In this lesson, students learn about work as defined by physical science and see that work is made easier through the use of simple machines. Already encountering simple machines everyday, students will be alerted to their widespread uses in everyday life. This lesson serves as the starting point for the Simple Machines Unit.
Students are introduced to air masses, with an emphasis on the differences between and characteristics of high- versus low-pressure air systems. Students also hear about weather forecasting instrumentation and how engineers work to improve these instruments for atmospheric measurements on Earth and in space.
Students investigate the weather from a systems approach, learning how individual parts of a system work together to create a final product. Students learn how a barometer works to measure the Earth's air pressure by building a model using simple materials. Students analyze the changes in barometer measurements over time and compare those to actual weather conditions. They learn how to use a barometer to understand air pressure and predict actual weather changes.
In this lesson, the students look at the components of cells and their functions. The lesson focuses on the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Each part of the cell performs a specific function that is vital for the cell's survival. Bacteria are single-celled organisms that are very important to engineers. Engineers can use bacteria to break down toxic materials in a process called bioremediation, and they can also kill or disable harmful bacteria through disinfection.
Working in engineering project teams, students evaluate sites for the construction of a pyramid. They base their decision on site features as provided by a surveyor's report; distance from the quarry, river and palace; and other factors they deem important to the project based on their team's values and priorities.
This lesson introduces students to the idea of biomimicry or looking to nature for engineering ideas. Biomimicry involves solving human problems by mimicking natural solutions, and it works well because the solutions exist naturally. There are numerous examples of useful applications of biomimicry, and in this lesson we look at a few fun examples.
In this design activity, students investigate materials engineering as it applies to weather and clothing. Teams design and analyze different combinations of materials for effectiveness in specific weather conditions. Analysis includes simulation of temperature, wind and wetness elements, as well as the functionality and durability of final prototypes.
Simple machines are devices with few or no moving parts that make work easier. Students are introduced to the six types of simple machines the wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, and pulley in the context of the construction of a pyramid, gaining high-level insights into tools that have been used since ancient times and are still in use today. In two hands-on activities, students begin their own pyramid design by performing materials calculations, and evaluating and selecting a construction site. The six simple machines are examined in more depth in subsequent lessons in this unit.
Students explore methods employing simple machines likely used in ancient pyramid building, as well as common modern-day material transportation. They learn about the wheel and axle as a means to transport materials from rock quarry to construction site. They also learn about different types and uses of a lever for purposes of transport. In an open-ended design activity, students choose from everyday materials to engineer a small-scale cart and lever system to convey pyramid-building materials.
In this activity, students are challenged to design a contraption using simple machines to move a circus elephant into a rail car. After students consider their audience and constraints, they work in groups to brainstorm ideas and select one concept to communicate to the class.
Students analyze and begin to design a pyramid. Working in engineering teams, they perform calculations to determine the area of the pyramid base, stone block volumes, and the number of blocks required for their pyramid base. They make a scaled drawing of the pyramid using graph paper.
Students learn that wind and storms can form at the boundaries of interacting high and low pressure air masses. They learn the distinguishing features of the four main types of weather fronts (warm fronts, cold fronts, stationary fronts and occluded fronts) and how those fronts are depicted on a surface weather analysis, or weather map. Students also learn several different ways that engineers help with storm prediction, analysis and protection.
Students use inclined planes as they recreate the difficult task of raising a monolith of rock to build a pyramid. They compare the push and pull of different-sized blocks up an inclined plane, determine the angle of inclination, and learn the changes that happen when the angle is increased or decreased.
Students are introduced to the basics of the Earth's weather. Concepts include fundamental causes of common weather phenomena such as temperature changes, wind, clouds, rain and snow. The different factors that affect the weather and the instruments that measure weather data are also addressed.
In this open-ended design activity, students use everyday materials milk cartons, water bottles, pencils, straws, candy to build small-scale transportation devices. They incorporate the use two simple machines a wheel and axle, and a lever into their designs. Student pairs choose their materials and engineer solutions suitable to convey pyramid-building materials (small blocks of clay). They race their carts/trucks, measuring distance, time and weight; and then calculate speed.