Solving Everyday Problems Using the Engineering Design Cycle Middle School Activity
Students are introduced to two real-life problems that can be solved by using the engineering design process. For the first one, they follow along with a slide presentation that describes how a group of students built an organizer to help organize their teacher’s desk. The presentation introduces students to the key steps in the engineering design process. Next, in discussion groups, they read through a scenario in which middle school student Marisol struggles to keep their locker organized. They read the case study together, stopping and discussing at key points to share ideas and consider Marisol’s progress as they moves through the engineering design cycle to design and implement a solution. As an optional hands-on activity extension, students construct their own locker organizer using scrap materials. This introduction to the engineering design process sets up students to be able to conduct their own real-world design projects. A case study handout, group leader discussion sheet and slide presentation are provided.
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.
All About Water! Elementary School Lesson
Students learn about the differences between surface and ground water as well as the differences between streams, rivers and lakes. Then, they learn about dissolved organic matter (DOM) and the role it plays in identifying drinking water sources. Then students are introduced to conventional drinking water treatment processes by developing and implementing their own water filtration system through the associated activity. A student worksheet and answer key are provided.
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.
Design and Build a Rube Goldberg Middle School Activity
In this two-part activity, students design and build Rube Goldberg machines. This open-ended challenge employs the engineering design process and may have a pre-determined purpose, such as rolling a marble into a cup from a distance, or let students decide the purposes.
Bernoulli's Principle High School Lesson
Bernoulli's principle relates the pressure of a fluid to its elevation and its speed. Bernoulli's equation can be used to approximate these parameters in water, air or any fluid that has very low viscosity. Students use the associated activity to learn about the relationships between the components of the Bernoulli equation through real-life engineering examples and practice problems.
Bridges Middle School Unit
Through a five-lesson series that includes numerous hands-on activities, students are introduced to the importance and pervasiveness of bridges for connecting people to resources, places and other people, with references to many historical and current-day examples. In learning about bridge types—arch, beam, truss and suspension—students explore the effect of tensile and compressive forces. Students investigate the calculations that go into designing bridges; they learn about loads and cross-sectional areas by designing and testing the strength of model piers. Geology and soils are explored as they discover the importance of foundations, bearing pressure and settlement considerations in the creation of dependable bridges and structures. Students learn about brittle and ductile material properties. Students also learn about the many cost factors that comprise the economic considerations of bridge building. Bridges are unique challenges that take advantage of the creative nature of engineering.
Volcanic Panic! Elementary School Lesson
Students learn about the causes, composition and types of volcanoes. They begin with an overview of the Earth's interior and how volcanoes form. Once students know how volcanoes function, they learn how engineers predict eruptions. In a class demonstration, students watch and measure a mock volcanic eruption and observe the eruption phases, seeing how a volcano gets its shape and provides us with clues to predict a blast.
Exploring Energy: What Is Energy? Middle School Lesson
Students are introduced to the definition of energy and the concepts of kinetic energy, potential energy, and energy transfer. This lesson is a broad overview of concepts that are taught in more detail in subsequent lessons and activities in this curricular unit. A PowerPoint® presentation and pre/post quizzes are provided.
Mini-Landslide Elementary School Activity
Students explore how different materials (sand, gravel, lava rock) with different water contents on different slopes result in landslides of different severity. They measure the severity by how far the landslide debris extends into model houses placed in the flood plain. This activity is a small-scale model of a debris chute currently being used by engineers and scientists to study landslide characteristics. Much of this activity setup is the same as for the Survive That Tsunami activity in Lesson 5 of the Natural Disasters unit.
Create a Pinhole Camera Elementary School Activity
In this activity, students construct their own pinhole camera to observe the behavior of light.
Resource Extraction: Hi Ho, It's to the Mine We Go Middle School Activity
This activity simulates the extraction of limited, nonrenewable resources from a "mine," so students can experience first-hand how resource extraction becomes more difficult over time. Students gather data and graph their results to determine the peak in resource extraction. They learn about the limitations of nonrenewable resources, and how these resources are currently used.
Hearing: How Do Our Ears Work? Middle School Activity
Students learn about the anatomy of the ear and how the ears work as a sound sensor. Ear anatomy parts and structures are explained in detail, as well as how sound is transmitted mechanically and then electrically through them to the brain. Students use LEGO® robots with sound sensors to measure sound intensities, learning how the brick (computer) converts the intensity of sound measured by the sensor input into a number that transmits to a screen. They build on their experiences from the previous activities and establish a rich understanding of the sound sensor and its relationship to the TaskBot's computer. **Note: This activity uses the retired LEGO NXT robot which is no longer available for purchase.
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.
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.
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