Students learn about linear programming (also called linear optimization) to solve engineering design problems. As they work through a word problem as a class, they learn about the ideas of constraints, feasibility and optimization related to graphing linear equalities. Then they apply this information to solve two practice engineering design problems related to optimizing materials and cost by graphing inequalities, determining coordinates and equations from their graphs, and solving their equations. It is suggested that students conduct the associated activity, Optimizing Pencils in a Tray, before this lesson, although either order is acceptable.
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Student pairs are given 10 minutes to create the biggest box possible using one piece of construction paper. Teams use only scissors and tape to each construct a box and determine how much puffed rice it can hold. Then, to meet the challenge, they improve their designs to create bigger boxes. They plot the class data, comparing measured to calculated volumes for each box, seeing the mathematical relationship. They discuss how the concepts of volume and design iteration are important for engineers. Making 3-D shapes also supports the development of spatial visualization skills. This activity and its associated lesson and activity all employ volume and geometry to cultivate seeing patterns and understanding scale models, practices used in engineering design to analyze the effectiveness of proposed design solutions.
Through this lesson and its two associated activities, students are introduced to the use of geometry in engineering design, and conclude by making scale models of objects of their choice. The practice of developing scale models is often used in engineering design to analyze the effectiveness of proposed design solutions. In this lesson, students complete fencing (square) and fire pit (circle) word problems on two worksheets—which involves side and radius dimensions, perimeters, circumferences and areas—guiding them to discover the relationships between the side length of a square and its area, and the radius of a circle and its area. They also think of real-world engineering applications of the geometry concepts.
Students learn about geometric relationships by solving real mini putt examples on paper and then using putters and golf balls to experiment with the teacher’s pre-made mini put hole(s) framed by 2 x 4s, comparing their calculated (theoretical) results to real-world results. To “solve the holes,” they find the reflections of angles and then solve for those angles. They do this for 1-, 2- and 3-banked hole-in-one shots. Next, students apply their newly learned skills to design, solve and build their own mini putt holes, also made of 2 x 4s and steel corners.
Students learn about common geometry tools and then learn to use protractors (and Miras, if available) to create and measure angles and reflections. The lesson begins with a recap of the history and modern-day use of protractors, compasses and mirrors. After seeing some class practice problems and completing a set of worksheet-prompted problems, students share their methods and work. Through the lesson, students gain an awareness of the pervasive use of angles, and these tools, for design purposes related to engineering and everyday uses. This lesson prepares students to conduct the associated activity in which they “solve the holes” for hole-in-one multiple-banked angle solutions, make their own one-hole mini-golf courses with their own geometry-based problems and solutions, and then compare their “on paper” solutions to real-world results.
Students see that geometric shapes can be found in all sorts of structures as they explore the history of the Roman Empire with a focus on how engineers 2000 years ago laid the groundwork for many structures seen today. Through a short online video, brief lecture material and their own online research directed by worksheet questions, students discover how the Romans invented a structure known today as the Roman arch that enabled them to build architecture never before seen by humankind, including the amazing aqueducts. Students calculate the slope and its total drop and angle over its entire distance for an example aqueduct. Completing this lesson prepares students for the associated activity in which teams build and test model aqueducts that meet specific constraints. This lesson serves as an introduction to many other geometry—and engineering-related lessons—including statics and trusses, scale modeling, and trigonometry.
Students explore in detail how the Romans built aqueducts using arches—and the geometry involved in doing so. Building on what they learned in the associated lesson about how innovative Roman arches enabled the creation of magnificent structures such as aqueducts, students use trigonometry to complete worksheet problem calculations to determine semicircular arch construction details using trapezoidal-shaped and cube-shaped blocks. Then student groups use hot glue and half-inch wooden cube blocks to build model aqueducts, doing all the calculations to design and build the arches necessary to support a water-carrying channel over a three-foot span. They calculate the slope of the small-sized aqueduct based on what was typical for Roman aqueducts at the time, aiming to construct the ideal slope over a specified distance in order to achieve a water flow that is not spilling over or stagnant. They test their model aqueducts with water and then reflect on their performance.
Student groups work with manipulatives—pencils and trays—to maximize various quantities of a system. They work through three linear optimization problems, each with different constraints. After arriving at a solution, they construct mathematical arguments for why their solutions are the best ones before attempting to maximize a different quantity. To conclude, students think of real-world and engineering space optimization examples—a frequently encountered situation in which the limitation is the amount of space available. It is suggested that students conduct this activity before the associated lesson, Linear Programming, although either order is acceptable.
Students take a close look at truss structures, the geometric shapes that compose them, and the many variations seen in bridge designs in use every day. Through a guided worksheet, students draw assorted 2D and 3D polygon shapes and think through their forms and interior angles (mental “testing”) before and after load conditions are applied. They see how engineers add structural members to polygon shapes to support them under compression and tension, and how triangles provide the strongest elemental shape. A PowerPoint® presentation is provided. This lesson prepares students for two associated activities that continue the series on polygons and trusses.
Students learn about the role engineers play in designing and building truss structures. Simulating a real-world civil engineering challenge, student teams are tasked to create strong and unique truss structures for a local bridge. They design to address project constraints, including the requirement to incorporate three different polygon shapes, and follow the steps of the engineering design process. They use hot glue and Popsicle sticks to create their small-size bridge prototypes. After compressive load tests, they evaluate their results and redesign for improvement. They collect, graph and analyze before/after measurements of interior angles to investigate shape deformation. A PowerPoint® presentation, design worksheet and data collection sheet are provided. This activity is the final step in a series on polygons and trusses.
Students build scale models of objects of their choice. In class they measure the original object and pick a scale, deciding either to scale it up or scale it down. Then they create the models at home. Students give two presentations along the way, one after their calculations are done, and another after the models are completed. They learn how engineers use scale models in their designs of structures, products and systems. Two student worksheets as well as rubrics for project and presentation expectations and grading are provided.
Students learn about regular polygons and the common characteristics of regular polygons. They relate their mathematical knowledge of these shapes to the presence of these shapes in the human-made structures around us, especially trusses. Through a guided worksheet and teamwork, students explore the idea of dividing regular polygons into triangles, calculating the sums of angles in polygons using triangles, and identifying angles in shapes using protractors. They derive equations 1) for the sum of interior angles in a regular polygon, and 2) to find the measure of each angle in a regular n-gon. This activity extends students’ knowledge to engineering design and truss construction. This activity is the middle step in a series on polygons and trusses, and prepares students for the Polygon and Popsicle Trusses associated activity.