Designing a Package that Works
The goal is for students to understand the basics of engineering associated with the packaging of items to preserve, market, and safely deliver products. The packaging for each type of use varies. While observing and thinking about all packaging is encouraged, this activity focuses on packaging for transporting goods (shipping).
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.
Students learn how using a spectrograph helps us understand the composition of light sources. Using simple materials and holographic diffraction gratings (available online at a variety of sites, including Edmund Scientifics and the Rainbow Symphony Store for ~50 cents each), students create and customize their own spectrographs - just like engineers. They gather data about different light sources, make comparisons between sources, and theorize about their composition. Before building spectrograp
Pictures Please – Traveling Light
In this lesson, students learn that light travels in a straight line from a light source and that ray diagrams help us understand how an image will be created by a lens. In the accompanying activity, students explore the concepts behind the workings of a pinhole camera.
Through a five-lesson series with five hands-on activities, students are introduced to six simple machines - inclined plane, wedge, screw, lever, pulley, wheel-and-axle - as well as compound machines, which are combinations of two or more simple machines. Once students understand about work (work = force x distance), they become familiar with the machines' mechanical advantages, and see how they make work easier. Through an introduction to compound machines, students begin to think critically ab
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
A Simple Solution for the Circus
In this activity, students are challenged to design a contraption using simple machines to move a circus elephant into a rail car. After students consider their audience and constraints, they work in groups to brainstorm ideas and select one concept to communicate to the class.
Design and Build a Rube Goldberg
In this two-part activity, students design and build a Rube Goldberg machine. The open ended problem uses the engineering design process and can have a preset purpose, such as rolling a marble into a cup from a distance, or can be left for the students to decide.
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.
Machines and Tools, Part II
In this activity, students gain first-hand experience with the mechanical advantage of pulleys. Students are given the challenge of helping save a whale by moving it from an aquarium back to its natural habitat into the ocean. They set up different pulley systems, compare the theoretical and actual mechanical advantage of each and discuss their recommendations as a class.
In this activity, students act as environmental engineers involved with the clean up of a toxic spill. Using bioremediation as the process, students select which bacteria they will use to eat up the pollutant spilled. Students learn how engineers use bioremediation to make organism degrade harmful chemicals. Engineers must make sure bacteria have everything they need to live and degrade contaminants for bioremediation to happen. Students learn about the needs of living things by setting up an ex
Household energy audit
Students review the electrical appliances used at home and estimate the energy used for each. The results can help to show the energy hogs that could benefit from conservation or improved efficiency.
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.
This activity illustrates the interrelationship between science and engineering in the context of extinction prevention. There are two parts to the activity. The first part challenges students to think like scientists as they generate reports on endangered species and give presentations worthy of a news channel or radio broadcast. The second part puts students in the shoes of engineers, designing ways to help the endangered species.
Our Amazing, Powerful Sun
The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the students to the Sun. They explore various aspects of the Sun including its composition, its interior workings, and its relationship to the Earth.
Both Fields at Once?!
This lesson discusses the result of a charge being subject to both electric and magnetic fields at the same time. It covers the Hall effect, velocity selector, and the charge to mass ratio. Given several sample problems, students learn to calculate the Hall Voltage dependent upon the width of the plate, the drift velocity, and the strength of the magnetic field. Then students learn to calculate the velocity selector, represented by the ratio of the magnitude of the fields assuming the strength o
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
Muscles, Oh My!
Students are introduced to how engineering closely relates to the field of biomechanics and how the muscular system produces human movement. They learn the importance of the muscular system in our daily lives, why it is important to be able to repair muscular injuries and how engineering helps us by creating things to benefit our muscular health, movement and repair.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Students are introduced to the respiratory system, the lungs and air. They learn about how the lungs and diaphragm work, how air pollution affects lungs and respiratory functions, some widespread respiratory problems, and how engineers help us stay healthy by designing machines and medicines that support respiratory health and function.
Designing a Spectroscopy Mission
Students find and calculate the angle that light is transmitted through a holographic diffraction grating using trigonometry. After finding this angle, student teams design and build their own spectrographs, researching and designing a ground- or space-based mission using their creation. At project end, teams present their findings to the class, as if they were making an engineering conference presentation. Student must have completed the associated Building a Fancy Spectrograph activity before