Shoes Under Pressure
Students explore the basic physics behind walking, and the design and engineering of shoes to accommodate different gaits. They are introduced to pressure, force and impulse as they relate to shoes, walking and running. Students learn about the mechanics of walking, shoe design and common gait misalignments that often lead to injury.
A New Angle on PV Efficiency
Students examine how the orientation of a photovoltaic (PV) panel relative to the sun affects the efficiency of the panel. Using sunshine (or a lamp) and a small PV panel connected to a digital multimeter, students vary the angle of the solar panel, record the resulting current output on a worksheet, and plot their experimental results.
Feel the Stress
Working individually or in groups, students explore the concept of stress (compression) through physical experience and math. They discover why it hurts more to poke themselves with mechanical pencil lead than with an eraser. Then they prove why this is so by using the basic equation for stress and applying the concepts to real engineering problems.
Snow vs. Water
Engineers work in many fields associated with precipitation. Engineers study glaciers to better understand their dates of formation and current demise. They deal with issues of pollution transport and water yield, and they monitor reservoirs and dams to prevent flooding.
Swinging Pendulum (for High School)
This activity shows students the engineering importance of understanding the laws of mechanical energy. More specifically, it demonstrates how potential energy can be converted to kinetic energy and back again. Given a pendulum height, students calculate and predict how fast the pendulum will swing by using the equations for potential and kinetic energy. The equations will be justified as students experimentally measure the speed of the pendulum and compare theory with reality.
Got Energy? Spinning a Food Web
Students learn about energy flow in food webs, including the roles of the sun, producers, consumers and decomposers in the energy cycle. They model a food web and create diagrams of food webs using their own drawings and/or images from nature or wildlife magazines. Students investigate the links between the sun, plants and animals, building their understanding of the web of nutrient dependency and energy transfer.
Students learn about the Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon. They discuss the Moon’s surface features and human exploration. They also learn about how engineers develop technologies to study and explore the Moon, which also helps us learn more about the Earth.
Rube Goldberg and the Meaning of Machines
Simple and compound machines are designed to make work easier. When we encounter a machine that does not fit this understanding, the so-called machine seems absurd. In this lesson, the cartoons of Rube Goldberg are introduced and engage the students in critical thinking about the way his inventions make a simple task even harder to complete. As the final lesson in the simple machines unit, the study of Rube Goldberg machines can help students evaluate the importance and usefulness of the many ma
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.
The Magician’s Catapult
In this activity, students reinforce their understanding of compound machines by building a catapult. This compound machine consists of a lever and a wheel-and-axel. Catapults have been designed by engineers for a variety of purposes — from lifting boulders into the air for warfare to human beings for entertainment; the projectiles in this activity are grapes for a magic act. Given the building materials, students design and build their catapult to launch a grape a certain distance.
Energy Systems and Solutions
The Energy Systems and Solutions Unit brings students through the exploration of science and engineering concepts as they relate to energy issues in everyday life. Issues surrounding energy production and energy consumption provide a relevant theme for learning basic science, math and engineering concepts, and also provide a convenient platform for introducing current scientific and technological developments into the curriculum. Energy-related issues touch on the lives of each and every student
A quantitative illustration of how non-renewable resources are depleted while renewable resources continue to provide energy. The activity requires students to remove beads (units of energy) from a bag (representing a country). A certain number of beads are removed from the bag each “year.” At some point, no non-renewable beads remain. Groups of students have different ratios of renewable and non-renewable energy beads. A comparison of the remaining beads and time when they ran out of energy
Household Energy Conservation and Efficiency
Students complete three different activities to evaluate the energy consumption in a household and explore potential ways to reduce that consumption. The focus is on conservation and energy efficient electrical devices and appliances. The lesson reinforces the relationship between power and energy and associated measurements and calculations required to evaluate energy consumption. The lesson provides the students with more concrete information for completing their culminating unit assignment.
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.
We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!
Students discuss several human reproductive technologies available today — pregnancy ultrasound, amniocentesis, in-vitro fertilization and labor anesthetics. They learn how each technology works, and that these are ways engineers have worked to improve the health of expecting mothers and babies.
Who Robbed the Bank?
Students use DNA profiling to determine who robbed a bank. After they learn how the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is used to match crime scene DNA with tissue sample DNA, students use CODIS principles and sample DNA fragments to determine which of three suspects matches evidence obtain at a crime location. They communicate their results as if they were biomedical engineers reporting to a police crime scene investigation.
The Mummified Troll: Devising a Protection Plan
Students are introduced to the parameters of an engineering challenge in which their principal has asked them to devise an invisible security system to cost-effectively protect a treasured mummified troll, while still allowing for visitor viewing during the day. Students generate ideas for solving the grand challenge, first independently, then in small groups, and finally, compiled as a class.
Induced EMF in a coil of wire
Students use a simple set up consisting of a coil of wire and a magnet to visualize induced EMF. First, students move a coil of wire near a magnet and observe the voltage that results. They then experiment with moving the wire, magnet, and a second, current carrying coil. Students connect the coil to a circuit and the current from the induced EMF charges a conductor.
May the Magnetic Force be with You
This lesson begins with a demonstration of the deflection of an electron beam. Students then review their knowledge of the cross product and the right hand rule with sample problems. After which, students study the magnetic force on a charged particle as compared to the electric force. The following lecture material covers the motion of a charged particle in a magnetic field with respect to the direction of the field. Finally, students apply these concepts to understand the magnetic force on a c
Light It Up
Through an introduction to the design of lighting systems and the electromagnetic spectrum, students learn about the concept of daylighting as well as two types of light bulbs (lamps) often used in energy-efficient lighting design. Students learn how the application of something as simple, and free, as natural light can help them improve the future of generations to come.