Design and Test a Ping-Pong Paddle Middle School Activity
Published on March 27, 2019
Emphasizing the design, build, and test steps of the engineering design process, groups create a ping-pong paddle. After building their paddle, students conduct tests and compare their design to a store-bought paddle and use a Venn diagram to organize their information. Based on their results, students write product reviews for their paddle. This project allows students to build and test a design, iterate upon that design as well as explore how data analysis of a product works.
Cooler Design Challenge Middle School Activity
Published on March 26, 2019
Students learn and apply concepts in thermodynamics and energy—mainly convection, conduction, and radiation— to solve a challenge. This is accomplished by splitting students into teams and having them follow the engineering design process to design and build a small insulated box, with the goal of keeping an ice cube and a Popsicle from melting. Students are given a short traditional lecture to help familiarize them with the basic rules of thermodynamics and an introduction to materials science while they continue to monitor the ice within their team’s box.
The Glow Show Slime Engineering Challenge High School Maker Challenge
Published on March 10, 2019
Students learn about the engineering design process and how products may be reinvented to serve new purposes. Working in groups, students design a type of slime. After creating their slime, the teacher turns out the lights and the students see that the slime they made actually glows in the dark! The groups investigate how to take their new discoveries and apply them to industrial applications. Once they have determined a use for their glowing slime, each group must build/design and test their product outside of class. The groups then create advertisements (videos, brochures, performances, etc.) for their new product(s) or application(s), and present to the judges for review similar to a “Shark Tank” environment.
Design Your Own Nano-Polymer Smartphone Case High School Maker Challenge
Published on March 7, 2019
Students design and create their own nano-polymer smartphone or tablet case. Students choose their design, mix their nano-polymer (based in silicone) with starch and add coloring of their choice. While thinking critically about their design, students embed strings in the nano-polymer to optimize both case strength and flexibility. Students may apply strings in a variety of ways in order to maximize their individual design’s potential. Determining the best mixing ratio is also key for success in this challenge.
Design a Soundproof Room Elementary School Activity
Published on March 1, 2019
Students are presented with the following challenge: their new school is under construction and the architect accidentally put the music room next to the library. Students need to design a room that will absorb the most amount of sound so that the music does not disturb the library. Students use a box as a proxy for the room need to create a design that will decrease the sound that is coming from the outside of the box. To evaluate this challenge, students use a speaker within the box and a decibel meter outside the box to measure the effectiveness of their design.
Decibels and Acoustical Engineering Elementary School Lesson
Published on March 1, 2019
In this lesson, students learn that sound is energy and has the ability to do work. Students discover that sound is produced by a vibration and they observe soundwaves and how they travel through mediums. They understand that sound can be absorbed, reflected or transmitted. Through videos and a PowerPoint presentation led by the teacher, students further their exploration of sound through discussions in order to build background knowledge.
What Soundproofing Material Works Best? Elementary School Activity
Published on March 1, 2019
Students first explore different materials to see what types reduce the most amount of sound when placed in a box. Each group is assigned a different material and they fill their box with that specific material. Students measure the sound level of a tone playing from inside the box using a decibel reader from outside the box. Students share this data with the class and analyze which types of materials absorb the most sound and which reflect the most sound.
Exploring the Integumentary Systems of Animals High School Activity
Published on February 22, 2019
To evaluate the different integumentary systems found in the animal kingdom, students conduct an exploratory research-based lab. During the activity, students create a model epidermis that contains phosphorescent powder and compare the results to a control model. After learning about the variations of integumentary systems—systems that comprise the skin and other appendages that act to protect animal bodies from damage—students act as engineers to mimic animal skin samples. Their goal is to create a skin sample that closely represents the animal they are mimicking while protecting the base ‘epidermis’ from UV light.
Engineering Polymers from Potatoes High School Activity
Published on February 12, 2019
Students are introduced to polymer science and take on the role of chemical engineers to create and test a plastic made from starch. After testing their potato-based plastic, students design a product that takes advantage of the polymer’s unique properties. At the end of the engineering design process, students present their product in a development “pitch” that communicates their idea to potential investors.
Creating Silver Nanoparticles High School Activity
Published on February 8, 2019
Students create silver nanoparticles using a chemical process; however, since these particles are not observable to the naked eye, they use empirical evidence and reasoning to discover them. Students first look for evidence of a chemical reaction by mixing various solutions and observing any reactions that may occur. Students discover that copper and tannic acids from tea reduce silver nitrate, which in turn form silver. They complete the reaction, allow the water to evaporate, and observe the silver nanoparticles they created in plastic dishes using a stereo microscope. Students iterate on their initial process and test to see if they can improve the manufacturing process of silver nanoparticles.
Designing a Color-Changing Paint Using pH Middle School Activity
Published on January 30, 2019
How can an understanding of pH—a logarithmic scale used to identify the acidity or basicity of a water-based solution—be used to design and create a color-changing paint? This activity provides students the opportunity to extract dyes from natural products and test dyes for acids or bases as teams develop a prototype “paint” that is eventually applied to help with a wall redesign at a local children’s hospital. Students learn about how dyes are extracted from organic material and use the engineering design process to test dyes using a variety of indicators to achieve the right color for their prototype. Students iterate on their dyes and use ratios and proportions to calculate the amount of dye needed to successfully complete their painting project.
Sled Hockey Design Challenge Middle School Activity
Published on December 19, 2018
Students are tasked with designing a special type of hockey stick for a sled hockey team—a sport designed for individuals with physical disabilities to play ice hockey. Using the engineering design process, students act as material engineers to create durable hockey sticks using a variety of materials. The stick designs will contain different interior structures that can hold up during flexure (or bending) tests. Following flexure testing, the students can use their results to iterate upon their design and create a second stick.
Quicksand Danger: Myth or Reality? High School Activity
Published on December 15, 2018
Students explore the physical science behind the causes of quicksand and become familiar with relationship between concepts such as total stress, pore pressure, and effective stress. Students also relate these concepts to soil liquefaction—a major concern during earthquakes. Students begin the activity by designing a simple device to test the effects of quicksand on materials of different densities and weights. They prototype a support structure that works to prevent a heavy object from sinking into quicksand. At the end of the activity, students reflect on the engineering design process and consider the steps civil engineers take in designing sturdy buildings and other structures.
Visualize Your Heartbeat High School Maker Challenge
Published on November 30, 2018
For this maker challenge, students become biomedical engineers who design, create, and test a medical device that measures a patient’s pulse using a microcontroller, LED, and light sensor. Students use data collected from the device they build to determine how to best visualize the results, so that a doctor can view the patient’s pulse on the computer screen. During the challenge, students learn about basic coding, the capabilities of microcontrollers, how sensors gather data, how the human circulatory system works, and how to plot real data. Finally, students are challenged to make their systems portable so that they create wearable health technology. This is a great project for a high school senior design team project.
Designing and Packaging a Distance-Sensing Product Middle School Activity
Published on November 29, 2018
Students begin by following instructions to connect a Sunfounder Ultrasonic Sensor and an Arduino Microcontroller. Once they have them set up, students calibrate the sensor and practice using it. Students are then given an engineering design problem: to build a product that will use the ultrasonic sensors for a purpose that they all specify. Students will have to work together to design and test their product, and ultimately present it to their classmates.