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.
After catastrophic flooding in New Orleans destroyed two hospitals, the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System is planning a replacement facility that will incorporate resilience against future extreme events.
Widespread damage from flooding at the Texas Medical Center in Houston revealed the complex's vulnerabilities. Implementing a long-term hazard mitigation plan is reducing future risks.
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.
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.
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.
Students use a small quantity of modeling clay to make boats that float in a tub of water. The object is to build boats that hold as much weight as possible without sinking. In the process of designing and testing their prototype creations, students discover some of the basic principles of boat design, gain first-hand experience with concepts such as buoyancy and density, and experience the steps of the engineering design process.
Students are introduced to the world of creative engineering product design. Through six activities, teams work through the steps of the engineering design process (or loop) by completing an actual design challenge presented in six steps. The project challenge is left up to the teacher or class to determine; it might be one decided by the teacher, brainstormed with the class, or the example provided (to design a prosthetic arm that can perform a mechanical function). As students begin by defining the problem, they learn to recognize the need, identify a target population, relate to the project, and identify its requirements and constraints. Then they conduct research, brainstorm alternative solutions, evaluate possible solutions, create and test prototypes, and consider issues for manufacturing. See the Unit Schedule section for a list of example design project topics.
Students learn about viscoelastic material behavior, such as strain rate dependence and creep, by using silly putty, an easy-to-make polymer material. They learn how to make silly putty, observe its behavior with different strain rates, and then measure the creep time of different formulations of silly putty. By seeing the viscoelastic behavior of silly putty, students start to gain an understanding of how biological materials function. Students gain experience in data collection, graph interpretation, and comparison of material properties to elucidate material behavior. It is recommended that students perform Part 1of the activity first (making and playing with silly putty), then receive the content and concept information in the associated lesson, and then complete Part 2 of the activity (experimenting and making measurements with silly putty).
Students explore the many different ways that engineers provide natural lighting to interior spaces. They analyze various methods of daylighting by constructing model houses from foam core board and simulating the sun with a desk lamp. Teams design a daylighting system for their model houses based on their observations and calculations of the optimal use of available sunlight to their structure.
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.)
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.)
Students are introduced to the biomechanical characteristics of helmets, and are challenged to incorporate them into designs for helmets used for various applications. By doing this, they come to understand the role of enginering associated with saftey products. The use of bicycle helmets helps to protect the brain and neck in the event of a crash. To do this effectively, helmets must have some sort of crushable material to absorb the collision forces and a strap system to make sure the protection stays in place. The exact design of a helmet depends on the needs and specifications of the user.