finite, non-renewable energy sources can be depleted, compared to the ongoing availability of renewable resources. Then they complete a homework assignment (or a longer, in-depth research project) to learn how various technologies capture energy resources for human uses, and their pros and cons. Fact sheets help them get started on their investigations of assigned energy sources.
The Dirty Water Project: Design-Build-Test Your Own Water Filters Elementary School Activity
In this hands-on activity, students investigate different methods—aeration and filtering—for removing pollutants from water. Working in teams, they design, build and test their own water filters—essentially conducting their own "dirty water projects." A guiding data collection worksheet is provided.
Volume & Data: Build the Biggest Box Using One Piece of Paper High School Activity
Student pairs are given 10 minutes to create the biggest box possible using one piece of construction paper. Teams use only scissors and tape to each construct a box and determine how much puffed rice it can hold. Then, to meet the challenge, they improve their designs to create bigger boxes. They plot the class data, comparing measured to calculated volumes for each box, seeing the mathematical relationship. They discuss how the concepts of volume and design iteration are important for engineers. Making 3-D shapes also supports the development of spatial visualization skills. This activity and its associated lesson and activity all employ volume and geometry to cultivate seeing patterns and understanding scale models, practices used in engineering design to analyze the effectiveness of proposed design solutions.
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.
Bubbling Plants Experiment to Quantify Photosynthesis Middle School Activity
Students learn a simple technique for quantifying the amount of photosynthesis that occurs in a given period of time, using a common water plant (Elodea). They use this technique to compare the amounts of photosynthesis that occur under conditions of low and high light levels. Before they begin the experiment, however, students must come up with a well-worded hypothesis to be tested. After running the experiment, students pool their data to get a large sample size, determine the measures of central tendency of the class data, and then graph and interpret the results.
Water Resources: Why Do We Build Dams? Elementary School Lesson
Students are introduced to the concept of a dam and its potential benefits, which include water supply, electricity generation, flood control, recreation and irrigation. This lesson begins an ongoing classroom scenario in which student engineering teams working for the Splash Engineering firm design dams for a fictitious client, Thirsty County.
Operation Build a Bridge and Get Over It Middle School Activity
Students act as structural engineers and 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. They examine the prototype failures to identify future improvements. This activity is part of a unit in which multiple activities are brought together for an all-day school/multi-school concluding “engineering field day” competition.
Saltwater Circuit Middle School Activity
Students build a saltwater circuit, which is an electrical circuit that uses saltwater as part of the circuit. 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.
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!
Leaning Tower of Pasta Middle School 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. Spaghetti cannot hold much tension or compression; therefore, it breaks very easily. Marshmallows handle compression well, but do not hold up to tension.
Right on Target: Catapult Game Elementary School Activity
Students experience the engineering design process as they design and build accurate and precise catapults using common materials. They use their catapults to participate in a game in which they launch Ping-Pong balls to attempt to hit various targets.
Traveling Sound Elementary School Activity
Students explore how sound waves move through liquids, solids and gases in a series of simple sound energy experiments. Understanding the properties of sound and how sound waves travel helps engineers determine the best room shape and construction materials when designing sound recording studios, classrooms, libraries, concert halls and theatres.
Waves and Wave Properties Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the types of waves and how they change direction, as well as basic wave properties such as wavelength, frequency, amplitude and speed. During the presentation of lecture information on wave characteristics and properties, students take notes using a handout. Then they label wave parts on a worksheet diagram and draw their own waves with specified properties (crest, trough and wavelength). They also make observations about the waves they drew to determine which has the highest and the lowest frequency. With this knowledge, students better understand waves and are a step closer to understanding how humans see color.
Water Power Elementary School Activity
Students observe a model waterwheel to investigate the transformations of energy involved in turning the blades of a hydro-turbine. They work as engineers to create model waterwheels while considering resources such as time and materials, in their designs. Students also discuss and explore the characteristics of hydropower plants.
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