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.
Renewable Energy Elementary School Lesson
In this lesson, students are introduced to the five types of renewable energy resources by engaging in various activities to help them understand the transformation of energy (solar, water and wind) into electricity. Students explore the different roles engineers who work in renewable energy fields have in creating a sustainable environment – an environment that contributes to greater health, happiness and safety.
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).
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.
Creating Model Working Lungs: Just Breathe Elementary School Activity
Students explore the inhalation/exhalation process that occurs in the lungs during respiration. Using everyday materials, each student team creates a model pair of lungs.
Architects and Engineers: Working Together to Design Structures Elementary School Lesson
Students explore the interface between architecture and engineering. In the associated hands-on activity, students act as both architects and engineers by designing and building a small parking garage.
Show Me the Money Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the major factors that comprise the design and construction cost of a modern bridge. Before a bridge design is completed, engineers provide overall cost estimates for construction of the bridge. Students learn about the components that go into estimating the total cost, including expenses for site investigation, design, materials, equipment, labor and construction oversight, as well as the tradeoff between a design and its cost.
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.
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.
Testing Model Structures: Jell-O Earthquake in the Classroom Elementary School Activity
Students make sense of the design challenges engineers face that arise from earthquake phenomena. Students work as engineering teams to explore concepts of how engineers 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. The groups design, build, and test their model buildings and then determine how earthquake-proof their designs are by testing them on an earthquake simulator pan of Jell-O®.
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.
Building Tetrahedral Kites Middle School Activity
Working in teams of four, students build tetrahedral kites following specific instructions and using specific materials. They use the basic processes of manufacturing systems – cutting, shaping, forming, conditioning, assembling, joining, finishing, and quality control – to manufacture complete tetrahedral kites within a given time frame. Project evaluation takes into account team efficiency and the quality of the finished product.
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.
Endocrine Excitement! Elementary School Activity
In this activity, students are divided into a group of hormones and a group of receptors. The hormones have to find their matching receptors, and the pair, once matched, perform a given action. This activity helps students learn about the specificity of hormone-receptor interactions within the endocrine system.
Spaghetti Soapbox Derby Middle School Activity
Student pairs design, build, and test model vehicles capable of rolling down a ramp and then coasting freely as far as possible. The challenge is to make the vehicles entirely out of dry pasta using only adhesive (such as hot glue) to hold the components together. Creativity is encouraged and different types of pasta are provided to support different functions such as round pasta for wheels and sheet pasta for the chassis. Students become familiar with the concepts of gravitational potential energy, kinetic energy and rolling resistance. Teams follow the steps of the engineering design process as they design, test and redesign their small-sized vehicles, working within the project's material constraints. The winner of the competitive final event is the pasta car that travels the longest distance beyond the bottom of the ramp.
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