In this lesson, students expand their understanding of solid waste management to include the idea of 3RC (reduce, reuse, recycle and compost). They will look at the effects of packaging decisions (reducing) and learn about engineering advancements in packaging materials and solid waste management. Also, they will observe biodegradation in a model landfill (composting).
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In this engineering, math, and sustainability project students answer the question, “Can I ride 53 miles on a bike from the energy of a single burrito?” They must define their variables, collect and analyze their data, and present their results. By the end of this project, developed by Allen Distinguished Educator Mike Wierusz, students should have all the information they need to design a burrito that would provide them with the exact caloric content necessary to ride 53 miles.
In this activity, students explore the effect of chemical erosion on statues and monuments. They use chalk to see what happens when limestone is placed in liquids with different pH values. They also learn several things that engineers are doing to reduce the effects of acid rain.
Students conduct a simple experiment to model and explore the harmful effects of acid rain (vinegar) on living (green leaf and eggshell) and non-living (paper clip) objects.
Students are introduced to the differences between acids and bases and how to use indicators, such as pH paper and red cabbage juice, to distinguish between them.
Students explore the adaptations that allow beavers to thrive in aquatic environments, then make observations and inferences about the functions of diverse bird beaks.
Students discuss the migration of monarch butterflies as an example of behavioral adaptations, then act out the behavioral adaptations of organisms in charades.
By watching and performing several simple experiments, students develop an understanding of the properties of air: it has mass, it takes up space, it can move, it exerts pressure, it can do work.
Students are introduced to the concept of air quality by investigating the composition, properties, atmospheric layers and everyday importance of air. They explore the sources and effects of visible and invisible air pollution. By learning some fundamental meteorology concepts (air pressure, barometers, prediction, convection currents, temperature inversions), students learn the impact of weather on air pollution control and prevention. Looking at models and maps, they explore the consequences of pollutant transport via weather and water cycles. Students are introduced to acids, bases and pH, and the environmental problem of acid rain, including how engineers address this type of pollution. Using simple models, they study the greenhouse effect, the impact of increased greenhouse gases on the planet's protective ozone layer and the global warming theory. Students explore the causes and effects of the Earth's ozone holes through an interactive simulation. Students identify the types and sources of indoor air pollutants in their school and home, evaluating actions that can be taken to reduce and prevent poor indoor air quality. By building and observing a few simple models of pollutant recovery methods, students explore the modern industrial technologies designed by engineers to clean up and prevent air pollution.
Air pressure is pushing on us all the time although we do not usually notice it. In this activity, students learn about the units of pressure and get a sense of just how much air pressure is pushing on them.
Students learn what causes air pollution and how to investigate the different pollutants that exist, such as toxic gases and particulate matter. They investigate the technologies developed by engineers to reduce air pollution.
Students learn about the differences between types of water (surface and ground), as well as the differences between streams, rivers and lakes. Then, they learn about dissolved organic matter (DOM), and the role it plays in identifying drinking water sources. Finally, students are introduced to conventional drinking water treatment processes.
Commercial fishing nets often trap "unprofitable" animals in the process of catching target species. In this activity, students experience the difficulty that fishermen experience while trying to isolate a target species when a variety of sea animals are found in the area of interest. Then the class discusses the large magnitude of this problem. Students practice data acquisition and analysis skills by collecting data and processing it to deduce trends on target species distribution. They conclude by discussing how bycatch impacts their lives and whether or not it is an important environmental issue that needs attention. As an extension, students use their creativity and innovative skills to design nets or other methods, theoretically and/or through hands-on prototyping, that fisherman could use to help avoid bycatch.
Bycatch, the unintended capture of animals in commercial fishing gear, is a hot topic in marine conservation today. The surprisingly high level of bycatch about 25% of the entire global catch is responsible for the decline of hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, porpoises, seabirds and sea turtles each year. Through this curricular unit, students analyze the significance of bycatch in the global ecosystem and propose solutions to help reduce bycatch. They become familiar with current attempts to reduce the fishing mortality of these animals. Through the associated activities, the challenges faced today are reinforced and students are stimulated to brainstorm about possible engineering designs or policy changes that could reduce the magnitude of bycatch.
Students learn that fats found in the foods we eat are not all the same; they discover that physical properties of materials are related to their chemical structures. Provided with several samples of commonly used fats with different chemical properties (olive oil, vegetable oil, shortening, animal fat and butter), student groups build and use simple LEGO MINDSTORMS(TM) NXT robots with temperature and light sensors to determine the melting points of the fat samples. Because of their different chemical structures, these fats exhibit different physical properties, such as melting point and color. This activity uses the fact that fats are opaque when solid and translucent when liquid to determine the melting point of each sample upon being heated. Students heat the samples, and use the robot to determine when samples are melted. They analyze plots of their collected data to compare melting points of the oil samples to look for trends. Discrepancies are correlated to differences in the chemical structure and composition of the fats.
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.
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.
Aerogel, commonly called "frozen smoke," is a super-material with some amazing properties. In this lesson and its associated activity, students learn about this silicon-based solid with a sponge-like structure. Students also learn about density and how aerogel is 99.8% air by volume, making it the lightest solid known to humans! Further, students learn about basic heat transfer and how aerogel is a great thermal insulator, having 39 times more insulation than the best fiberglass insulation. Students also learn about the wide array of aerogel applications.