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Stop Freewheeling Using Friction! Elementary School Maker Challenge

Published on December 12, 2019

In this maker challenge, students use the engineering design process to design a covering for a portable wheelchair ramp for their school. The design must be easy to use, and allows people to move up the ramp easily and go down slowly. Students have a $20 budget to use for materials. Students conduct research on different materials to use that reduce or increase friction, evaluate proposed solutions that best meets the above requirements, build and test prototypes, revise and improve their designs, and report their findings to the rest of the class.

Silkworm Strength! Elementary School Maker Challenge

Published on December 12, 2019

In this maker challenge, students use the engineering design process to design a bridge out of silkworm cocoons that can hold at least 50 grams. Students can use other materials to supplement the silk bridge, but have a $10 budget. Students evaluate proposed solutions that best meets the above requirements, build and test prototypes, revise and improve their designs, and report their findings to the rest of the class.

Keeping Damp in a Drought Elementary School Maker Challenge

Published on December 11, 2019

In this maker challenge, students design a way for mint plants to keep a constant moisture level for 72 hours. The mint plants must be kept moist since they are young and just starting to establish growth. Before students receive the mint plants, they must prove that they can keep the moisture level constant. Students employ the engineering design process and conduct research on different materials used to hold in moisture, evaluate proposed solutions, build and test prototypes, revise and improve their designs, and report their findings to the rest of the class.

Measure the Milky Way with Stars High School Maker Challenge

Published on December 3, 2019

For this maker challenge, students investigate Python and Jupyter Notebook to analyze real astronomical images in order to calculate the interstellar distance to a star cluster across the Milky Way from our own Solar System. They learn how to write Python code that runs in a Jupyter Notebook so they can determine the brightness of stars in an astronomical image. Next, students complete the functions in the project to determine how far away a single star in the cluster is from Earth. This is a chance to try hands-on astronomical research techniques in the field of aperture photometry. The real astronomical image data will be directly manipulated and analyzed by code the students create. Groups compare their final images and results to answer questions about the astronomy of stars and stellar distances within the Milky Way. Students experience their discoveries the same way Harvard scientist Harlow Shapley first learned the true size and shape of the Milky Way.

Augmented Reality Programming Challenge High School Maker Challenge

Published on December 3, 2019

For this maker challenge, students explore augmented reality (AR) physiology programs, including muscle and bone overlays and body tracking recording program, using Unity and Microsoft Visual Studio and develop ways to modify, enhance, and redesign the program to meet a particular real-world need.

Design Your Own Pedometer! Middle School Maker Challenge

Published on December 2, 2019

Allow students to put on their biomedical engineer hats to help solve a real-world problem: obesity within the middle school community. Students use the engineering design process to design, create, and test a pedometer that keeps track of the number of steps a person takes. Students also explore the relationship between wearable technologies and overarching health conditions, specifically obesity, through various health-related research papers, online research and short documentaries. Students use a micro:bit processer and Microsoft Make Code to build their prototype. This maker challenge exposes students to basic coding, micro:bit processor applications and how programming and engineering can be used to solve health problems. Finally, students test the accuracy of their pedometer by conducting some simple self-experimentation to compare their step count in a day.

Bacterial Adaptations and Their Application in Genetic Engineering Middle School Activity

Published on November 23, 2019

Students explore adaptations by researching how animals, plants, and bacteria change based on their environment. They grow bacterial colonies in various environments and hypothesize how each environment will affect the cell culture size and color. After a day of pre-growth, the culture is spun down in a centrifuge and the cell pellet is analyzed. Finally, students research bacteria adaptations that allow them to survive in extreme environments then brainstorm how the beneficial genes can be useful for genetic engineering of GMOs in the future.

Engineering an Animal’s Survival Elementary School Activity

Published on November 14, 2019

This unique engineering activity explores helping animals that cannot help themselves. Students perform research and design prosthetic prototypes for an animal to use for its survival. First, students choose an animal from a set of task cards. These cards have descriptions of animals that have injuries that keep them from getting what they need in the wild. Next, students work in pairs to research these animals and their habitats. They then create habitats for their animals to live and model 3D prosthetics for the animals to use with modeling clay. Finally, students share their habitats with their peers.

Graphing the Speed of Slime High School Activity

Published on November 13, 2019

Students conduct a research-based activity to explore, graph, and evaluate the speed of slime, or how far and at what rate slime stretches. During the activity, the students review the major concepts of graphing speed by stretching gum or silly putty. After reviewing how to create and read speed on a graph, students create a “super-stretchy” slime sample. Students conduct tensile tests to determine the fastest speed the slime can stretch without snapping. Students analyze the slime stretching data by compiling it in a speed graph using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Lastly, students communicate their findings through a poster presentation.

Soil from Spoiled: Engineering a Compost Habitat for Worms Elementary School Activity

Published on October 26, 2019

A unique activity for young learners that combines engineering and biology, students design an optimal environment for red wiggler worms in a compost bin. Students learn about living and non-living things, the habitat of red wigglers, how red wigglers help convert organic waste into soil, as well as composting in nature and as a sustainable practice.

Whatever Floats Your Boat! High School Maker Challenge

Published on October 15, 2019

For this challenge, students use a variety of common office and household supplies to design a boat. Their goal: to not only have the fastest boat, but to also take into account how much mass (or “cargo”) the boat can carry, the stability of the boat in the water, the total mass of the boat, boat aesthetics, and how much it “costs” to construct. A fan supplies wind and propels each boat down the lane of a small pool. Students brainstorm ideas with their teams, design and test their boats, redesign, and then retest to make the boats as efficient as possible.

Toxic Island: Designing Devices to Deliver Goods Middle School Maker Challenge

Published on October 15, 2019

A classic engineering challenge involves designing and building devices that can deliver necessary goods to “Toxic Island,” an island that has been quarantined by the World Health Organization due to a nasty outbreak of disease. Working within specific constraints, students design a device that must not touch the water or island, and must deliver supplies accurately and quickly. Students also must design their delivery systems by choosing from a limited number of materials. Students follow the engineering design challenge to brainstorm and create designs, as well as test and iterate on their prototypes.

Making Dirty Water Drinkable! High School Maker Challenge

Published on October 15, 2019

Access to clean water is a major problem we face in the world today, especially in developing countries and during, and in the aftermath of, natural disasters. Currently, there is a portable water purification device called the LifeSaver bottle that can bring clean water to people; however, it is too expensive for most individuals. In this maker challenge, students create a water bottle from commonly available materials used in purification tools that can assist in cleaning dirty water as an inexpensive alternative to the LifeSaver Bottle.

Having a Ball with Chemistry and Engineering High School Maker Challenge

Published on October 14, 2019

Students work as materials and chemical engineers to develop a bouncy ball using a select number of materials. They first develop a plan of what materials they might need to design their product. Then, the students create and test their bouncy ball. Based on their tests, students then determine how to re-design and retest their creations to create the bounciest ball possible!

Trigonometric Functions in My Heart: Modeling PPG Pulses with Basic Trigonometric Functions High School Activity

Published on September 30, 2019

Students learn that trigonometric functions can model how their hearts work and can provide important information about their cardiovascular condition. Students analyze their own photoplethysmogram (PPG) obtained from a fingertip pulse oximeter. Using a graphic user interface (GUI) developed in Microsoft Excel, students visualize a linear combination of sine functions to their PPG data. Once they obtain the best possible fit, students can use the GUI to determine important information about their hearts such as cardiac period and pulse interval.

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