The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate the importance of rocks, soils and minerals in engineering and how using the right material for the right job is important. The students build three different sand castles and test them for strength and resistance to weathering. Then, they discuss how the buildings are different and what engineers need to think about when using rocks, soils and minerals for construction.
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Students explore the impact of changing river volumes and different floodplain terrain in experimental trials with table top-sized riverbed models. The models are made using modeling clay in aluminum baking pans placed on a slight incline. Water added "upstream" at different flow rates and to different riverbed configurations simulates different potential flood conditions. Students study flood dynamics as they modify the riverbed with blockages or levees to simulate real-world scenarios.
Students learn about landslides, discovering that there are different types of landslides that occur at different speeds from very slow to very quick. All landslides are the result of gravity, friction and the materials involved. Both natural and human-made factors contribute to landslides. Students learn what makes landslides dangerous and what engineers are doing to prevent and avoid landslides.
Students investigate how different riparian ground covers, such as grass or pavement, affect river flooding. They learn about permeable and impermeable materials through the measurement how much water is absorbed by several different household materials in a model river. Students use what they learn to make recommendations for engineers developing permeable pavement. Also, they consider several different limitations for design in the context of a small community.