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.
Biodomes Engineering Design Project: Lessons 2-6 Elementary School Activity
In this multi-day activity, students explore environments, ecosystems, energy flow and organism interactions by creating a scale model biodome through applying the engineering design process. The Procedure section provides activity instructions for Biodomes unit, lessons 2-6, as students work through Parts 1-6 to develop their model biodome. Subjects include energy flow and food chains, basic needs of plants and animals, and the importance of decomposers. Students consider why a solid understanding of one's environment and the interdependence of an ecosystem can inform the choices we make and the way we engineer our own communities. This activity can be conducted as either a very structured or open-ended design.
Tracking a Virus Middle School Activity
Students simulate the spread of a virus such as HIV through a population by "sharing" (but not drinking) the water in a plastic cup with several classmates. Although invisible, the water in a few of the cups has already be tainted with the "virus" (sodium carbonate). After all the students have shared their liquids, the contents of the cups are tested for the virus with phenolphthalein, a chemical that causes a striking color change in the presence of sodium carbonate. Students then set about trying to determine which of their classmates were the ones originally infected with the virus.
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.
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.
DNA Build Middle School Activity
Students reinforce their knowledge that DNA is the genetic material for all living things by modeling it using toothpicks and gumdrops that represent the four biochemicals (adenine, thiamine, guanine, and cytosine) that pair with each other in a specific pattern, making a double helix. They investigate specific DNA sequences that code for certain physical characteristics such as eye and hair color. Student teams trade DNA "strands" and de-code the genetic sequences to determine the physical characteristics (phenotype) displayed by the strands (genotype) from other groups. Students extend their knowledge to learn about DNA fingerprinting and recognizing DNA alterations that may result in genetic disorders.
DNA Profiling & CODIS: Who Robbed the Bank? Middle School Activity
Students use DNA profiling to determine who robbed a bank. After they learn how the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is used to match crime scene DNA with tissue sample DNA, students use CODIS principles and sample DNA fragments to determine which of three suspects matches evidence obtain at a crime location. They communicate their results as if they were biomedical engineers reporting to a police crime scene investigation.
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.
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.
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®.
Curb the Epidemic! High School Activity
Using a website simulation tool, students build on their understanding of random processes on networks to interact with the graph of a social network of individuals and simulate the spread of a disease. They decide certain variables which impact the spread of the disease with the goal to "curb the epidemic." Since the results are random, they run multiple simulations and compute the average number of infected individuals before analyzing the results and assessing the effectiveness of their vaccination strategies. This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Bombs Away! Egg Drop Experiment Middle School Activity
Students design and build devices to protect and accurately deliver dropped eggs. The devices and their contents represent care packages that must be safely delivered to people in a disaster area with no road access. Similar to engineering design teams, students design their devices using a number of requirements and constraints such as limited supplies and time. The activity emphasizes the change from potential energy to kinetic energy of the devices and their contents and the energy transfer that occurs on impact. Students enjoy this competitive challenge as they attain a deeper understanding of mechanical energy concepts.
20/20 Vision Elementary School Activity
Students measure their own eyesight and calculate the average eyesight value for the class. They learn about technologies to enhance eyesight and how engineers play an important role in the development of these technologies.
Invent a Backscratcher from Everyday Materials Elementary School Activity
Being able to recognize a problem and design a potential solution is the first step in the development of new and useful products. In this activity, students create devices to get "that pesky itch in the center of your back." Once the idea is thought through, students produce design schematics (sketches). They are given a variety of everyday materials and recyclables, from which they prototype their back-scratching devices.
Design and Fly a Kite Elementary School Activity
Students learn how to use wind energy to combat gravity and create lift by creating their own tetrahedral kites capable of flying. They explore different tetrahedron kite designs, learning that the geometry of the tetrahedron shape lends itself well to kites and wings because of its advantageous strength-to-weight ratio. Then they design their own kites using drinking straws, string, lightweight paper/plastic and glue/tape. Student teams experience the full engineering design cycle as if they are aeronautical engineers—they determine the project constraints, research the problem, brainstorm ideas, select a promising design and build a prototype; then they test and redesign to achieve a successful flying kite. Pre/post quizzes and a worksheet are provided.
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