NGSS Engineering Design-Aligned Curriculum
The TeachEngineering hands-on activities featured here, by grade, focus on the engineering design component of the NGSS.
- Invent a Backscratcher from Everyday Materials Invent a Backscratcher from Everyday Materials
In this activity, students create devices to get "that pesky itch in the center of your back." Once the idea is thought through, students produce design schematics (sketches).
- As We Grow: Measuring Heights and Graphing Data As We Grow: Measuring Heights and Graphing Data
Students visit second- and fourth-grade classes to measure the heights of older students using large building blocks as a non-standard unit of measure. They also measure adults in the school community. Results are displayed in age-appropriate bar graphs (paper cut-outs of miniature building blocks g...
- Simple Snow Load Roof Model Demo: Which Roof Is Tops? Simple Snow Load Roof Model Demo: Which Roof Is Tops?
Through this introductory engineering activity, students explore the advantages of different roof shapes for different climates or environmental conditions. During a teacher demo, they observe and and then discuss what happens when a "snow load" (sifted cups of flour) is placed on three different mo...
- Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better? Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better?
Students test whether the color of a material affects how much heat it absorbs. They leave ice cubes placed in boxes made of colored paper (one box per color; white, yellow, red and black) in the sun, and predict in which colored box ice cubes melt first.
- The Benefits of Inclined Planes: Heave Ho! The Benefits of Inclined Planes: Heave Ho!
Students discover the scientific basis for the use of inclined planes. Using a spring scale, a bag of rocks and an inclined plane, student groups explore how dragging objects up a slope is easier than lifting them straight up into the air.
- Test & Improve: Making Tall & Strong Recycled Towers Test & Improve: Making Tall & Strong Recycled Towers
Students learn about material reuse by designing and building the strong and tall towers using only the provided selection recycled materials and meeting given design constraints. They test their model towers in shaking/earthquake and high-wind/hurricane simulations, then redesign for improvement be...
- Engineering a Mountain Rescue Litter Engineering a Mountain Rescue Litter
Students build small-sized prototypes of mountain rescue litters—rescue baskets for use in hard-to-get-to places, such as mountainous terrain—to evacuate an injured person (modeled by a potato) from the backcountry. Groups design their litters within constraints: they must be stable, lightweight, lo...
- Constraints: Pop Rockets on a Shoestring Budget Constraints: Pop Rockets on a Shoestring Budget
Students revisit the Pop Rockets activity from Lesson 3, in which mini paper rockets are powered by the chemical reaction of antacid-tablets and water in plastic film canisters. This time, however, the design of their pop rockets is limited by budgets and supplies. They get a feel for the constraint...
- Clean Enough to Drink: Making Devices to Filter Dirty Water Clean Enough to Drink: Making Devices to Filter Dirty Water
Students act as engineers contracted by NASA to create water filtration devices that clean visible particulates from teacher-prepared "dirty water." Working in groups, students experience the entire engineering design process, including a read-aloud book about the water cycle; a visiting water engin...
- Exploring Variables While Testing & Improving Mint-Mobiles Exploring Variables While Testing & Improving Mint-Mobiles
Students design, build and test model race cars made from simple materials—lifesaver-shaped candies, plastic drinking straws, Popsicle sticks, index cards, tape—as a way to explore independent, dependent and control variables.
- Small-Scale Modeling of Oil Spill Cleanup Methods Small-Scale Modeling of Oil Spill Cleanup Methods
Student teams create their own oil spills, try different methods for cleaning them up, and then discuss the merits of the methods in terms of effectiveness (cleanliness) and cost.
- Solving Everyday Problems Using the Engineering Design Cycle Solving Everyday Problems Using the Engineering Design Cycle
Students walk through two real-life at-school “problems” that are solved by using the engineering design process—teacher desk/homework organization and student locker organization. Doing this prepares students to identify and solve their own real-world engineering challenges to everyday problems at ...
- Operation Build a Bridge and Get Over It Operation Build a Bridge and Get Over It
Students act as structural engineers and learn about forces and load distributions as they follow the steps of the engineering design process to design and build small-scale bridges using wooden tongue depressors and glue. They test their bridges to see how much weight they can hold until they break...
- A Guide to Rain Garden Construction A Guide to Rain Garden Construction
Student groups create personal rain gardens planted with native species that can be installed on the school campus, within the surrounding community, or at students' homes to provide a green infrastructure and low-impact development technology solution for areas with poor drainage that often flood d...
- Renewable Energy Design: Wind Turbines Renewable Energy Design: Wind Turbines
Students apply real-world technical tools and techniques to design their own aerodynamic wind turbines that efficiently harvest the most wind energy. Specifically, teams each design a wind turbine propeller attachment
- Engineering Ethics: Evaluating Popular Inventions Engineering Ethics: Evaluating Popular Inventions
Students analyze an assortment of popular inventions to determine whom they are intended to benefit, who has access to them, who might be harmed by them, and who is profiting by them. Then they re-imagine the devices in a way that they believe would do more good for humanity.
- Reverse Engineering Project: Disassemble, Sketch & Recap Reverse Engineering Project: Disassemble, Sketch & Recap
Student pairs reverse engineer objects of their choice, learning what it takes to be an engineer. Groups each make a proposal, create a team work contract, use tools to disassemble a device, and sketch and document their full understanding of how it works.
- Concentrating on the Sun with Photovoltaic Solar Panels Concentrating on the Sun with Photovoltaic Solar Panels
Students design, build and test reflectors to measure the effect of solar reflectance on the efficiency of solar PV panels. They use a small PV panel, a multimeter, cardboard and foil to build and test their reflectors in preparation for a class competition.
- Hurricane! Saving Lives via Logical Reasoning & Computer Science Hurricane! Saving Lives via Logical Reasoning & Computer Science
Students use a hurricane tracking map to measure the distance from a specific latitude and longitude location of the eye of a hurricane to a city. Then they use the map's scale factor to convert the distance to miles. They also apply the distance formula by creating an x-y coordinate plane on the ma...
- Mathematically Designing a Frictional Roller Coaster Mathematically Designing a Frictional Roller Coaster
Students apply high school differential calculus and physics to design 2D roller coasters in which the friction force is taken into consideration. Student teams first mathematically design the coaster path (using what they learned in the associated lesson) and then use foam pipe wrap insulation mate...
Engineering design promotes vital problem solving and project-based learning while strengthening critical thinking skills. Increasingly, teachers seek engineering design-aligned curriculum to develop students’ engineering habits of mind by integrating open-ended design projects into their K-12 classes. Engineering design ties together multiple disciplines and enables students to work in teams to solve real-life problems they are passionate about!