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 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 system portable so that they create wearable health technology.
Designing and Packaging a Distance-Sensing Product Elementary 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 which they shall all specify. Students will have to work together to design and test their product, and ultimately present it to their classmates.
Ultrasonic Devices at the Speed of Sound! Middle School Lesson
Published on November 29, 2018
This lesson focuses on ultrasound wavelengths and how sound frequencies are used by engineers to help with detection of specific distances to or in materials. Students gain an understanding about how ultrasonic waves are reflected and refracted. Students also see how ultrasound technology is used in medical devices. The activity following this lesson allows students to test their knowledge by using the Sunfounder Ultrasonic sensor and Arduino Mega Microcontroller.
How to Design a Better Smartphone Case High School Activity
Published on November 28, 2018
Engineers create and use new materials, as well as new combinations of existing materials to design innovative new products and technologies—all based upon the chemical and physical properties of given substances. In this activity, students act as materials engineers as they learn about and use chemical and physical properties including tessellated geometric designs and shape to build better smartphone cases. Guided by the steps of the engineering design process, they analyze various materials and substances for their properties, design/test/improve a prototype model, and create a dot plot of their prototype testing results.
Making Sense of Sensors: Visualizing Sensor Data High School Maker Challenge
Published on November 13, 2018
The goal of this maker challenge is to demystify sensors, in particular the ambient light sensor, and to map its readings visually. In today’s world, we make sense of the environment around us by filling it with sensors, and we use output devices to display real-time data in a meaningful way. Take any smartphone as an example. Aside from the embedded camera and microphone, a number of other sensors collect a wide range of data. Depending upon the model, these sensors may collect data on proximity, motion, ambient light, moisture, compass, and touch. Some of these data are directly visualized through an app, while many operate internally and without a user interface, just below the surface of the screen. In order to become more familiar with the technology that we use (and often take for granted) on a daily basis, your challenge is to assemble a light sensor circuit, observe its readings using the Arduino Serial Monitor, and then create your own unique visualization by interfacing with the Processing software. Students learn how to use calibration and smoothing to capture a better picture of the data. Afterwards, they share their visualizations with the entire class. The time required for this challenge depends on students’ prior knowledge of Arduino and Processing software. Background resources for beginners help students get up to speed on microcontroller hardware and offer additional challenges for intermediate and advanced users.
Swiss Alps Emergency Sled Design Elementary School Activity
Published on November 13, 2018
Students act as engineers to solve a hypothetical problem that has occurred in the Swiss Alps due to a seismic event. In research groups, students follow the steps of the engineering design process as teams compete to design and create small-size model sleds that can transport materials to people in distress who are living in the affected town. The sleds need to be able to carry various resources that the citizens need for survival as well as meet other design requirements. Students test their designs and make redesigns to improve their prototypes in order to achieve final working designs. Once the designs and final testing are complete, students create final technical reports.
Simple Machines and the Rube Goldberg Challenge High School Maker Challenge
Published on October 30, 2018
Students research simple machines and other mechanisms as they learn about and make Rube Goldberg machines. Working in teams, students design and build their own Rube Goldberg devices with 10 separate steps, including at least six simple machines. In addition to the use of readily available classroom craft supplies, 3D printers may be used (if available) to design and print one or more device mechanisms. Students love this open-ended, team-building project with great potential for creativity and humor.
Dyeing to Design High School Activity
Published on October 18, 2018
Students experiment with various ways to naturally dye materials using sources found in nature—roots, leaves, seeds, spices, etc.—as well as the method of extracting dyes. Then they analyze various materials using statistical methods and tackle an engineering design challenge—to find dyes that best suit the needs of a startup sustainable clothing company.
Nanotechnology Scavenger Hunt! High School Activity
Published on October 11, 2018
Through a scavenger hunt, students are introduced to the world of nanotechnology. In the form of a competition, groups race to locate symbols that correlate to an answer to a general nanotechnology question. Each team receives paper slips with questions; the remaining questions are hidden behind QR codes. Groups need to answer eight total questions in the correct order. Because this is an intro to nanotechnology and its associated engineering, students need to use problem-solving skills in order to identify the correct answers. After the initial scavenger hunt, a brief class discussion explores advances in nanotechnology. Next, students work in teams to research different areas of nanotechnology as they create their own scavenger hunt games.
Topographic Maps and Ratios: A Study of Denali Middle School Activity
Published on October 6, 2018
Students overlay USGS topographic maps into Google Earth’s satellite imagery. By analyzing Denali, a mountain in Alaska, they discover how to use map scales as ratios to navigate maps, and use rates to make sense of contour lines and elevation changes in an integrated GIS software program. Students also problem solve to find potential pathways up a mountain by calculating gradients.
GIS, Mathematics and Engineering Integration Middle School Lesson
Published on October 6, 2018
The concept of geocaching is introduced as a way for students to explore using a global positioning system (GPS) device and basic geographic information (GIS) skills. Students familiarize themselves with GPS, GIS, and geocaching as well as the concepts of latitude and longitude. They develop the skills and concepts needed to complete the associated activity while considering how these technologies relate to engineering. Students discuss images associated with GPS, watch a video on how GPS is used, and review a slide show of GIS basics. They estimate their location using latitude and longitude on a world map and watch a video that introduces the geocaching phenomenon. Finally, students practice using a GPS device to gain an understanding of the technology and how location and direction features work while sending and receiving data to a GIS such as Google Earth.
Geometry and Geocaching Using GIS & GPS Middle School Activity
Published on October 5, 2018
Students take on the role of geographers and civil engineers and use a device enabled with the global positioning system (GPS) to locate geocache locations via a number of waypoints. Teams save their data points, upload them to geographic information systems (GIS) software, such as Google Earth, and create scale drawings of their explorations while solving problems of area, perimeter and rates. The activity is unique in its integration of technology for solving mathematical problems and asks students to relate GPS and GIS to engineering.
Biochar: Measuring and Improving Soil Function High School Activity
Published on September 14, 2018
Students learn how to manipulate the behavior of water by using biochar—a soil amendment used to improve soil functions. As a fluid, water interacts with soil in a variety of ways. It may drain though a soil’s non-solid states, or its “pores”; lay above the soil; or move across cell membranes via osmosis. In this experiment, students solve the specific problem of standing water by researching, designing, and engineering solutions that enable water to drain faster. This activity is designed for students to explore how biochar helps soils to act as “sponges” in order to retain more water.
The Amazing Buckyball: How to Track Nanomaterials in the Human Body High School Activity
Published on September 7, 2018
Students learn how nanoparticles can be creatively used for medical diagnostic purposes. They learn about buckminsterfullerenes, more commonly known as buckyballs, and about the potential for these complex carbon molecules to deliver drugs and other treatments into the human body. They brainstorm methods to track buckyballs in the body, then build a buckyball from pipe cleaners with a fluorescent tag to model how nanoparticles might be labeled and detected for use in a living organism. As an extension, students research and select appropriate radioisotopes for different medical applications.
Shantytown Construction Redesign High School Activity
Published on September 6, 2018
Students learn about STEM education through an engineering design challenge that focuses on improving building materials used in shantytowns. First, they consider the factors that lead to shantytown development. After researching the implications of living in shantytowns, students design, build and test cement-based concrete block composites made of discarded and/or recycled materials. The aim is to make a material that is resistant to degradation by chemicals or climate, can withstand natural disasters, and endure through human-made conditions (such as urban overcrowding or pollution). The composites must be made of materials that are inexpensive and readily available so that they are viable alternative in shantytown communities. Students assess the results both chemically and physically and then iterate their designs with the materials that proved to be strongest.