Engineers are the people who design and develop things that you use every day. From the alarm clock that wakes you in the morning to the toothbrush that cleans your teeth before bedtime, many of the things you use have been engineered for you. In this lesson, students identify the engineering that impacts their day-to-day life.
- Understand that people are always inventing things and that this impacts all aspects of life
- Discover that designed things are different from naturally occurring things
- Understand that tools are used to observe, measure, and make things
- Realize that most manmade items are designed to improve people's lives
Grade Level: K-2
- Two 45-minute blocks
- How Technology Affects Your Life Flash Image
- Triangles and Arches in Architecture Flash Image
- Design: Building a House Flash Image
- Kid Inventor: The Collapsible Lacrosse Stick QuickTime Video
- Telescope Girl QuickTime Video
- Balloon Brain: Designing a Helmet QuickTime Video
- pencils and crayons
- cellophane tape
Part I: Observing Their World
1. Tell students that they will be learning about engineering and how it affects their day-to-day lives. Lead a conversation about engineering to find out what students already know. Ask:
- What do engineers do?
- What kinds of things do engineers design?
- Why do engineers design and make these things?
Note that correct answers are not required; you are simply looking for a base level of understanding to start the activity. As a reference point, engineers are people who use their mathematics and science knowledge to design and create or modify things so that they will be useful. Often they make models or prototypes to demonstrate their concepts, but engineers rarely build the things they design. The construction and/or manufacturing is usually carried out by technicians, contractors, builders, and so on.
2. If students didn't have a good understanding of engineering, explain that engineers create new things that help people. They use a variety of tools and materials to make these things. Have them look around their classroom and identify things they see that were probably designed by engineers. (chairs, desks, lights, building materials, computers, etc.)
3. Show them the How Technology Affects Your Life still collage and have them describe or list the things they see that were designed by engineers.
4. Have them view the Triangles and Arches in Architecture still collage and encourage them to discuss the types of structures they see. Ask:
- Why do you think different designs were used for different structures?
- What kinds of materials were used in their construction?
- How do people build houses?
5. Show the Design: Building a House still collage and continue the discussion on how houses are built.
6. Bring the conversation back to day-to-day items that the students use. Have them think back to the start of their day. Ask:
- What things have you used or seen that were designed by engineers?
- Why do you think these things are useful?
Some students may understand that certain objects are only indirectly produced by engineers. For example, the clothes that they are wearing were not designed by engineers, but engineers made the machines that knit, wove, or stitched them.
7. As a wrap-up for this session, ask students to keep observing their environment and noticing how many things they come across that were designed by engineers.
Part II: Creating Their Own Designs
8. Begin the next class by having students share their engineering observations. Ask:
- Were you surprised to see how much engineering exists in the world around you?
9. Let students know that anyone can be a design engineer. Designing and building things that help people is interesting and fun. Then show them theKid Inventor: The Collapsible Lacrosse Stick video and the Telescope Girl video. Discuss how these kids did engineering to help them enjoy their hobbies even more.
10. Part of engineering is testing ideas to make sure they work. Show the Balloon Brain: Designing a Helmet video and ask the following:
- What kinds of safety devices do you use? (helmets, seat belts, etc.)
- Why is it important for engineers to test their ideas?
11. Ask students to think of something new or improved that they would like to design. Pass out the paper, pencils and crayons, scissors, and tape and tell students to use them to build a model of their idea. (Ideas for students needing suggestions might include a pencil holder, a new style of envelope, or a rack for holding things.)
12. Have students give a brief explanation of the model they made. This can be done either in front of the class or one-on-one with you.
Check for Understanding
Discuss the following:
- Describe the different engineering design examples from the videos in Part II (collapsible lacrosse stick, homemade telescope, balloon helmet) and the choices the kids made in designing them. How were they engineered?
- Describe different types of cups (glass, paper, plastic, teacups with handles, "sippy" cups, thermal mugs, etc.). Each of these was designed to meet a real or perceived need, shortcoming, or failure of other solutions. How do the cups differ from one another? What types of engineering design considerations were used to make them?