Module #1: Bridge Building – Friday October 28, 2011
In this module, we put the students in the shoes of an engineer. They were given a FEMA-like scenario in which they had to quickly and efficiently send medical aid to people being threatened by a volcanic eruption. In order to do this, they needed to construct a bridge. This bridge had to be long, sturdy, and built with limited resources (gumdrops and toothpicks). The students learned that engineers use science for various applications, and learned specifically about different types of bridges and what materials and structures make them strong. They split up into teams, each team with a member of the START group, and built their own bridges. They tested the strength of those bridges and competed for the most efficient bridge, in terms of gumdrops used versus the weight it supported. They gained an understanding of the important issues an engineer must consider before designing and building a bridge.
Module #2: Towers – Friday November 4, 2011
Our 7th grade science class learned different aspects of skyscraper design. Using a limited supply of newspaper and masking tape, we experimented with different models in order to build a tall but strong tower. The students learned first-hand the importance of a sturdy base and a tapered design, which protected their structures from both a hurricane simulation (an electric fan) and an earthquake test (shaking the desk). Even with these constraints, the students came up with some very creative designs!
Module #3: Electric Generators – Friday November 4, 2011
After successfully building model bridges, the students were placed back into an engineering scenario, this time to quickly construct makeshift power generators for victims of a natural disaster. After learning about the basics of magnetic induction and power generation, each group worked together to construct generators out of cardboard, wire, and magnets. This project was much more complex and advanced than building bridges, and many groups met with frustrating obstacles. By the end, students managed to power light bulbs with their own mechanical energy, and the class had learned that with preparation, tenacity, and hard work, they can accomplish a difficult goal.
Module #4: Gumdrop Bridges – Friday December 16, 2011
In the second to last week of Project START! for the semester, the student teachers brought gumdrops to I.S. 143. But this was no snack-time, this was engineering. The students learned all about the different types of bridges and the different geometric shapes they utilize for stability. Finally, after learning about truss bridges, and the dominant shape, the triangle, the students had the opportunity to make their own bridges out of gumdrops and toothpicks, and an engineering competition was held at the end of class. The bridges were tested to see how much weight they could hold, but the strongest bridge wasn’t necessarily the winner. The students were also judged on the efficiency of their construction, so the ideal bridge was the one which held the most weight per the fewest number of gumdrops used. With a number of different and creative designs, all using the idea that triangles are stronger than squares, the students had fun and learned one of the most important lessons of structural engineering.
Module #5: Newspaper Towers – Friday December 23, 2011
Sadly, we have arrived at the last week of Project START, but we were determined to go out with a bang. In the last week of the Engineering modules, the students had the opportunity to evaluate a real choice that architects and engineers structural make: size or stability? The groups were each given several sheets of newspaper and tape, and were tasked with constructing a tower that will stand up to the force of a massive wind (supplied by a personal fan). The towers were judged based on how long it took them to tip over and how tall they were. One group even made a shorter tower, closely resembling a pyramid, that never tipped over at all! Over all, hopefully the students gained a better understanding of the practical applications of this module, and all of the modules over the past seven weeks, and now have a better appreciation for the different areas of science that they did not have before. And now to begin preparing for next semester!