Studio STEM is implementing a series of Engineering Teaching Kits (ETK’s) during this project.
- Give students the opportunity to design, build, and test as engineers
- Celebrate diverse backgrounds and learning styles
- Address deep science concepts that relate to engineering design challenges
- Downplay competition and emphasize cooperation and collaboration
- Engage ALL students, not just those who are deemed “future engineers” because engineering is a way of thinking, a problem-solving method that part of being a technologically literate person
- Through the engineering design, provide activities that are personally meaningful, and provide a context for learning science
Save the Penguins
Save the Penguins challenges students to investigate the broad context is global warming. Students learn that the energy we use to heat and cool our houses comes from power plants, most of which use fossil fuels to convert chemical energy to electrical energy. The burning of fossil fuels has been linked to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn has been linked to increases in global temperature. This change in temperature has widespread effects upon life on Earth. Penguins live in the southern hemisphere, primarily on the icy continent of Antarctica. As the Earth warms and ice melts, penguins lose habitat. Therefore, students see that better-designed houses that use less energy for heating and cooling have an effect on penguins. Energy efficient houses that minimize unnecessary heat transfer will draw less electricity from the fossil fuel burning power plants and not contribute as much to global warming.
Save the Seabirds
Save the Seabirds challenges students’ alternative conceptions of energy, force, and motion. We use the terms energy and force in non-scientifically ways in everyday language such that the scientific meanings are often obscured. What comes to children’s minds when they think about energy, force, and motion? Perhaps a friend forcing them to do something, or perhaps having enough energy to get through a school day. In addition to the many non-scientific uses of the words, children often form their own scientific theories about the way the world works. They think that forces are necessary to keep objects in motion, that stationary objects are devoid of forces, and do not understand that forces come in pairs. They think that when a force is used up, motion stops. Energy is often confused with force, and energy is seen as a fluid or ingredient which flows from one place to another to “make things work.” They think energy can be used up, and that it is required for motion. Without explicit interventions designed to target these alternative conceptions, chances are that they will persist into adulthood.
Save the Snails
Save the Snails challenges students to engage with energy literacy, the understanding of where energy comes from. This clearly implies that the middle school teachers should be able to understand and convey the cognitive construct of energy literacy, and that that motion can generate it in an electromagnetic field. The power plants that dot our landscape are black boxes to so many. Something like coal or water or uranium or natural gas goes in, and magically, electricity comes out. Black boxes can be dangerous items in science and technology if the privilege that comes with understanding the workings inside the box is held by only a few. If not taught in schools, how do citizens learn about energy issues from a scientific perspective?
Save the Black Footed Ferrets
Save the Black Footed Ferrets (BFF’s) asks students to engage with electricity to learn about capacitors and alternate ways to produce electricity in order to keep their ferret family ‘off the grid’ but with the lights on. This curriculum is all about designing and constructing an “off the grid” town. Students learn about how power plants and power transmission wires disrupt natural environments, and how communities can generate and store their own electricity locally. Capacitors can be used to store electricity generated by wind, solar, and human-powered energy. This curriculum is truly STEM as it targets the scientific concepts of electrical charge and electric circuits, the technological concept of Computer Aided Design, the engineering concepts of problem solving and design under constraints, and the mathematical concepts of geometric shapes.