Fun with Leaf Chromatography! Middle School Activity
Published on December 25, 2021
Shine a light on the fascinating world of chromatography! Students investigate different colored pigments in a variety of different colored leaves. By using isopropanol and chromatography paper, students separate the different pigments that make up the color of the leaf. They learn to analyze data by collecting and recording information after assembling an experiment in which they use the paper chromatography method. Students further learn about pigmentation by making sense of the process of the phenomena of photosynthesis. Students learn that producers (e.g., plants), have chlorophyll which absorbs the sunlight to produce the food they need to survive and the type of chlorophyll a plant has affects the color of the plant.
Using Data to Optimize Your Vending Machine High School Activity
Published on December 24, 2021
Using concepts of optimization and trade-offs, students must stock a vending machine with popular drinks so they can earn maximum profits to fundraise for a club. Students collect data to determine the most popular drinks among their peers and are presented with a scenario where they need to make an adjustment to their selection. They’re given real-world examples of optimizing in engineering to illustrate the importance of collecting data to improve design-making.
Snack Attack! Designing a Snack Holder out of Recycled Materials Elementary School Activity
Published on December 18, 2021
Reduce, reuse, recycle—engineer! In this activity that focuses on environmental awareness, students research and read books about various items and buildings made from recycled or reused materials. They then plan, design, and construct a storage space for an individual snack using the engineering design process. They consider key elements such as temperature control, budget, materials, and size.
To Pollinate or Not to Pollinate Elementary School Activity
Published on December 17, 2021
By studying how bees and flowers interact with one another, we can also understand engineering practices related to our environment! In this activity, students engineer a model of a flower to test different materials’ ability to pollinate another flower. In teams of two, students create a model of a flower out of construction paper and then test different materials by measuring and recording how much pollen is transferred. While discovering the most efficient material, students determine how the information they gain can help bees pollinate and they better understand the importance of bee conservation.
Thinking Small – Measuring Small Things High School Activity
Published on December 17, 2021
Explore unseen phenomena in the microscopic world through measurements and observations. In this activity, students are introduced to the concepts of size and scale and make sense of sizes at the nanoscale through a card sort activity, in which specific objects must be ordered by size. Students then explore the concepts of measuring small volumes and masses by using graduated cylinders and micropipettes. Finally, they think about how scientists and engineers might use a compound microscope to observe microscopic objects.
Can You Hear Me Now? Designing a Communication Device Elementary School Activity
Published on October 29, 2021
Can you communicate without electricity? In this activity, students explore a problem in which a school’s power has gone out and they need to deliver an important message to a neighboring first grade classroom. However, they must stay within the following constraints: they cannot use cell phones and they have to stay in their classroom while doing so. Students research and use a variety of tools and materials to build, test, and retest a device that communicates sound the most clearly while learning about and demonstrating how sound causes vibrations.
Absorbing Airplane Noise! Elementary School Activity
Published on October 28, 2021
Modern commercial aircraft are incredible examples aerospace engineering, but they also emit large amounts of noise (as well as carbon emissions). That’s where engineering plays another role: to design buildings that can withstand or limit the amount of noise from a machine! In this activity, students engineer a solution to reduce airplane noise for a school located directly next to a large international airport. Using the engineering design process, they construct a model building that best keeps out loud sound so that students in the school are not disturbed throughout the day. Students research and use a variety of materials to create and build a model building (about 30 cm by 30 cm by 30 cm) that is soundproof or lets in the least amount of sound. Materials cost money and students are limited to a given budget. Each building is tested and re-tested based on what worked and what did not not work well.
Evaporation and Transpiration: What’s Your Function? Middle School Activity
Published on October 20, 2021
What’s the difference between two common agricultural methods? What are the roles engineers play in designing better methods? In this activity, students calculate evapotranspiration rates--the amount of water lost from evaporation and transpiration in a growing media (such as a pot or jar) and plant surfaces-- for living plants using soil and hydroponics. By recording changes in plant weight, students calculate evapotranspiration rates and determine which of the two growing methods is best for their design.
Paper Towers and Pool Balls Design Challenge High School Activity
Published on October 19, 2021
How can teamwork and project-based learning help us understand engineering practices? In this activity, students are presented with two problems that must be solved physically. In the first problem, they must construct the tallest tower possible out of limited materials. In the second problem, they must find a way for a rolling pool ball to take a set maximum time to cover a specified distance. Students create and follow a design and are assessed by the performance of their creations. The students use the Engineering Design Process (EDP) to complete the two hands-on activities. This is an experiential learning experience for the student where they learn to collaborate ideas between teams, while also competing against each other. The sharing of knowledge is the path.
Balancing Liquid on a Coin: How Intermolecular Forces Work High School Activity
Published on October 19, 2021
What can the act of balancing liquid on the surface of a coin tell us about the water molecules and molecular formulas? In this activity, students observe different types of intermolecular forces of water through two simple experiments. During this introductory activity students have hands-on experience visualizing the effects of hydrogen bonding through surface tension and evaporation.
What is Python? High School Activity
Published on September 25, 2021
Coding is a critical tool in most modern applications and can be a useful skill for engineers to apply in a variety of design settings. In this activity, students learn basic coding in Python, a high-level language that is known for its ease of use and various applications. They learn to make sense of basic programming structures such as variables, objects, classes, and instances, and programming concepts such as if-else statements, loops, and functions. In addition, within the discussion of Python syntax, students learn about operators (such as “=”) and their use in programming versus mathematics. After a brief lecture, students complete a Jupyter Notebook activity that will guide them through (1) using a Jupyter Notebook to run pre-written Python code and (2) plotting linear and quadratic functions and editing existing plots using Python code.
Observing Cell Structures With Fluorescent Dyes Middle School Activity
Published on August 30, 2021
In this design analysis activity, students make sense of technologies used to help visualize cell functions down to the nanometer scale such as con-focal microscopes, lasers, and customized fluorescent dyes. Students design and test new ideas to image plant cells using common household items and improve upon the process with testing. Using the iodine solution process as a control, student teams plan how to image the cells, evaluate the results and make recommendations to improve the imaging process.
Mathematical Modeling- Linear Approximations High School Lesson
Published on August 6, 2021
Students investigate the idea of linear approximation. Students apply mathematical modeling, specifically linear approximation, to an already collected data set to make a prediction. In this lesson, students first engage in a warm-up that is not a perfectly linear data set, being exposed to this for the first time. Students take on the role as a packaging engineer to learn the process to apply linear approximation modeling: collecting data, creating a graph, drawing a line-of-fit, creating a model in the form of an equation, defining the model’s variables, and evaluating with the model. Students ultimately use their linear model to predict the net weight of cereal in grams contained by 260 square inches of cardboard packaging.
Judgement with Jellybeans High School Activity
Published on August 6, 2021
Students collect data and apply mathematical modeling, specifically linear approximation, to predict what will happen in a specific situation. In this activity, students collect data to determine the number of Jelly Belly jelly beans it takes to fill up the respective tube. Students plot their data, graph a linear approximation model, and write an equation representing their model. Students use their linear model to predict the number of Jelly Belly jelly beans that are in a similar cylindrical tube with a given height. Students discuss the accuracy of their results and limitations in their model and data collection process. They then apply their predictions to make suggestions to Jelly Belly for potential packaging of jelly beans based on quantity instead of net weight.
Using Jupyter Notebooks to Explore Waves Middle School Activity
Published on June 30, 2021
As an introduction to analyzing sinusoidal waves, students learn how to use a Jupyter Notebook. They learn how to identify the frequency, wavelength, amplitude, period, and phase of a simple sinusoidal waveform. As they learn how to label the parts and properties of the waves, they connect these characteristics of waves to various real-world wave examples such as ocean waves, visible light, and sound. Students will examine a mathematical model of a sinusoidal waveform and connect each variable to its corresponding wave property. They will manipulate each variable of the model using Python code in a Jupyter Notebook and examine the effect of changing each variable on the resulting waveform.