Recently Added

Soap vs. Shampoo Surfactant Lab Activity

Published on July 12, 2016

Students learn about the properties of solutions—such as ion interactions, surface tension and viscosity—as they make their own soap and shampoo and then compare their properties. Working as if they are chemical engineers, they explore and compare how the two surfactants behave in tap water, as well as classroom-prepared acidic water, hard water and seawater using four tests: a “shake test” (assessing the amount of bubbles produced), a surface tension test, a viscosity test, and a pH test. Then they coalesce their findings into a recommendation for how to engineer the best soap versus shampoo. The activity may be shortened by using purchased liquid soap and shampoo from which students proceed to conduct the four tests. A lab worksheet and post-quiz are provided.

Engineering Derby: Tool Ingenuity Activity

Published on July 7, 2016

Student teams are challenged to navigate a table tennis ball through a timed obstacle course using only the provided unconventional “tools.” Teams act as engineers by working through the steps of the engineering design process to complete the overall task with each group member responsible to accomplish one of the obstacle course challenges. Inspired by the engineers who helped the Apollo 13 astronauts through critical problems in space, students must be innovative with the provided supplies to use them as tools to move the ball through the obstacles as swiftly as possible. Groups are encouraged to communicate with each other to share vital information. The course and tool choices are easily customizable for varied age groups and/or difficulty levels. Pre/post assessment handouts, competition rules and judging rubric are provided.

Statistical Analysis of Methods to Repair Cracked Steel Activity

Published on June 29, 2016

Students apply pre-requisite statistics knowledge and concepts learned in an associated lesson to a real-world state-of-the-art research problem that asks them to quantitatively analyze the effectiveness of different cracked steel repair methods. As if they are civil engineers, students statistically analyze and compare 12 sets of experimental data from seven research centers around the world using measurements of central tendency, five-number summaries, box-and-whisker plots and bar graphs. The data consists of the results from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer patched and unpatched cracked steel specimens tested under the same stress conditions. Based on their findings, students determine the most effective cracked steel repair method, create a report, and present their results, conclusions and recommended methods to the class as if they were presenting to the mayor and city council. This activity and its associated lesson are suitable for use during the last six weeks of the AP Statistics course; see the topics and timing note for details.

Repairing Cracked Steel Structures with Carbon Fiber Patches Lesson

Published on June 29, 2016

Over several days, students learn about composites, including carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers, and their applications in modern life. This prepares students to be able to put data from an associated statistical analysis activity into context as they conduct meticulous statistical analyses to evaluate/determine the effectiveness of carbon fiber patches to repair steel. This lesson and its associated activity are suitable for use during the last six weeks of an AP Statistics course; see the topics and timing note for details. A PowerPoint® presentation and post-quiz are provided.

Sound Visualization Stations Activity

Published on June 28, 2016

Students learn about sound and sound energy as they gather evidence that sound travels in waves. Teams work through five activity stations that provide different perspectives on how sound can be seen and felt. At one station, students observe oobleck (a shear-thickening fluid made of cornstarch and water) “dance” on a speaker as it interacts with sound waves (see Figure 1). At another station, the water or grain inside a petri dish placed on a speaker moves and make patterns, giving students a visual understanding of the wave properties of sound. At another station, students use objects of various materials and shapes (such as Styrofoam, paper, cardboard, foil) to amplify or distort the sound output of a homemade speaker (made from another TeachEngineering activity). At another station, students complete practice problems, drawing waves of varying amplitude and frequency. And at another station, they experiment with string (and guitar wire and stringed instruments, if available) to investigate how string tightness influences the plucked sound generated, and relate this sound to high/low frequency. A worksheet guides them through the five stations. Some or all of the stations may be included, depending on class size, resources and available instructors/aides, and this activity is ideal for an engineering family event.

What Makes an Eruption Explosive? Activity

Published on June 22, 2016

Students learn about the underlying factors that can contribute to Plinian eruptions (which eject large amounts of pumice, gas and volcanic ash, and can result in significant death and destruction in the surrounding environment), versus more gentle, effusive eruptions. Students explore two concepts related to the explosiveness of volcanic eruptions, viscosity and the rate of degassing, by modelling the concepts with the use of simple materials. They experiment with three fluids of varying viscosities, and explore the concept of degassing as it relates to eruptions through experimentation with carbonated beverage cans. Finally, students reflect on how the scientific concepts covered in the activity connect to useful engineering applications, such as community evacuation planning and implementation, and mapping of safe living zones near volcanoes. A PowerPoint® presentation and student worksheet are provided.

Acoustic Mirrors Activity

Published on June 22, 2016

Students play and record the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” song using musical instruments and analyze the intensity of the sound using free audio editing and recording software. Then they use hollow Styrofoam half-spheres as acoustic mirrors (devices that reflect and focus sound), determine the radius of curvature of the mirror and calculate its focal length. Students place a microphone at the acoustic mirror focal point, re-record their songs, and compare the sound intensity on plot spectrums generated from their recordings both with and without the acoustic mirrors. A worksheet and KWL chart are provided.

Rebuilding Soil with Biochar Activity

Published on May 18, 2016

Students learn about soil properties and the effect biochar—charcoal used as a soil amendment—has on three soil types, sand, loam and clay. They test the soils’ water retention capability before and after the addition of biochar. During the activity, student teams prepare soil mixtures, make observations (including microscopic examinations), compare soil properties, conduct water retention tests, take and record measurements, and analyze their observations and data. They see how the physical properties of soils—color, texture, and particle size—can be indicators of nutrient content and water retention capabilities to support plant growth. From their findings, they consider biochar’s potential benefits for environmental and agricultural applications, especially in conditions of drought and depleted soils. An activity lab sheet is provided to guide experimental data collection and analysis.

Alloy the Way to Mars Activity

Published on May 18, 2016

Acting as engineering teams, students take measurements and make calculations to determine the specific strength of various alloys and then report their data to the rest of the class. Using this class data, students write data-based recommendations to NASA regarding the best alloy to use in the construction of the engine and engine turbines for the Space Launch System that will eventually be used to transport astronauts to Mars.

Alloy Advantage Lesson

Published on May 18, 2016

Students define and classify alloys as mixtures, while comparing and contrasting the properties of alloys to those of pure substances. Students learn that engineers investigate the structures and properties of alloys for biomedical and transportation applications. Pre- and post-assessment handouts are provided.

Wind Power (for Informal Learning) Sprinkle

Published on May 13, 2016

Students build small wind turbines to see how much wind energy they can transform into electrical energy.

Super Spinners (for Informal Learning) Sprinkle

Published on May 13, 2016

Students build simple spinners to learn about rotation.

Straw Bridges (for Informal Learning) Sprinkle

Published on May 13, 2016

Students design, build and test truss bridges made of straws and tape to see how much weight they can support.

Selectively Permeable Membranes Activity

Published on May 12, 2016

Students learn that engineers develop different polymers to serve various functions and are introduced to selectively permeable membranes. In a warm-up activity, they construct models of selectively permeable membranes using common household materials, and are reminded about simple diffusion and passive transport. In the main activity, student pairs test and compare the selective permeability of everyday polymer materials engineered for food storage (including plastic grocery bags, zipper sandwich bags, and plastic wrap) with various in-solution molecules (iodine, corn starch, food coloring, marker dye), assess how the polymer’s permeability relates to its function/purpose, and compare that to the permeability of dialysis tubing (which simulates a cell membrane).

Clean Enough to Drink Activity

Published on April 16, 2016

Students act as engineers contracted by NASA to create water filtration devices that clean visible particulates from teacher-prepared "dirty water." They learn about the worldwide need for potable water and gain appreciation for why water quality is an important issue for people on Earth as well as on the International Space Station. Working in groups, students experience the entire engineering design process, including a read-aloud book about the water cycle; a visiting water engineer presentation; their own online research about filter methods and designs; group brainstorming of designs (using ordinary household materials); filter construction and testing; redesign and retesting; lab book documentation of their notes, research, plans and results; and a summary poster presentation at a mini-engineering fair. Two design planning worksheets, a poster layout suggestion sheet and a grading rubric are provided.

When Should I Drink My Hot Chocolate? Activity

Published on March 31, 2016

Students act as food science engineers as they explore and apply their understanding of cooling rate and specific heat capacity by completing two separate, but interconnected, tasks. In Part 1, student groups conduct an experiment to explore the cooling rate of a cup of hot chocolate. They collect and graph data to create a mathematical model that represents the cooling rate, and use an exponential decay regression to determine how long a person should wait to drink the cup of hot chocolate at an optimal temperature. In Part 2, students investigate the specific heat capacity of the hot chocolate. They determine how much energy is needed to heat the hot chocolate to an optimal temperature after it has cooled to room temperature. Two activity-guiding worksheets are included.

The Lunch-Bot Activity

Published on March 25, 2016

Students are challenged to design and program Arduino-controlled robots that behave like simple versions of the automated guided vehicles engineers design for real-world applications. Using Arduino microcontroller boards, infrared (IR) sensors, servomotors, attachable wheels and plastic containers (for the robot frame), they make "Lunch-Bots." Teams program the robots to meet the project constraints—to follow a line of reflective tape, make turns and stop at a designated spot to deliver a package, such as a sandwich or pizza slice. They read and interpret analog voltages from IR sensors, compare how infrared reflects differently off different materials, and write Arduino programs that use IR sensor inputs to control the servomotors. Through the process, students experience the entire engineering design process. Pre/post-quizzes and coding help documents are provided.

What Is an IR Sensor? Lesson

Published on March 25, 2016

Students learn about infrared energy and how it is used to sense the surrounding environment. They review where infrared falls on the electromagnetic spectrum and learn how infrared sensors work, as well as various ways engineers and scientists create and apply infrared technology to study science and collect information for security, communications, medical, research and other purposes. Pre/post-quizzes and a take-home assignment are provided. Learning the concepts prepares students to conduct the associated activity in which they design and program Arduino-controlled robots that use IR sensors to follow a line and make designated stops, much like the automated guided vehicles used in industry and commerce.

Protect the Pump! Activity

Published on March 17, 2016

Students learn how biomedical engineers work with engineers and other professionals to develop dependable medical devices. Specifically, they learn about suction pumps, which are important devices to keep in good repair, especially when they are used in remote locations. Student teams brainstorm, sketch, design and create prototypes of suction pump protection devices to keep fluid from backing up and ruining the pump motors. Using a real suction pump, they conduct repeated trials to test their devices for reliability, making improvements as necessary.