In this lesson, students learn some basic facts about asteroids in our solar system. The main focus is on the size of asteroids and how that relates to the potential danger of an asteroid colliding with the Earth. Students are briefly introduced to the destruction that would ensue should a large asteroid hit, as it did 65 million years ago.
Bernoulli's principle relates the pressure of a fluid to its elevation and its speed. Bernoulli's equation can be used to approximate these parameters in water, air or any fluid that has very low viscosity. Students learn about the relationships between the components of the Bernoulli equation through real-life engineering examples and practice problems.
Students learn about a special branch of engineering called bioremediation, which is the use of living organisms to aid in the clean-up of pollutant spills. Students learn all about bioremediation and see examples of its importance. In the associated activity, students conduct an experiment and see bioremediation in action!
This lesson introduces students to the idea of biomimicry or looking to nature for engineering ideas. Biomimicry involves solving human problems by mimicking natural solutions, and it works well because the solutions exist naturally. There are numerous examples of useful applications of biomimicry, and in this lesson we look at a few fun examples.
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 the plants' stem, leaves and roots. They use these observations to guide their solution to the engineering design problem. The biological processes of photosynthesis and transpiration are briefly explained to help students make informed decisions about planning and interpreting their investigation and its results.
This activity poses the question: What would happen if a meteor or comet impacted Earth? Students simulate an impact in a container of sand using various-sized rocks, all while measuring, recording and graphing results and conclusions. Then students brainstorm ways to prevent an object from hitting the Earth.
Species extinction is happening at an alarming rate according to scientists. In this lesson, students are asked to consider why extinction is a problem that we should concern us. They are taught that destruction of habitat is the main reason many species are threatened. The lesson explores ways that engineers can help save endangered species.
Students learn how the greenhouse effect is related to global warming and how global warming impacts our planet, including global climate change. Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and how we react to these changes are the main points of focus of this lesson.
Students learn what causes hurricanes and what engineers do to help protect people from destruction caused by hurricane winds and rain. Research and data collection vessels allow for scientists and engineers to model and predict weather patterns and provide forecasts and storm warnings to the public. Engineers are also involved in the design and building of flood-prevention systems, such as levees and floodwalls. During the 2005 hurricane season, levees failed in the greater New Orleans area, contributing to the vast flooding and destruction of the historic city. In the associated activity, students learn how levees work, and they build their own levees and put them to the test!
While building and testing model rockets fueled by antacid tablets, students are introduced to the basic physics concepts on how rockets work. Students revise and improve their initial designs. Note: This activity is similar to the elementary-level film canister rockets activity, but adapted for middle school students.
In this activity, students learn how to prevent exposure to the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Students will systematically test various sunscreens to determine the relationship between spf (sun protection factor) value and sun exposure. At the end of the activity, students are asked to consider how this investigation could be used to help them design a new sunscreen.
In this lesson, students learn about the physical properties of the Moon. They compare these to the properties of the Earth to determine how life would be different for astronauts living on the Moon. Using their understanding of these differences, they are asked to think about what types of products engineers would need to design for us to live comfortably on the Moon.
In this activity, students design an innovative human shelter that is inspired and informed by an animal structure. Each group is assigned an animal class, and they gather information about shelters used by the animals in that class. After researching the topic and brainstorming ideas, students build small prototypes (models) of the structures. Finally, they present their products, explaining what attribute of the animal structure influenced their design.
Students are introduced to the futuristic concept of the moon as a place people can inhabit. They brainstorm what people would need to live on the moon and then design a fantastic Moon colony and decide how to power it. Students use the engineering design process, which includes researching various types of energy sources and evaluating which would be best for their moon colonies.
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.
This lesson covers the process of photosynthesis and the related plant cell functions of transpiration and cellular respiration. Students will learn how engineers can use the natural process of photosynthesis as an exemplary model of a complex yet efficient process for converting solar energy to chemical energy or distributing water throughout a system.
Students use their understanding of projectile physics and fluid dynamics to find the water pressure in water guns. By measuring the range of the water jets, they are able to calculate the theoretical pressure. Students create graphs to analyze how the predicted pressure relates to the number of times they pump the water gun before shooting.
In this lesson, students are introduced to the historical motivation for space exploration. They learn about the International Space Station as an example of recent space travel innovation and are introduced to new and futuristic ideas that space engineers are currently working on to propel space research far into the future!
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 experiment with yeast. The scientific method is reinforced as students must design the experiment themselves making sure they include a control and complete parts of a formal lab report.
Student teams use the engineering design process to create a useful product of their choice out of recyclable items and "trash." The class is given a "landfill" of reusable items, such as aluminum cans, cardboard, paper, juice boxes, chip bags, egg cartons, milk cartons, etc., and each group is allowed a limited amount of bonding materials, such as duct tape, hot glue and string. This activity addresses the importance of reuse and encourages students to look at ways they can reuse items they would otherwise throw away.