Students are introduced to biofuels, biological engineers, algae and how they grow (photosynthesis), and what parts of algae can be used for biofuel (biomass from oils, starches, cell wall sugars). Through this lesson, plants—and specifically algae—are presented as an energy solution. Students learn that breaking apart algal cell walls enables access to oil, starch, and cell wall sugars for biofuel production. Students compare/contrast biofuels and fossil fuels. They learn about the field of biological engineering, including what biological engineers do. A 20-slide PowerPoint® presentation is provided that supports students taking notes in the Cornell format. Short pre- and post-quizzes are provided. This lesson prepares students to conduct the associated activity in which they make and then eat edible algal cell models.
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In this lesson, students learn that sound is energy and has the ability to do work. Students discover that sound is produced by a vibration and they observe soundwaves and how they travel through mediums. They understand that sound can be absorbed, reflected or transmitted. Through associated activities, videos and a PowerPoint presentation led by the teacher, students further their exploration of sound through discussions in order to build background knowledge.
Students learn about the scientific and mathematical concepts around electromagnetic light properties that enable the engineering of sunglasses for eye protection. They compare and contrast tinted and polarized lenses as well as learn about light intensity and how different mediums reduce the intensities of various electromagnetic radiation wavelengths. Through a PowerPoint® presentation, students learn about light polarization, transmission, reflection, intensity, attenuation, and Malus’ law. A demo using two slinky springs helps to illustrate wave disturbances and different-direction polarizations. As a mini-activity, students manipulate slide-mounted polarizing filters to alter light intensity and see how polarization by transmission works. Students use the Malus’ law equation to calculate the transmitted light intensity and learn about Brewster’s angle. Two math problem student handouts are provided. Students also brainstorm ideas on how sunglasses could be designed and improved, which prepares them for the associated hands-on design/build activity.
Through this lesson and its series of hands-on mini-activities, students answer the question: How can we investigate and measure the inside of an object or its structure if we cannot take it apart? Unlike the destructive nuclear weapon test (!), nondestructive evaluation (NDE) methods are able to accomplish this. After an introductory slide presentation, small groups rotate through five mini-activity stations: 1) applying Maxwell’s equations, 2) generating currents, 3) creating magnetic fields, 4) solving a system of equations, and 5) understanding why the finite element method (FEM) is important. Through the short experiments, students become familiar with the science and physics being used and make the mathematical connections. They explore components of NDE and see how engineers find unseen flaws and cracks in materials that make aircraft. A pre/post quiz, slide presentation and worksheet are included.
The concept of geocaching is introduced as a way for students to explore using a global positioning system (GPS) device and basic geographic information (GIS) skills. Students familiarize themselves with GPS, GIS, and geocaching as well as the concepts of latitude and longitude. They develop the skills and concepts needed to complete the associated activity while considering how these technologies relate to engineering. Students discuss images associated with GPS, watch a video on how GPS is used, and review a slide show of GIS basics. They estimate their location using latitude and longitude on a world map and watch a video that introduces the geocaching phenomenon. Finally, students practice using a GPS device to gain an understanding of the technology and how location and direction features work while sending and receiving data to a GIS such as Google Earth.
Students learn about the current applications and limitations of 3D bioprinting, as well as its amazing future potential. This lesson, and its fun associated activity, provides a unique way to review and explore concepts such as differing cell functions, multicellular organism complexity, and engineering design steps. As introduced through a PowerPoint® presentation, students learn about three different types of bioprinters, with a focus on the extrusion model. Then they learn the basics of tissue engineering and the steps to design printed tissues. This background information prepares students to conduct the associated activity in which they use mock-3D bioprinters composed of a desktop setup that uses bags of icing to “bioprint” replacement skin, bone and muscle for a fictitious trauma patient, Bill. A pre/post-quiz is also provided.
Students learn about video motion capture technology, becoming familiar with concepts such as vector components, magnitudes and directions, position, velocity, and acceleration. They use a (free) classroom data collection and processing tool—the ARK Mirror—to visualize and record 3-D motion. The Augmented Reality Kinematics (ARK) Mirror software collects data via a motion detector. Using an Orbbec Astra Pro 3D camera or Microsoft Kinect (see note below), students can visualize and record a robust set of data and interpret them using statistical and graphical methods. This lesson introduces students to just one possible application of the ARK Mirror software—in the context of a high school physics class. Note: The ARK Mirror is ported to operate on an Orbbec platform. It may also be used with a Microsoft Kinect, although that Microsoft hardware has been discontinued. Refer to the Using ARK Mirror and Microsoft Kinect attachment for how to use the ARK MIrror software with Microsoft Kinect.
Students learn some of the implications of 3D printing in the biomedical field. Unlike 3D printers used in a classroom or by consumers, which use a plastic filament to produce a product, 3D printing for medical purposes is often with real living cells. In this lesson, students gain an understanding of how 3D printing is changing lives for the better through a presentation and group discussion. In the corresponding activity, they have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on simulation of a real-world 3D printing task.
Students learn about nuclear energy generation through a nuclear power plant virtual field trip that includes visiting four websites and watching a short video taken inside a nuclear power plant. They are guided by a handout that provides the URLs and questions to answer from their readings. They conclude with a class discussion to share their findings and reflections. It is recommended that students complete the associated activity, Chernobyl Empathy, before conducting this lesson; doing this assists students in gaining an understanding of how devastating nuclear meltdowns can be, which underscores the importance of careful engineering.
Students learn about the basic principles of electromicrobiology—the study of microorganisms’ electrical properties—and the potential that these microorganisms may have as a next-generation source of sustainable energy. They are introduced to one such promising source: microbial fuel cells (MFCs). Using the metabolisms of microbes to generate electrical current, MFCs can harvest bioelectricity, or energy, from the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Students learn about the basics of MFCs and how they function as well as the chemical processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration
Students are introduced to the growing worldwide environmental problems that stem from plastic waste. What they learn about microplastics and the typical components of the U.S. water treatment process prepares them to conduct three engaging associated activities. During the lesson, students become more aware of the pervasiveness and value of plastic as well as the downstream pollution and health dangers. They learn how plastic materials don’t go away, but become microplastic pollution that accumulates in water resources as well as human and other animal bodies. They examine their own plastic use, focusing on what they discard daily, and think about better ways to produce or package those items to eliminate or reduce their likelihood of ending up as microplastic pollution. A concluding writing assignment reveals their depth of comprehension. The lesson is enhanced by arranging for a local water treatment plant representative to visit the class for Qs and As. In three associated activities, students design/test microplastic particle filtering methods for commercial products, create mini wastewater treatment plant working models that remove waste and reclaim resources from simulated wastewater, and design experiments to identify the impact of microplastics on micro-invertebrates.
Students explore the basic physics behind walking, and the design and engineering of shoes to accommodate different gaits. They are introduced to pressure, force and impulse as they relate to shoes, walking and running. Students learn about the mechanics of walking, shoe design and common gait misalignments that often lead to injury.
Students learn how the innovative engineering of photovoltaics enables us to transform the sun’s energy into usable power—electricity—through the use of photovoltaic cells. Watching a short video clip from “The Martian” movie shows the importance of photovoltaics in powering space exploration at extreme distances from the Earth. Then students learn that the photovoltaic technologies designed to excel in the harsh environment of space have the potential to be just as beneficial on Earth—providing electricity-generating systems based on renewable energy sources is important for our electricity-gobbling society. Two student journaling sheets assist with vocabulary and concepts.
Roller coasters projects are frequently used in middle and high school physics classes to illustrate the principle of conservation of mechanical energy. Potential energy transforms to kinetic energy and vice versa, with gravity being the driving force during the entire process. Even though friction force is mentioned, it is rarely considered in the velocity calculations along the coasters’ paths. In this high school lesson, the friction force is considered in the process. Using basic calculus and the work-energy theorem for non-conservative forces, the friction along a curved path is quantified, and the cart’s velocity along this path is predicted. This activity and its associated lesson are designed for AP Calculus. Practice problems/answers, a PowerPoint® presentation and student notes are provided.
This lesson focuses on ultrasound wavelengths and how sound frequencies are used by engineers to help with detection of specific distances to or in materials. Students gain an understanding about how ultrasonic waves are reflected and refracted. Students also see how ultrasound technology is used in medical devices. The activity following this lesson allows students to test their knowledge by using the Sunfounder Ultrasonic sensor and Arduino Mega Microcontroller.