Life in Space: The International Space Station
Students are introduced to the International Space Station (ISS) with information about its structure, operation and key experiments. The ISS itself is an experiment in international cooperation to explore the potential for humans to live in space. The space station features state-of-the-art science and engineering laboratories to conduct research in medicine, materials and fundamental science to benefit people on Earth as well as people who will live in space in the future.
Mars and Jupiter
Students explore Mars and Jupiter, the fourth and fifth planets from the Sun. They learn some of the unique characteristics of these planets. They also learn how engineers help us learn about these planets with the design and development of telescopes, deep space antennas, spacecraft and planetary rovers.
Not So Simple
Students expand upon their understanding of simple machines with an introduction to compound machines. A compound machine — a combination of two or more simple machines — can affect work more than its individual components. Engineers who design compound machines aim to benefit society by lessening the amount of work that people exert for even common household tasks. This lesson encourages students to critically think about machine inventions and their role in our lives.
Watt meters to measure energy consumption
Students use watt meters to measure the power required and calculate energy used from various electrical devices and household appliances.
A process for technical problem solving is introduced and applied to a fun demonstration. Given the success with the demo, the iterative nature of the process can be illustrated.
Students evaluate various everyday energy conversion devices and draw block flow diagrams to show the forms and states of energy into and out of the device. They also identify the forms of energy that are useful and the desired output of the device as well as the forms that are not useful for the intended use of the item. This can be used to lead into the law of conservation of energy and efficiency. The student activity is preceded by a demonstration of a more complicated system to convert chem
Corn for Fuel?!
In this activity, students examine how to grow plants the most efficiently. They imagine that they are designing a biofuels production facility and need to know how to efficiently grow plants to use in this facility. As a means of solving this design problem, they plan a scientific experiment in which they investigate how a given variable (of their choice) affects plant growth. They then make predictions about the outcomes and record their observations after two weeks regarding the condition of
Students do work by lifting a known mass over a period of time. The mass and measured distance and time is used to calculate force, work, energy and power in metric units. The students’ power is then compared to horse power and the power required to light a 60 W light bulb.
Sounds All Around
Students follow the steps of the engineering design process to create their own ear trumpet devices (used before modern-day hearing aids), including testing them with a set of reproducible sounds. They learn to recognize different pitches, and see how engineers must test designs and materials to achieve the best amplifying properties.
My Mechanical Ear Can Hear!
Students are introduced to various types of hearing impairments and the types of biomedical devices that engineers have designed to aid people with this physical disability.
Engineering in Reverse!
Students learn about the process of reverse engineering and how this technique is used to improve upon technology. Students analyze push-toys and draw diagrams of the predicted mechanisms inside the toys. Then, they disassemble the toys and draw the actual inner mechanisms. By understanding how the push-toys function, students make suggestions for improvement, such as cost effectiveness, improved functionality, ecological friendliness and any additional functionality they determine is an improve
Cutting Through Soil
Students pretend they are agricultural engineers during the colonial period and design a miniature plow that cuts through a “field” of soil. They are introduced to the engineering design process and learn of several famous historical figures who contributed to plow design.
Solar Water Heater
Student teams design and build solar water heating devices that mimic those used in residences to capture energy in the form of solar radiation and convert it to thermal energy. This thermal energy is next transferred to water (to be used as domestic hot water) in the form of heat. In doing this, students gain a better understanding of the three different types of heat transfer, each of which plays a role in the solar water heater design. Once the model devices are constructed, students perform
Rockets need a lot of thrust to get into space. In this lesson, students learn how rocket thrust is generated with propellant. The two types of propellants are discussed and relation to their use on rockets is investigated. Students learn why engineers need to know the different properties of propellants.
Students continue to explore the story of building a pyramid, learning about the simple machine called a pulley. They learn how a pulley can be used to change the direction of applied forces and move/lift extremely heavy objects, and the powerful mechanical advantages of using a multiple-pulley system. Students perform a simple demonstration to see the mechanical advantage of using a pulley, and they identify modern day engineering applications of pulleys. In a hands-on activity, they see how a
All Caught Up
Commercial fishing nets often trap unprofitable animals in the process of catching their target species. In the following activity, students will experience the difficulty that fishermen experience while trying to isolate a target species when a variety of animals are found in the area of interest. The class will then discuss the large magnitude of this problem. Students will practice their data acquisition and analysis skills, through the collection of data and processing of this information to
Sound for Sight
Echolocation is the ability to orient by transmitting sound and receiving echoes from objects in the environment. As a result of a Marco-Polo type activity and subsequent lesson, students learn basic concepts of echolocation. They use these concepts to understand how dolphins use echolocation to locate prey, escape predators, navigate their environment, such as avoiding gillnets set by commercial fishing vessels. Students will also learn that dolphin sounds are vibrations created by vocal organs
Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better?
Students test whether the color of a material affects how much heat it absorbs. Students will place an ice cube in a box made of colored paper (one box per color; white, yellow, red and black), which they will place in the sun. The students will make prediction as to which color will melt the ice cube first. They will record the order and time required for the ice cubes to melt.
Students investigate the accuracy of sundials and the discrepancy that lies between "real time" and "clock time." They track the position of the sun during the course of a relatively short period of time as they make a shadow plot, a horizontal sundial, and a diptych sundial. (The activity may be abridged to include only one or two of the different sundials, instead of all three.)
Tracking a Virus
Students simulate the spread of a virus such as HIV through a population by “sharing” (but not drinking) the water in a plastic cup with several classmates. Although invisible, the water in a few of the cups will already be tainted with the “virus” (sodium carbonate). After all the students have shared their liquids, the contents of the cups will be tested for the virus with phenolphthalein, a chemical that causes a striking color change in the presence of sodium carbonate. Students will