In my last entry I described the joy of using the Lego Wedo and Mindstorms sets to teach elementary school engineering skills as defined in the Next Generation Science and Engineering Standards .
However, you don't need to go to the expense of purchasing the Lego kits to teach perfectly good elementary school engineering skills.
By way of introducing the concept of engineering in the elementary school we first distinguished it from science. This can be most easily done by looking at the origin of the questions or curiosities one might have when studying a situation.
In science the questions or inquiry arise from the natural world; how are rocks forms, what causes the seasons, what affects the time of a pendulum swing, how is paper made?
In engineering the questions or inquiry arise from how we use our scientific knowledge and understanding to solve problems, resolve issues or make life better.
This implies that the study of science comes first. We can then use our new-found knowledge and understanding and make it more relevant and meaningful by applying it to an engineering situation.
During GED695 we studied the science of a swinging pendulum and then used this knowledge to design a pendulum that swung once every second. Since all good engineering solutions need to be presented each group of students timed their pendulum to see who had made the most accurate one.
The prize went to Theresa and Monique; their pendulum swung precisely 30 times in 30 seconds exactly.
We also used a copy of the Sunday Free Press (free the following Monday) to construct the tallest towers we could that supported a small washer.
Ashley and Julie built an incredibly elegant one from floor to ceiling.
Everyone, however, was successful in building a tower and realizing a great sense of achievement.
The capital outlay for these two engineering classes? $0