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Engineering Now - Cable Cars and Capsules to Pumps and Shelters

July 17, 2013

The Museum of Science is developing 10 supplemental units bringing engineering into middle school classrooms via the National Center for Technological Literacy®. Aligned with the new Next Generation Science Standards, Engineering Now addresses concepts, practices, and cross-cutting topics in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Each unit focuses on a different technology and related engineering design challenge. The plan is to introduce the first units after pilot testing this fall.

Students kick off each unit with an episode or video from the popular WGBH show Design Squad Nation. Student teams are then given a hands-on design challenge to solve using science and engineering. They also spend class time learning about engineering-related careers.

The first cohort includes construction, manufacturing, transportation, and bioengineering. Future units will address agriculture, communication, aerospace, energy, biomechanics, and environmental engineering. Each features a teacher guide with reproducible student pages, DVD with videos and supplemental instructional materials, and kit with materials for the challenges. Featuring eight lessons, each unit spans about two weeks of 50-minute class periods.

In the construction unit, students use the engineering design process to build the prototype of a resilient food shelter for a remote area. Students select location, materials and design to protect food and water from flooding or other natural disaster. The manufacturing unit challenges students to design a pump. After researching materials and manufacturing methods, they choose environmentally-friendly materials and determine how best to design and manufacture the pump and its pistons.

In the transportation unit, students learn about systems thinking and sub-systems of cable cars as well as forces and motion on scaled cable cars, then select a design for use in a citywide rail system. The bioengineering unit asks students to explore materials as binders and disintegrants in designing a capsule to deliver medicine into the intestines. Students will test if their design releases medicine at the right place using a model of the intestinal tract.

In addition to WGBH, the Museum is partnering with LAB TV (sponsored by the National Defense Education Program to highlight STEM careers). The Museum received initial funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Genzyme, Noyce Foundation, the National Defense Education Program, Google, and National Grid. The Museum seeks another $800,000 to fund the next two years.

Related Links

The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500