In order to contextualize the Energy unit, students are tasked to engineer a bungee cord that will optimize the enjoyment of a doll’s bungee jump. To do this, students first develop the mathematical patterns through inquiry on gravitational energy, kinetic energy, and elastic energy. Once the patterns have been established, students further build on their spreadsheet coding skills, in order to use computational thinking to create a program that will help predict the length of bungee cord necessary for a variety of situations.
In this engineering, math, and sustainability project students answer the question, “Can I ride 53 miles on a bike from the energy of a single burrito?” They must define their variables, collect and analyze their data, and present their results. By the end of this project, developed by Allen Distinguished Educator Mike Wierusz, students should have all the information they need to design a burrito that would provide them with the exact caloric content necessary to ride 53 miles.
Student teams design their own booms (bridges) and engage in a friendly competition with other teams to test their designs. Each team strives to design a boom that is light, can hold a certain amount of weight, and is affordable to build. Teams are also assessed on how close their design estimations are to the final weight and cost of their boom "construction." This activity teaches students how to simplify the math behind the risk and estimation process that takes place at every engineering firm prior to the bidding phase when an engineering firm calculates how much money it will take to build the project and then "bids" against other competitors.
Construct and measure the energy efficiency and solar heat gain of a cardboard model house. Use a light bulb heater to imitate a real furnace and a temperature sensor to monitor and regulate the internal temperature of the house. Use a bright bulb in a gooseneck lamp to model sunlight at different times of the year, and test the effectiveness of windows for passive solar heating.
Students learn how to build simple piezoelectric generators to power LEDs. To do this, they incorporate into a circuit a piezoelectric element that converts movements they make (mechanical energy) into electrical energy, which is stored in a capacitor (short-term battery). Once enough energy is stored, they flip a switch to light up an LED. Students also learn how much (surprisingly little) energy can be converted using the current state of technology for piezoelectric materials.
Students learn how the total solar irradiance hitting a photovoltaic (PV) panel can be increased through the use of a concentrating device, such as a reflector or lens. This is the final lesson in the Photovoltaic Efficiency unit and is intended to accompany a fun design project (see the associated Concentrating on the Sun with PVs activity) to wrap up the unit. However, it can be completed independently of the other unit lessons and activities.
Students practice the initial steps involved in an engineering design challenge. They begin by reviewing the steps of the engineering design loop and discussing the client need for the project. Next, they identify a relevant context, define the problem within their design teams, and examine the project's requirements and constraints. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on, which could be a challenge determined by the teacher, brainstormed with the class, or the example project challenge provided [to design a prosthetic arm that can perform a mechanical function].)
Through Internet research, patent research, standards and codes research, user interviews (if possible) and other techniques (idea web, reverse engineering), students further develop the context for their design challenge. In subsequent activities, the design teams use this body of knowledge about the problem to generate product design ideas. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on, which could be a challenge determined by the teacher, brainstormed with the class, or the example project challenge provided [to design a prosthetic arm that can perform a mechanical function]. This activity is Step 2 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
Brainstorming is a team creativity activity that helps generate a large number of potential solutions to a problem. In this activity, students participate in a group brainstorming activity to generate possible solutions to their engineering design challenge. Students learn brainstorming guidelines and practice within their teams to create a poster of ideas. The posters are used in a large group critiquing activity that ultimately helps student teams create a design project outline. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on; this activity is Step 3 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
Engineering analysis distinguishes true engineering design from "tinkering." In this activity, students are guided through an example engineering analysis scenario for a scooter. Then they perform a similar analysis on the design solutions they brainstormed in the previous activity in this unit. At activity conclusion, students should be able to defend one most-promising possible solution to their design challenge. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on; this activity is Step 4 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
Students learn about the manufacturing phase of the engineering design process. They start by building prototypes, which is a special type of model used to test new design ideas. Students gain experience using a variety of simple building materials, such as foam core board, balsa wood, cardstock and hot glue. They present their prototypes to the class for user testing and create prototype iterations based on feedback. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on; this activity is Step 5 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
As students learn more about the manufacturing process, they use the final prototypes created in the previous activity to evaluate, design and manufacture final products. Teams work with more advanced materials and tools, such as plywood, Plexiglas, metals, epoxies, welding materials and machining tools. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on; this activity is Step 6 in a series of six that guide students through the engineering design loop.)
This simulation lets learners explore how heating and cooling adds or removes energy. Use a slider to heat blocks of iron or brick to see the energy flow. Next, build your own system to convert mechanical, light, or chemical energy into electrical or thermal energy. (Learners can choose sunlight, steam, flowing water, or mechanical energy to power their systems.) The simulation allows students to visualize energy transformation and describe how energy flows in various systems. Through examples from everyday life, it also bolsters understanding of conservation of energy. This item is part of a larger collection of simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET).
In Activity 5, as part of the Going Public step, students demonstrate their knowledge of how potential energy may be transferred into kinetic energy. Students design, build and test vehicle prototypes that transfer various types of potential energy into motion.
Explore the concept of evaporative cooling through a hands-on experiment. Use a wet cloth and fan to model an air-conditioner and use temperature and relative humidity sensors to collect data. Then digitally plot the data using graphs in the activity. In an optional extension, make your own modifications to improve the cooler's efficiency.
Students will design and build a machine to lift "barrels" of volatile chemicals from a "dangerous" spill area to a "safe" area.
During this engineering design/build project, students investigate many different solutions to a problem. Their design challenge is to find a way to get school t-shirts up into the stands during home sporting events. They follow the steps of the engineering design process to design and build a usable model, all while keeping costs under budget.
Working as engineering teams in this introductory pneumatics lab, students design and build working pneumatic (air-powered) systems. The goal is to create systems that launch balls into the air. They record and analyze data from their launches.
Students act as engineers to apply what they know about how circuits work in electrical/motorized devices to design their own battery-operated model motor vehicles with specific paramaters. They calculate the work done by the vehicles and the power produced by their motor systems.
Students learn how roadways are designed and constructed, and discuss the advantages and limitations of the current roadway construction process. They look at current practices of roadway monitoring, discuss the limitations, and consider ways to further road monitoring research. To conclude, student groups compete to design smooth, cost-efficient and sound model road bases using gravel, sand, water and rubber (representing asphalt). This lesson prepares students for the associated activity in which they act as civil engineers hired by USDOT to research through their own model experimentation how to best use piezoelectric materials to detect road damage by showing how piezoelectric transducers can indicate road damage.