Students are provided with an introduction to above-ground storage tanks, specifically how and why they are used in the Houston Ship Channel. The introduction includes many photographic examples of petrochemical tank failures during major storms and describes the consequences in environmental pollution and costs to disrupted businesses and lives, as well as the lack of safety codes and provisions to better secure the tanks in coastal regions regularly visited by hurricanes. Students learn how the concepts of Archimedes' principle and Pascal's law act out in the form of the uplifting and buckling seen in the damaged and destroyed tanks, which sets the stage for the real-world engineering challenge presented in the associated activity to design new and/or improved storage tanks that can survive storm conditions.
Students explore the interface between architecture and engineering. In the associated hands-on activity, students act as both architects and engineers by designing and building a small parking garage.
This art history video discussion examines the Arch of Titus, originally Pentelic marble, early 19h-century restoration is in travertine, c. 81 C.E. (Via Sacra, Rome).
This lesson explores the similarities between how a human being moves/walks and how a robot moves. This allows students to see the human body as a system, i.e., from the perspective of an engineer. It shows how movement results from (i) decision making, i.e., deciding to walk and move, and (ii) implementing the decision by conveying the decision to the muscle (human) or motor (robot).
This site provides lots of definitions describing architectural structures of buildings, bridges, etc. Great for older students interested in engineering to explore the "why" in how buildings are built. Younger students may have difficulty maneuvering several of the games and activities. Younger students may also struggle with the vocabulary and reading the definitions provided on this site.
Through this earth science curricular unit, student teams are presented with the scenario that an asteroid will impact the Earth. In response, their challenge is to design the location and size of underground caverns to shelter the people from an uninhabitable Earth for one year. Driven by this adventure scenario, student teams 1) explore general and geological maps of their fictional state called Alabraska, 2) determine the area of their classroom to help determine the necessary cavern size, 3) learn about map scales, 4) test rocks, 5) identify important and not-so-important rock properties for underground caverns, and 6) choose a final location and size.
Students groups use balsa wood and glue to build their own towers using some of the techniques they learned from the associated lesson. While general guidelines are provided, give students freedom with their designs and encourage them to implement what they have learned about structural engineering. The winning team design is the tower with the highest strength-to-weight ratio.
Lighting is responsible for nearly one-third of the electricity use in buildings. One of the best ways to conserve energy is to make sure the lights are turned off when no one is in a room. This process can be automated using motion sensors. In this activity, students explore material properties as they relate to motion detection, and use that knowledge to make design judgments about what types of motion detectors to use in specific applications.
This art history video discussion looks at Gian Lorenzo Bernini's "Sant'Andrea al Quirinale", 1658-70, Rome; commissioned by Cardinal Camillo Francesco Maria Pamphili for the nearby Jesuit seminary.
This art history video discussion examines the Ambulatory at the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris, 1140-44.
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.
Students learn about stress and strain by designing and building beams using polymer clay. They compete to find the best beam strength to beam weight ratio, and learn about the trade-offs engineers make when designing a structure.
In this math activity, students conduct a strength test using modeling clay, creating their own stress vs. strain graphs, which they compare to typical steel and concrete graphs. They learn the difference between brittle and ductile materials and how understanding the strength of materials, especially steel and concrete, is important for engineers who design bridges and structures.
Students explore how tension and compression forces act on three different bridge types. Using sponges, cardboard and string, they create models of beam, arch and suspension bridges and apply forces to understand how they disperse or transfer these loads.
Through a five-lesson series that includes numerous hands-on activities, students are introduced to the importance and pervasiveness of bridges for connecting people to resources, places and other people, with references to many historical and current-day examples. In learning about bridge types arch, beam, truss and suspension students explore the effect of tensile and compressive forces. Students investigate the calculations that go into designing bridges; they learn about loads and cross-sectional areas by designing and testing the strength of model piers. Geology and soils are explored as they discover the importance of foundations, bearing pressure and settlement considerations in the creation of dependable bridges and structures. Students learn about brittle and ductile material properties. Students also learn about the many cost factors that comprise the economic considerations of bridge building. Bridges are unique challenges that take advantage of the creative nature of engineering.
Students are presented with a brief history of bridges as they learn about the three main bridge types: beam, arch and suspension. They are introduced to two natural forces tension and compression common to all bridges and structures. Throughout history, and today, bridges are important for connecting people to resources, places and other people. Students become more aware of the variety and value of bridges around us in our everyday lives.
Students construct bird nests and birdhouses. They research birds of their choosing and then design houses that meet the birds' specific needs. It works well to conduct this activity in conjunction with a grades 9-12 woodshop class by partnering the older students with the younger students (but it is not required to do this in order to conduct the activity).
Students identify different bridge designs and construction materials used in modern day engineering. They work in construction teams to create paper bridges and spaghetti bridges based on existing bridge designs. Students progressively realize the importance of the structural elements in each bridge. They also measure vertical displacements under the center of the spaghetti bridge span when a load is applied. Vertical deflection is measured using a LEGO MINDSTORMS(TM) NXT intelligent brick and ultrasonic sensor. As they work, students experience tension and compression forces acting on structural elements of the two bridge prototypes. In conclusion, students discuss the material properties of paper and spaghetti and compare bridge designs with performance outcomes.
Students create and analyze composite materials with the intent of using the materials to construct a structure with optimal strength and minimal density. The composite materials are made of puffed rice cereal, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Student teams vary the concentrations of the three components to create their composite materials. They determine the material density and test its compressive strength by placing weights on it and measuring how much the material compresses. Students graph stress vs. strain and determine Young's modulus to analyze the strength of their materials.