March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Getting Started with Engineering

Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016

by Meredith Casalino

Having been in the classroom for nine years, I have seen all sorts of crazy things. One of those things is that kids will rise to virtually any challenge you give them, and if you let them build something you will have them completely hooked!  For the last three years I have had the incredible privilege to work on a strong 9th grade team at Da Vinci Communications, dedicated to interdisciplinary project based learning. Through this experience I was given the freedom, guidance, and support to integrate engineering into my physics classroom and have seen the power of this practice first hand.

Teaching kids processes to use in order to think and create like an engineer is a great way to get started. In my classroom I used the Project Lead the Way engineering design process, but there are lots of different takes on the engineering design process out there. I do recommend teaching your kids an engineering design process and sticking to it in order for them to have a richer, more meaningful engineering experience. Many schools or districts have one that they prefer so you many not even have to find one on your own. An engineering design process should include lots of flexibility, as well as ways to generate, evaluate, test, and revise multiple solutions to a single problem.

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Engineering practices can be incorporated in different ways, for different purposes, and at different scales in a science classroom. I have used basic engineering challenges when students have switched groups. These may or may not connect to the current physics content the kids were working on but they definitely required collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills of all members of the new group. I have introduced my kids to engineering games, both hands-on and digital. I have given kids individual engineering challenges and projects that they had to complete individually, and some they needed to complete as a group. We have even done projects where kids had an individual design challenge, which they then had to incorporate into a larger group deliverable. The vast majority of the time projects combined both science and engineering content, but there is also a time and a place to practice engineering skills, especially since it can help enforce 21st century skills along the way.

I have included brief descriptions of some of the larger projects my students completed, along with some of the beginning details to give you some ideas of where you could start integrating engineering, too. There are also some resources at the end to find other engineering challenges and projects both big and small.

Be Heard is a signature project that all of the Da Vinci high schools do. Our team has done this project in a couple different ways over the years, incorporating everything from poetry and Romeo and Juliet in English, to statistics and music mixing in math and computer science, but it always involves the students making headphones in my class. In physics I usually pair this project with electricity, magnetism, and electromagnetic induction topics. My students usually completed a project on circuits previous to this project which allowed me to focus on magnetism, electromagnetism, and, of course, engineering. Headphones are much easier to make than it seems like they should be, and with some wire, a neodymium magnet, and an audio jack you can have your very own working headphones.

Our team has also put on TEDx events, and my kids completed two different projects for these events. For two years my kids had to complete an individual lighting structure in which they had to use a combination circuit to light up a certain number of lights. This structure also had to be representative of their TED talk that they wrote in English class and was displayed at the actual event. One year the kids created a hands-on demonstration of a certain physics topic and put on a small physics demo fair before the TEDx event. The kids had to physically construct the demonstration and present it to all of our guests before the event.

During our Cultivating Community Project, my kids learned all about energy through the lens of renewable energy and green spaces. They had to design and construct a green space for our school’s blacktop area and write up an energy profile of our school, their home, and their home city. These profiles incorporated their knowledge and understanding of energy including conservation of energy, types of energy, transformation of energy, and renewables, as well as how green spaces can impact those energies. They presented their findings to a panel to persuade the city to incorporate more green spaces, as well as actually constructing their own green space at our school.

Resources:

Pinterest.com It may sound funny but there are TONS of great ideas on how to incorporate engineering and various engineering challenges. Often all you need is an idea, a challenge question, and a possible list of supplies

Tryengineering.org There are lots of lesson plans, games, and project ideas here!

pbskids.org/designsquad While the site seems like it is more for younger kids, a lot of the projects can be easily adapted for big kids!
Meredith Casalino is a CSTA member who taught at Da Vinci Communications High School the last 3 years and recently became the STEM coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017

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The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.

There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

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For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

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CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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