Science, engineering, and technology

To illustrate the interconnectedness of science and engineering, the editor’s note this month is a crossword puzzle. I think I need to review the K-12 Framework in more detail to solve it. Or else I can see this connectedness through the featured articles in this month’s issue.
Building on Student’s Knowledge of Solar Cells* illustrates integrating math and science with engineering design tasks. The activity is part of a unit on solar energy, and students apply what they know to the design and testing of solar-powered model cars. The authors include many photos of the students’ designs, data tables, a worksheet that is more of a thinking guide, and assessment questions. The authors also emphasize the “role of the teacher in structuring engineering design tasks in a way that supports critical content knowledge.” And I liked their note that “Projects such as this one require engagement beyond the superficial.” Cars seem to be a natural interest for middle schoolers, and another article shows how to tap into this interest. The authors of Integrating Science and Engineering Practices in an Inquiry-Based Lesson on Wind-Powered Cars describe a 7e lesson applying concepts of motion to a design and test of a wind-powered car. [SciLinks: Solar Cells, Solar Energy, Winds, Wind Energy, Renewable Sources of Energy, Motion-Speed Relationship]

Two articles illustrate the use GPS and GIS technology in the classroom. The authors of The Isle of Navitas: Planning for Energy Use with Web GIS use a simulated island to help students explore the development of efficient energy use. Students learned how to apply spatial skills and use web GIS to explore the island’s features and energy resources. All of the materials and resources (teacher guide, handouts, visuals, and scoring guides0 used are accessible through the websites mentioned in the article. Watershed Waypoint: Using GPS and GIS to Learn About Watershed Features shows how to integrate concepts from geography and science with spatial thinking. Although the authors personalized the activity to their school’s location, they note that it can be modified for other locations. They also include examples of the student “worksheets” they used as thinking guides. A geography teacher I used to work with would be really interested in this, too. [SciLinks: Global Positioning System, Geographic Information Systems, Watersheds, Latitude and Longitude, Sustainable Development]
How can you show the connections between engineering and biology? The students in the article Hand Drawn: Lessons on Neuromuscular Control and Prosthetic-Hand Design were introduced to biomedical engineering. They took what they knew from medical studies and research (how joints work) and physics (simple machines) and used that knowledge to solve a problem—helping amputees function with prosthetic limbs. The authors also note how design specifications  illustrate that “a key distinction between an engineering design project and an art project is the emphasis on functionality as well as form.” [SciLinks: Bones and Joints, Joints and Muscles in the Body, Simple Machines, Skeletal and Muscular Systems]
Do you need a new approach to the water cycle? Lunch-Trash Solar Stills* describes a challenge to students to use information about the water cycle to design a solution to the problem of recovering potable water. The authors describe a series of activities that use simple and readily available materials.[SciLinks: Water Cycle, Water Quality]
*Check out the Connections for this issue (February 2013). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, this resource has ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, etc.

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