Bio-Engineering: Making and Testing Model Proteins High School Activity
Published on June 7, 2018
Students act as if they are biological engineers following the steps of the engineering design process to design and create protein models to replace the defective proteins in a child’s body. Jumping off from a basic understanding of DNA and its transcription and translation processes, students learn about the many different proteins types and what happens if protein mutations occur. Then they focus on structural, transport and defense proteins during three challenges posed by the R&D bio-engineering hypothetical scenario. Using common classroom supplies such as paper, tape and craft sticks, student pairs design, sketch, build, test and improve their own protein models to meet specific functional requirements: to strengthen bones (collagen), to capture oxygen molecules (hemoglobin) and to capture bacteria (antibody). By designing and testing physical models to accomplish certain functional requirements, students come to understand the relationship between protein structure and function. They graph and analyze the class data, then share and compare results across all teams to determine which models were the most successful. Includes a quiz, three worksheets and a reference sheet.
Zooming In and Out with Scale and Systems Thinking Elementary School Activity
Published on June 4, 2018
Student teams act as engineers and learn about systems thinking and scale by reassembling the separated pages of the engaging picture book, “Zoom,” by Istvan Banyai. The book is a series of 31 wordless pictures that start very close-up and then zoom out—from a rooster’s comb to outer space. Like a movie camera, each subsequent page pulls back to reveal the context of the previous scene as something different than what you originally thought. When the 31 un-numbered pages are jumbled, it is a surprising challenge for teams to figure out how the pictures connect. The task prompts students to pause and look closer so as to adjust to new points of view and problem solve to find a logical sequence. It requires them to step back and take a broader view. Students learn that engineers work together as teams and look at things very closely so that they see different things and come up with more than one solution when problem solving. To conclude, students go outside and practice their skills by imagining and then drawing their own Zoom-like small booklet stories inspired by items found in nature. The classic duck/rabbit ambiguous drawing is provided as a kickoff visual aid.
The Plastisphere: Plastic Migration and Its Impacts High School Lesson
Published on June 1, 2018
Students are introduced to the growing worldwide environmental problems that stem from plastic waste. What they learn about microplastics and the typical components of the U.S. water treatment process prepares them to conduct three engaging associated activities. During the lesson, students become more aware of the pervasiveness and value of plastic as well as the downstream pollution and health dangers. They learn how plastic materials don’t go away, but become microplastic pollution that accumulates in water resources as well as human and other animal bodies. They examine their own plastic use, focusing on what they discard daily, and think about better ways to produce or package those items to eliminate or reduce their likelihood of ending up as microplastic pollution. A concluding writing assignment reveals their depth of comprehension. The lesson is enhanced by arranging for a local water treatment plant representative to visit the class for Qs and As. In three associated activities, students design/test microplastic particle filtering methods for commercial products, create mini wastewater treatment plant working models that remove waste and reclaim resources from simulated wastewater, and design experiments to identify the impact of microplastics on micro-invertebrates.
Microplastic Extraction of Exfoliating Beads from Cleansers High School Activity
Published on June 1, 2018
After watching a short online video that recaps the enormous scale of accumulating plastic waste in our oceans, student teams are challenged to devise a method to remove the most plastic microbeads from a provided commercial personal care product—such as a facial cleanser or body wash. They brainstorm filtering methods ideas and design their own specific procedures that use teacher-provided supplies (coffee filters, funnels, plastic syringes, vinyl tubing, water, plastic bags) to extract the microplastics as efficiently as possible. The R&D student teams compare the final masses of their extracted microbeads to see which filter solutions worked best. Students suggest possible future improvements to their filter designs. A student worksheet is provided.
Creating Mini Wastewater Treatment Plants High School Activity
Published on June 1, 2018
Student teams design and then create small-size models of working filter systems to simulate multi-stage wastewater treatment plants. Drawing from assorted provided materials (gravel, pebbles, sand, activated charcoal, algae, coffee filters, cloth) and staying within a (hypothetical) budget, teams create filter systems within 2-liter plastic bottles to clean the teacher-made simulated wastewater (soap, oil, sand, fertilizer, coffee grounds, beads). They aim to remove the water contaminants while reclaiming the waste material as valuable resources. They design and build the filtering systems, redesigning for improvement, and then measuring and comparing results (across teams): reclaimed quantities, water quality tests, costs, experiences and best practices. They conduct common water quality tests (such as turbidity, pH, etc., as determined by the teacher) to check the water quality before and after treatment.
Tracing Fluorescent Plastics in an Aquatic Environment High School Activity
Published on June 1, 2018
Student teams investigate the migration of small-particle plastic pollution by exposing invertebrates found in water samples from a local lake or river to fluorescent bead fragments in a controlled environment of their own designs. Students begin by reviewing the composition of food webs and considering the ethics of studies on live organisms. In their model microcosms, they set up a food web so as to trace the microbead migration from one invertebrate species to another. Students use blacklights and microscopes to observe and quantify their experimental results. They develop diagrams that explain their investigations—modeling the ecological impacts of microplastics.
Glowing Pokémon Go Patches with EL Panels High School Activity
Published on May 30, 2018
Students combine art, gaming culture and engineering by fabricating light-up patches to increase youngsters’ visibility at night. The open-ended project is presented as a hypothetical design challenge: Students are engineers who have been asked by a group of parents whose children go out Pokémon hunting at night to create glowing patches that they adhere to clothing or backpacks to help vehicle drivers see the kids in the dark. Student pairs create Pokémon character stencil designs cut from iron-on fabric patches, adding transparent layers for color. Placed over an EL (electroluminescent) panel that is connected to a battery pack, the stencils create glowing designs. Each team creates a circuit, which includes lengthening the EL panel wiring to make it easier to wear. Then they sew/adhere the patches onto hoodies, messenger bags, hats, pockets or other applications they dream up. The project concludes with team presentations as if to an audience of project clients. Keep the project simple by hand cutting and ironing/sewing, or use cutting machines, laser cutters and sewing machines, if available.
Electromagnetic Waves: How Do Sunglasses Work? High School Lesson
Published on May 30, 2018
Students learn about the scientific and mathematical concepts around electromagnetic light properties that enable the engineering of sunglasses for eye protection. They compare and contrast tinted and polarized lenses as well as learn about light intensity and how different mediums reduce the intensities of various electromagnetic radiation wavelengths. Through a PowerPoint® presentation, students learn about light polarization, transmission, reflection, intensity, attenuation, and Malus’ law. A demo using two slinky springs helps to illustrate wave disturbances and different-direction polarizations. As a mini-activity, students manipulate slide-mounted polarizing filters to alter light intensity and see how polarization by transmission works. Students use the Malus’ law equation to calculate the transmitted light intensity and learn about Brewster’s angle. Two math problem student handouts are provided. Students also brainstorm ideas on how sunglasses could be designed and improved, which prepares them for the associated hands-on design/build activity.
Exploiting Polarization: Designing More Effective Sunglasses High School Activity
Published on May 30, 2018
Students apply what they know about light polarization and attenuation (learned in the associated lesson) to design, build, test, refine and then advertise their prototypes for more effective sunglasses. Presented as a hypothetical design scenario, students act as engineers who are challenged to create improved sunglasses that reduce glare and lower light intensity while increasing eye protection from UVA and UVB radiation compared to an existing model of sunglasses—and make them as inexpensive as possible. They use a light meter to measure and compare light intensities through the commercial sunglasses and their prototype lenses. They consider the project requirements and constraints in their designs. They brainstorm and evaluate possible design ideas. They keep track of materials costs. They create and present advertisements to the class that promote the sunglasses benefits, using collected data to justify their claims. A grading rubric and reflection handout are provided.
Create a Cloud-Connected LED Cloud Light Fixture High School Activity
Published on May 25, 2018
Students put their STEAM knowledge and skills to the test by creating indoor light fixture “clouds” that mimic current weather conditions or provide other colorful lighting schemes they program and control with smartphones. Groups fabricate the clouds from paper lanterns and pillow stuffing, adding LEDs to enable the simulation of different lighting conditions. They code the controls and connect the clouds to smart devices and the Internet cloud to bring their floating clouds to life as they change color based on the weather outside.
Wirelessly Control Lights and Motors Using XBee Communication! High School Maker Challenge
Published on May 23, 2018
From remote-controlled cars, to sensors relaying agricultural data from a field to farmhouses miles away, wireless communication enables users to “cut the cord” for their projects. For this maker challenge, students apply what they learned about serial communication during the previous Arduino maker challenge (Make and Control a Servo Arm with Your Computer) and learn how to send signals from one system to another using XBee radio communication modules. By activity end, expect students to be able to control LEDs and motors wirelessly using Arduino microcontrollers and XBee shields. This is a great activity for students to explore and come to understand the concept of the Internet of things.
Control a Servo with Your Phone Using Bluetooth! High School Maker Challenge
Published on May 23, 2018
Bluetooth is everywhere—from smartphones to computers to cars. Even though students are exposed to this technology, many are not aware of how they can use it themselves to wirelessly control their own creative projects! For this challenge, students build on what they learned during a previous Arduino maker challenge, Make and Control a Servo Arm with Your Computer, and learn how to control a servo with an Android phone (iPhones do not work with the components used in this challenge). By the end of the exercise, expect students to be wirelessly controlling a servo with a simple phone application!
Make and Control a Servo Arm with Your Computer High School Maker Challenge
Published on February 28, 2018
Computer-controlled servos enable industrial robots to manufacture everything from vehicles to smartphones. For this maker challenge, students control a simple servo arm by sending commands with their computers to Arduinos using the serial communication protocol. This exercise walks students through the (sometimes) unintuitive nuances of this protocol, so by the end they can directly control the servo position with the computer. Once students master the serial protocol, they are ready to build some suggested interactive projects using the computer or “cut the cord” and get started with wireless Bluetooth or XBee communication.
A Closer Look at Natural Disasters Using GIS High School Activity
Published on February 27, 2018
As if they are environmental engineers, student pairs are challenged to use Google Earth Pro (free) GIS software to view and examine past data on hurricanes and tornados in order to (hypothetically) advise their state government on how to proceed with its next-year budget—to answer the question: should we reduce funding for natural disaster relief? To do this, students learn about maps, geographic information systems (GIS) and the global positioning system (GPS), and how they are used to deepen the way maps are used to examine and analyze data. Then they put their knowledge to work by using the GIS software to explore historical severe storm (tornado, hurricane) data in depth. Student pairs confer with other teams, conduct Internet research on specific storms and conclude by presenting their recommendations to the class. Students gain practice and perspective on making evidence-based decisions. A slide presentation as well as a student worksheet with instructions and questions are provided.
Speedy & Compact: The Perfect Vehicle for Your Future Elementary School Activity
Published on February 20, 2018
As if they are engineers, students are tasked to design solar-powered model vehicles that are speedy and compact in order to make recommendations to a local car sales company. Teams familiarize themselves with the materials by building solar-panel model car prototypes, following kit instructions, which they test for speed. After making design improvements, they test again. Then they take measurements and calculate the volume of each team’s vehicle. They rank all teams’ vehicles by speed and by size. After data analyses, reflection and team discussion, students write recommendations to the car company about the vehicle they think is best for consumers. Youngsters experience key portions of the engineering design process and learn the importance of testing and collaborating in order to make better products. Pre/post-quizzes and numerous worksheets and handouts are provided.