Students learn about water erosion through an experimental process in which small-scale buildings are placed along a simulated riverbank to experience a range of flooding conditions. They learn how soil conditions are important to the stability or failure of civil engineering projects and how a river's turns and bends (curvature, sinuosity) make a difference in the likelihood of erosion. They make model buildings either with a 3D printer or with LEGO® pieces and then see how their designs and riverbank placements are impacted by slow (laminar) and fast (turbulent) water flow over the soil. Students make predictions, observations and conclusions about the stability of their model houses, and develop ideas for how to mitigate damage in civil engineering projects.
Students consider human senses and the many everyday human-made sensors so common in their lives. They learn about the three components of biosensorsâa special type of sensorâand their functions and importance. With this understanding, students identify various organs in the human body that behave as sensors, such as the pancreas. Using LEGOÂ® MINDSTORMSÂ® NXT robots, provided rbt robot programs and LEGO sensors (light, ultrasonic, sound, touch), students gain first-hand experience with sensors and come to see how engineer-designed sensors play important roles in our daily lives, informing people of their surroundings and ultimately improving our quality of life.
Students learn about contamination and pollution, specifically in reference to soil in and around rivers. To start, groups use light sensors to take light reflection measurements of different colors of sand (dyed with various amounts of a liquid food dye), generating a set of "soil" calibration data. Then, they use a stream table with a simulated a river that has a scattering of "contaminated wells" represented by locations of unknown amounts of dye. They make visual observations and use light sensors again to take reflection measurements and refer to their earlier calibration data to determine the level of "contamination" (color dye) in each well. Acting as engineers, they determine if their measured data is comparable to visual observations. The small-scale simulated flowing river shows how contamination can spread.