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DIY Sail Boats: Float or Sink?

Introduction 

It’s time to set sail! Even if you live nowhere near a lake or ocean, you will get to do some sailing in this science activity as you build your own toy sailboat. But first, you have to make sure your boat doesn’t capsize! Are you up for the challenge?

Time: 20-30  minutes

Key Concepts: Forces, weight, buoyancy, gravity, center of mass

 

Materials

  • Wine corks (3)
  • Rubber bands (2)
  • Toothpick
  • Several screws or nails
  • Craft foam, wax paper, or paper milk carton to make a sail
  • Aluminum foil
  • Sink, bathtub, or a large container you can fill with water. The container should be deeper than the length of your nails/screws.
  • Tap water

Prep Work

  1. Fill your container with water. Make sure you can put your longest nail/screw vertically into the water and completely submerge it.

Procedure

  1. Line up three corks (side by side, not end-to-end).
  2. Use two rubber bands to hold the corks together, forming a “raft.”
  3. Poke a toothpick into the center cork, so it sticks straight up. This is your boat’s mast (the part that holds the sail).
  4. Cut a square of thin waterproof material (see materials list – don’t use regular paper) to make a sail. It should be about 6 cm x 6 cm.
  5. Poke the toothpick through opposite ends of the sail (near the edges) to hold it in place. Your completed boat should look like this:
  6. You’ve made your first sailboat! Put it in the water. Blow on the sail from behind. Question: What happens?
  7. Now make a skinnier boat by removing the rubber bands and the two outer corks. Keep the sail in place. Rotate your sail 90 degrees so it matches the next picture.
  8. Put your new sailboat back in the water. Question: What happens?
  9. Uh-oh! Your sailboat probably fell over! That’s not good. To fix it, try adding a keel. Stick a nail or screw into the bottom of the boat, directly under the sail.
  10. Try putting the boat back in the water. If it doesn’t stay upright, keep adding nails or screws (in a straight line with the first one) until it can float without tipping over.
  11. Now try blowing on the sail again. Question: What happens? Does your boat move in a straight line?
  12. Right now, your keel is made of one or more nails/screws, but they are not connected to each other. Cut a rectangular piece of aluminum foil and tightly wrap it around the nails/screws to make a “fin” shape.
  13. Put your boat back in the water and try blowing on the sail again. Try making different boats and compare their performance. Question: Which design is the most stable? Which one goes the fastest?

What Happened?

Your first sailboat was probably pretty stable because it was very wide (made from three corks). However, when you removed two corks to make it skinnier, your sailboat probably became unstable and tipped over. It’s similar to standing with your feet tight together instead of spreading out slightly—it’s harder to balance. When you added nails/screws to the bottom of your sailboat, you lowered its center of mass and made it more stable. However, individual vertical nails don’t do a very good of job pushing against the water—the water can flow right around them. That means they don’t do a good job of making the boat go straight. If you blew on the sail, your boat might have curved off to one side or spun in circles. When you wrapped the nails in aluminum foil, you made the shape more like a fin. It can cut through the water very easily in one direction but provides a lot of resistance against the water in the other direction. That makes it easier for your boat to move forward, and harder for it to move sideways. This is why real sailboats can be long, skinny, and have tall sails—they have a part called the keel that prevents them from tipping over and helps them go straight!

Credit

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

Fruits Gone Bad? Discover Enzymatic Browning

Introduction

Have you ever wondered why apple slices turn brown once you cut them or why a yellow banana gets dark spots over time? Both of these phenomena have the same cause: enzymatic browning triggered by an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO). In this activity, you will find out how this enzyme works by turning a banana from yellow to brown in just a matter of seconds. Then you will explore how you can keep your apple slices looking fresh!

Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Key Concepts: Biochemistry, Enzymes, Food

 

Materials

  • Banana (yellow with no brown spots)
  • Stove
  • Pot
  • Water
  • Timer
  • Adult helper
  • Apple
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Lemon Juice
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Milk
  • An additional one to two bananas (optional)
  • Fridge (optional)
  • Tape (optional)
  • Other fruits and vegetables to test (optional)

 

Prep Work

  1. Fill a pot with tap water.
  2. With the help of an adult, place the pot on the stove and heat the water until boiling. Always use caution and adult help when working around very hot water.

Procedure

  1. Take one of your bananas and look closely at its peel to observe its color.
  2. Carefully dip the bottom third of the banana into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Question: What happens to the banana when you submerge it in hot water?
  3. After the 30 seconds remove the banana from the boiling water and observe it for another three minutes. Question: What do you notice? Does the banana look different after a while? How?
  4. When the banana has cooled down peel the banana. Look at the fruit that was inside the peel. Question: Did you expect the banana to look like that?
  5. With the help of an adult cut two slices from the apple on a cutting board. Place each slice onto its side.
  6. Poke one of the apple slices with a fork several times. Then observe both slices for 15 to 20 minutes. Question: How do the apple slices change over time? Do you notice a difference between the two slices? If yes, can you explain why?
  7. Cut five more slices from the apple and place each slice on its side. Immediately after cutting, sprinkle milk on top of the first slice, distilled vinegar on the second slice, lemon juice on the third slice and water on the fourth slice. Keep the last slice as is. Then poke each apple slice several times with a fork.
  8. Observe all five apple slices for another 15–20 minutes. Question: How are the apple slices different after 15–20 minutes? What did each liquid do to the apple slice? Can you explain your results?

What Happened?

Were you able to change the color of your banana? Most likely, yes! You probably didn’t observe a big difference in the banana right after putting it into the boiled water, but within the next 30 seconds and after taking it out of the water it should have turned pretty dark. You should have noticed that the color change only happened where the banana was submerged in the hot water. This is because the boiling water caused heat stress to the cells in the outer layers of the banana peel and destroyed them. As the cells broke open, they released PPO and phenolic compounds, which then reacted with the oxygen of the air to form melanin. Only the peel should have been affected by enzymatic browning as the inner part of the banana was protected by the peel.

If you put a banana in the fridge, the whole banana should have turned brown. As the banana is a tropical fruit, it is evolved for warm temperatures, which is why the banana cells get damaged in the cold. If you taped parts of the banana, however, you should have noticed that underneath the tape the banana kept its yellow color. This is because the tape sealed the banana from the oxygen, which is necessary for the enzymatic browning reaction to happen.

When you cut an apple its tissue is damaged, and its cells are broken due to mechanical stress. This again triggers enzymatic browning, which you should have observed on the apple slices. When poking the apple slices with a fork, you damaged even more cells and released more enzyme and phenolic compounds, which is why this apple slice should have turned noticeably darker. The PPO content inside a fruit or vegetable determines the degree of its enzymatic browning. This is why some fruits or vegetables, even different types of apples that contain more of these compounds, become darker than others.

When you sprinkled, milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and water over your apple slices you should have noticed that acidic solutions such lemon juice prevented enzymatic browning. This is because PPO oxidase doesn’t work well in acidic environments, which means that the enzyme stops working or slows down considerably. So next time you eat an apple and don’t want it to get brown you know what to do!

Credits

Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies

Is the Egg Raw or Cooked? That is the Question!

Introduction

Have you ever found an egg in your refrigerator and wondered if it was cooked? Although eggs drastically change inside their shells when cooked, it is still remarkably difficult to distinguish a cooked egg from a raw one without cracking it open. In this activity, you will find out how physics can help you tell the difference!

Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Key Concepts: Solid, liquid, rotation
Materials
  • At least six chicken eggs similar in size and color
  • Saucepan
  • Stove (Use caution and ask an adult to help you use the stove and handle hot items in this activity.)
  • Water
  • Timer
  • Slotted spoon
  • Pencil
  • Two small plates
  • Sheet of paper
Prep Work
  1. Place three eggs in the saucepan. Add enough water so there is half an inch covering the eggs. Put the saucepan on the stove.
  2. Heat the water until it comes to a rapid boil and keep it boiling for seven minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat.
  4. Use the slotted spoon to take one egg at a time out of the hot water, rinse it under running cold water (optional), and store it in a safe place where it can cool completely.
  5. Use a pencil to make a small mark on the three raw eggs. Keep the mark subtle, as this will make it easier to test your ideas in an unbiased way.
  6. Store the raw eggs together with the cooked ones. This ensures that all eggs are at the same temperature when you start experimenting.

 

Step 5

Procedure

  1. Choose a raw egg and crack it open on a plate. Question: How does the content of the raw egg look?
  2. Repeat the first step with a cooked egg. Question:How does the content of a cooked egg differ from that of a raw egg?
  3. The goal of this activity is to find a test that can identify whether an egg is cooked or raw without cracking the shell. Question: What are your ideas?
  4. Choose one cooked and one raw egg from the four uncracked eggs that are left. Put the other pair of eggs aside for now.
  5. If you find a difference, note it on your sheet of paper. Remember there is a mark on the raw egg. This will help you identify which type shows a particular characteristic.
  6. Look at the eggs, smell them, and weigh them in your hands. Question: Does one look different, smell different, or seem heavier than the other?
  7. Gently tap your pencil against the cooked and raw egg and listen. Question: Can you hear a difference?
  8. Shake the eggs one at a time close to your ear. Question: Can you hear which one is raw?
  9. Put one egg on its tip and spin it. Lay it flat and spin it. Try it a few times before switching to the other egg. Question: Does one spin more easily than the other?
  10. Perform any other test or look for any other distinguishing characteristics you can think of.
  11. Review your notes. Question: Did you find differences? If so, do you think this difference appears because one of the eggs is cooked and the other is not? Why or why not?
  12. If you found one or several differences between the raw and cooked egg, test if these differences also appear in your last pair of eggs. Try not to look at the little mark on the raw egg while doing the test. Question: Does this difference distinguish the raw from the cooked egg in this pair, too? If you found a difference that held up for both pairs, do you think it can differentiate all cooked eggs from raw eggs? Why do you think the differences occur?

What Happened?

Did you notice that the inside of a raw egg is liquid, while the inside of a cooked egg is solid? It was probably impossible to tell the difference without cracking the shell until you tried to spin the egg. Even though it is difficult to spin a cooked egg, spinning a raw egg was probably much harder. This is expected.

When you boil an egg, the inside becomes solid. It does not change how the egg looks or its odor, so you cannot see or smell the difference. Shaking a raw egg does not make a sloshing sound because the liquid in the egg is contained in a membrane and only a small air bubble is present. Neither egg is hollow, so tapping it does not produce a clear audible difference.

You can tell the difference between a cooked and a raw egg by spinning it: a cooked egg is easier to spin. As the inside of a cooked egg is solid, the particles inside cannot move around relative to each other or the shell. The whole egg moves in unison. When you spin the cooked egg by twisting its shell, the hole inside moves along with the shell. In a raw egg, the inside is still liquid. The particles that make up the liquid can slide and move around relative to each other and the shell. When you spin the shell of the raw egg, the liquid inside does not start spinning right away—it needs some time to “catch up,” and friction between the shell and the liquid slows down the spinning motion. Since it is easier to balance an egg on its tip by spinning it faster, this also makes cooked eggs easier to balance than raw eggs. It also helps that the inside of the cooked egg is less wobbly since it does not move around (its center of mass is fixed).

Credits
Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies

Solubility Science: How Much is Too Much?

Introduction

Have you ever added a spoon of sugar to your tea and wondered why it disappeared? Where did it go? The sugar did not actually disappear—it changed from its solid form into a dissolved form in a process called chemical dissolution. The result is a tea-sugar mixture in which individual sugar molecules become uniformly distributed in the tea. But what happens if you increase the amount of sugar that you add to your tea? Does it still dissolve? In this science activity, you will find out how much of a compound is too much to dissolve.

Time: 20-30 minutes

Key Concepts: Chemistry, property of matter, solutions, solubility

 

Materials

  • Distilled water, found in the bottled water section of grocery stores.
    Note: You can also use tap water. However, as tap water contains additional ions that have been removed in distilled water, your solubility values may not match the published solubility values.
  • Materials

    Measuring cup

  • Glasses or cups, 8 oz. (8)
  • Spoons (4)
  • Measuring spoon (1 teaspoon)
  • Epsom salt (150 g)
  • Table salt (50 g)
  • Table sugar (cane sugar) (250 g)
  • Baking soda (20 g)
  • Scale
  • Marker
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Optional: thermometer

Prep Work

  1. Using the marker, label two cups with each compound: “table salt,” “table sugar,” “baking soda,” and “Epsom salt.”
  2. Into one “baking soda” cup, measure 20 grams of baking soda.
  3. Into one “table salt” cup, measure 50 grams of salt.
  4. Into one “table sugar” cup, measure 250 grams of sugar.
  5. Into one “Epsom salt” cup, measure 150 grams of Epsom salt.
  6. Weigh each cup and write down their masses for each one.
  7. Add 100 mL of distilled water to each of the remaining cups. Use the measuring cup to make sure each cup has the same amount of water. The water should be at room temperature and the same for all cups. You can use a thermometer to verify that.

Proceedure

  1. Take both of the cups you labeled with “baking soda.” With the measuring spoon, carefully add one teaspoon of baking soda to the 100 mL of distilled water.
  2. Stir with a clean spoon until all the baking soda has dissolved. Question: What did you notice when you stir the solution with baking soda?
  3. Keep adding one teaspoon of baking soda to the water and stirring each time, until the baking soda does not dissolve anymore. Question: How does the solution look when the baking soda does not dissolve anymore?
  4. Repeat steps 1–3 with both cups labeled “Epsom salt.” Question: At what point does the Epsom salt solution become saturated?
  5. Repeat steps 1–3 with the table salt. Question: How many teaspoons of table salt can you dissolve in 100 milliliters of water?
  6. Repeat steps 1–3 with the sugar. Question: Could you add more or less sugar compared to the other compounds?
  7. Put each of the cups containing the remaining solids onto the scale and write down the mass of each one.
  8. Subtract the measured mass from your initial mass (see Preparation) for each compound. Question: What does the difference in mass tell you about the solubilities of each of the compounds? Which compound is the most or least soluble in distilled water?

What happened?

Did all of your tested compounds dissolve in distilled water? They should have—but to different extents. Water, in general, is a very good solvent and is able to dissolve lots of different compounds. This is because it can interact with a lot of different molecules. You should have noticed that sugar had the highest solubility of all your tested compounds (sucrose: about 200 grams per 100 mL of water), followed by Epsom salt (Magnesium sulfate heptahydrate: 113 grams/100 mL), table salt (NaCl: 35.17 g/100 mL), and baking soda (NaHCO3: 9.6 g/100 mL).

This is because each of these compounds has different chemical and physical properties based on their different molecular structures. They are all made of different chemical elements and have been formed by different types of bonding between these. Depending on this structure, it is more or less difficult for the water molecules to break these bonds and form new bonds with the solute molecules to dissolve them.

Credit

Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies

Make an Alka-Seltzer Powered Lava Lamp

Introduction

Have you ever seen a lava lamp? They were the height of 1960’s “groovy” room decorations. A few minutes after turning it on, a lava lamp has blobs of colored liquid floating towards the top of the lamp and then drifting back down. Making an actual lava lamp that you plugin would require some effort and unusual supplies, but you can create a non-electric version in just a few minutes with the help of the fizzing power of Alka-Seltzer. In this activity, you can find out how to make your own Alka-Seltzer® lava lamp. How will changing the temperature of the ingredients change the behavior of the colorful blobs in your lava lamp?

Time 30-45 minutes

Key Concepts: lava lamp, chemical reactions, carbonation, temperature

 

Materials

  • Tall identical jars or bottles, such as empty, clear, plastic 1-liter or 2-liter bottles (2)
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Timer or clock that shows seconds
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Vegetable oil (enough to fill the jars nearly full)
  • An Alka-Seltzer tablet. Only one tablet is needed for the activity, but having additional tablets can be fun if you wanted to repeat lava lamp action.
  • A way to make one jar hot and one cold, such as by using a large bowl filled with hot water and access to a refrigerator or freeze

Instructions

  1. To each jar or bottle, fill it with 1-2 inches of water, add 5 drops of food coloring, and then fill it at least three-quarters full with vegetable oil. Put the cap on tightly to avoid spills and leaks.
  2. Somehow make one of the prepared jars be hot and one be cold. For example, to make one hot you could let it sit in a large bowl of hot water, and to make one cold you could store it in a refrigerator or freezer. Be careful when handling hot water.
  3. While you are heating and cooling the jars, cut an Alka-Seltzer tablet into quarters. Only two-quarter pieces are needed for the activity, but having additional pieces can be fun if you wanted to repeat lava lamp action.
  4. Once one jar is hot and one is cold, get a timer or clock ready and drop a quarter of a tablet into the heated jar. Note that the tablet piece may take a moment to sink through the vegetable oil to reach the water, where it will react. Start timing as soon as the tablet piece reaches the water and starts reacting. Question: How long does it take the tablet to disappear? How vigorous are the bubbles?
  5. Now drop a quarter of a tablet in the cold jar. Time how long it takes the tablet to disappear this time. Question: How long does it take the tablet to disappear in the colder liquid?
  6. Think about how the two reactions looked. Question: Do you notice other differences in how the reaction happens in the colder liquid versus in the hotter liquid? Why do you think you got the results that you did?

What Happened?

The ingredients in Alka-Seltzer combine with water to form a gas called carbon dioxide. The oil and Alka-Seltzer do not combine in this way though. The Alka-Seltzer tablets sink through the vegetable oil until they reach the layer of colored water. There the Alka-Seltzer dissolves in the water and forms a gas called carbon dioxide. The gas is lighter than the water and oil, so it bubbles up, taking a bit of colored water with it as it moves through the oil layer. You should have seen those bubbles, looking like colorful blobs, float through the oil layer to the top of the jar. At the top the bubbles should have burst (releasing the carbon dioxide gas), and then the colorful blobs should have sunk back to the bottom (now without carbon dioxide gas). The effect should have been reminiscent of a lava lamp.

The chemical reaction that causes the carbon dioxide to form happens more quickly in warmer water. For this reason, you should have seen that the Alka-Seltzer tablet dissolved more quickly in the hot water, in approximately 20-30 seconds depending on the temperature. This should have resulted in lots of rapid bubbling and an energetic lava lamp display. In contrast, the Alka-Seltzer tablet in the cold water should have dissolved more slowly, with most of it should disappearing in the first two to three minutes, resulting in a calmer and longer-lasting lava lamp effect.

Credits

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies

FA7 Entrepreneur Project: Be a Changemaker

Teaching Entrepreneurship may be the most integrated and authentic project one could teach in schools.  So many different concepts, skills, and knowledge students learn in order to be an entrepreneur (successful or not).  Students learned about making a business plan, market research, finances, advertising, communication, and most importantly grit and perseverance.

For the culminating task for this project, students designed and created a product or service that filled a need or want of a specific target audience.

At the end of the unit, students pitched their business ideas and products to a panel to convince the school/PTA to continue to sell their product in the future to our community.

 

Grade 10 Climate Change Campaign

This year was the first year Grade 10 Science followed the NGSS Science Standards, as we have rolled out this new curriculum.  With this K-10 Science curriculum, we are lucky to be able to provide engineering experiences to all students every year to apply their science content to solve problems, learn new skills and think like an engineer.

For this project’s development, 3 Science teachers and 2 Ed Tech and Design teachers worked to plan, implement and coach students through this student-driven learning experience.

Students were to focus on a specific area of Climate Change and then create a media campaign to try to impact a specific audience.  Students also had to design & create (at least a prototype) of an engineering solution, product design, system or event for this specific audience as well.  Students worked for about a month on this project with check-ins along the way from all 5 teachers.  It was a successful project, but we want to make some changes for next year.  For one, the systems design was challenging for students and when their was no tangible product, some students struggled to go deep enough to show that they system was feasible or a viable solution.  Next year, we will have better examples to share with students, as this is the first project of its type in our program, so students are as accustomed to this type of design.

A really successful part of this project was the exhibition at the end of the project.  Students shared their campaign and learning with a large part of our community and it was great to hear the students articulate their learning and seeing how passionate many students had become.  We think that a few of these project will continue further as events or projects for clubs and CAS and we are excited that this project was a catalyst for these ideas.

G4 Engineering: Pulley design challenge

As part of Grade 4’s Engineering design unit “making good better”, students have been working in teams to complete a pulley design challenge. In this 3 lesson sequence in the design lab, teams select from 3 different scenarios, then plan and engineer pulley solutions to their chosen challenge. Students must continually reflect on their role within the team and how to “make good better”.

Download the slides here

G4 Engineering team challenges

To get us prepared for the main engineering project, Grade 4 will run through a sequence of short challenges, on a rotation, each day for the first week of the unit. At the end of each challenge, teams should run through a reflection protocol to share what the activity was, what they got out of it and what they might do differently next time. The order that the challenges are completed in doesn’t matter.

 

Activity 1: Toothpick tower

Image sourced from FlatIcon

Which team can create the tallest tower using only toothpicks and modeling clay? This engineering challenge is simply about making the tallest tower possible. The team with the tallest tower at the end, wins the challenge. There are a few simple rules:

  • 2 minutes at the beginning of the challenge is set aside for planning, discussion and sketching. No building is allowed until the teacher invites you to begin
  • You may only use toothpicks and modeling clay and the hight of the tower is measured from the base of the tower to its top
  • Reflect: What did your team do well? What can your team improve on next time? What was your role in the team? What can you do better next time?

 

Activity 2: Paper clip challenge

Image sourced from FlatIcon

Your task for this challenge is to create a new design for a paper clip. You may use card, wire, or other materials provided. You must practice using the pliers and other tools safely.

  • In your group, look closely at the examples and sketch different ideas for a new version
  • Work with your team to decide on the best ideas to prototype
  • Test your new design. How many pieces of paper can it hold together? What changes can you make to improve its performance?
  • Work with your team to decide on the best overall design
  • Pitch your design to another group and let them know what you would like feedback on. Is your new design an improvement? How? Then listen to the other groups’ pitch and offer them feedback on their design
  • Reflect on the activity and your final design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 3: “Secret” paper airplane

Image sourced from FlatIcon

In this challenge, you will work with a partner. Sitting back-to-back, one person must instruct the other on how to fold a paper plane, in 2 minutes.

  • For the instructor: choose one of the designs or use your own technique
  • Carefully guide your partner through the specific steps and listen to their questions
  • For the maker: carefully follow the instructions and ask specific questions if you need to clarify
  • Test your plane in the designated area
  • Reflect: Was the plane the same as what the instructor intended? Why/why not? How could your plane be improved? What could you do differently next time to make the process and result better?

Image from “Fold’n’Fly” – click to see instructions : )

Activity 4: Catapult challenge

Image sourced from FlatIcon

In this challenge you will work with your team create a catapult to shoot a projectile into the target area(s). You may use the examples provided to guide you or make your own design. You may test your design 2 times and refine the design before the final test.

  • Look at the examples shown and sketch out a plan
  • Create your prototype using the materials available
  • Test your design up to 2 times in the testing area
  • Perform the final test and record your results
  • Reflect: How did you make your catapult go from “good” to “better”? How did you contribute to your team’s success? What do you need to improve on?

Activity 5: WeDo

Image sourced from FlatIcon

 

In this task you will use a Lego WeDo kit and the WeDo iPad app. Work as a team and follow the instructions in the app to complete a series of different WeDo engineering projects. Once you have completed at least 2 from the activity library, try to create a whole new invention. Perhaps you can team up with another group and create an invention from 2 WeDo kits!

 

Activity 6: Rescue pulley (Design Lab)

Image sourced from FlatIcon

In this challenge you will work in groups of 4 to lift an Edison robot from the ground to the workbench. 2 People are responsible for designing a pulley and the other 2 people are responsible for designing the carrier structure. The successful design will lift the Edison from the ground to the bench. Can you program the Edison to drive onto the carrier and then onto the bench??

  • Discuss the problem with your team. Select team members for each part of the task
  • Sketch and communicate different options for the design – how it will work, what it is made from and how it will be constructed?
  • Build and test the prototype
  • Demonstrate the prototype to another group. What would you like feedback on? Record the feedback from the other group
  • Give feedback on the other group’s design
  • Return to your design – will you take the feedback on board or reject it? How will you improve your design?
  • Reflect: How did you contribute to your team’s success? Why are pulleys useful? How many ways are pulleys used in everyday situations?

 

 

G4 Engineering Design

How can we, as engineers, use what we know about design to address a real-world problem?

An engineer is someone who designs machines or structures to solve problems.

How can you work as an engineer to:

  1. Identify everyday problems that affect someone you know (that engineering could address)?
  2. Create a machine or structure that addresses the problem you identified?

Design Process Journal

In this unit we will download and edit the Design Process Journal to document our engineering process. This will help our creative process and ensure that all of our thinking and making is shown. You can download the journal here, or ask your teacher for a copy. Follow your teachers’ instructions on how to edit the journal on your iPad using Pages.

Unit guide

The unit is structured in 3 stages – Define & Inquire, Develop & Plan, Create & Improve. (Note: this is covered in the design journal).

Stage 1: Define & Inquire

  • What problems can you identify (big or small) that engineering could address? Use design thinking, interviews & observations to identify real problems you might like to address
  • Write a Design Brief – this is where you specify the problem, and how you intend to address it
  • Research the problem, gather a range of inspiration from various primary and secondary sources, and explore examples of how similar problems have been addressed by engineers
  • Use Seesaw to reflect on this stage and set goals for the next stage

Stage 2: Develop & Plan

  • Generate as many divergent ideas as you possibly can (sketching, brainstorming, etc)
  • Identify the strongest potential solutions to your problem and add more detail to the concept(s)
  • Select your best idea and make a detailed plan – materials, measurements, construction techniques, timeline, etc
  • Use Seesaw to reflect on this stage and set goals for the next stage

Stage 3: Create & Improve

  • Begin creating a physical prototype as early in the process as possible
  • Test your prototype – preferably with your intended audience
  • Gather lots of feedback from your audience, peers, teachers, etc
  • Use the testing results and feedback to identify ways to improve your design – make a revised plan
  • Create a refined version of your design and repeat stage 3 as many times as you can
  • Use Seesaw to reflect on this stage

Reflect & Share stage

  • Reflect on your entire journey as an engineer:
    • Tell the story of your design process
    • How did your final design address the problem that you identified in your design brief?
    • What were the biggest challenges? How did you fail during your process? What did you learn from your failures?
    • What were your biggest successes? How did you know you were on the right track?
    • What would you do if you could keep working on this project? What would you do differently if you could start over?
    • What was the most helpful feedback you received and why? How did you support other Grade 4 engineers in this project?
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