Form and Function(s): A Sustainable Design meets Computation Design Plan

Form and Function(s): A Sustainable Design meets Computation Design Plan

Introduction and Different Pathways

 

Introduction

This design plan was created as part of a Callysto funded project titled Form and Function(s): A Sustainable Design meets Computation OER Sprint.  The various educational assets (e.g. animation, design and lesson plans, learning activities) have Creative Commons (CC) licenses (CC-BY 4.0). This type of copyright license permits, without further requests from the author or publisher, to reuse, revise, remix, or redistribute the educational resource.   The Callysto project assets are therefore Open Educational Resources (OER). 

We encourage teachers to take the OER and reuse or revise, changing and contextualizing for your students. If you do make such changes, please learn how to apply for the correct CC license and provide the proper attribution format. You may learn more about OER, the CC licenses, and the permissions allowed on the Blended and Online Learning and Teaching website and OER Commons

The Concept behind Form and Function(s): Sustainable Design meets Computation 

When Architecture, the Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing intermingle something beautiful and purposeful occurs. Through this course of study students are challenged to think computationally by considering the notion of “design” through three perspectives on form and function.  Through the first perspective, we challenge students to consider a structure’s architectural form in the context of its function within the ecology in which it belongs.  A second perspective on form and function is provided by way of the natural sciences, where students explore nature’s designs, which are created through natural selection.  Finally, form and function is further abstracted through a mathematical and computational perspective that focuses on how natural selection can be emulated through modelling and coding. The journey comes full circle, and the three perspectives coalesce, when students engage in a hack-a-thon in which they model and code evolutionary algorithms to design a better building.

Form and Function(s): Sustainable Design Meets Computational Thinking

PLEASE FIND THE SCRIPT TO THIS ANIMATION IN THE RESOURCES SECTION.

Completion of the project in its entirety requires team teaching at the grade 11 level as the project spans the Career and Technology Studies (CTS), Biology 20, and Math 20 curriculums.  Alternatively, selections from the design plan can be taught on their own, or mixed and matched as opportunities for collaborative teaching allow. As a whole, the materials are intended to provide teachers of grade 11 students an integrated STEAM approach to teach students to learn and apply computational thinking.  However, the modular design of the learning activities will also allow secondary purposes to be fulfilled.  Table 1. provides several pathways for the use of the learning activities (detailed in Section 3) and OER materials provided; however, teacher’s are encouraged to mix and match to suit their needs. For example, a BioMath pathway could easily be created by combining the core elements of the Biology 20 and Math 20-1 pathways found in Table 1.

Possible pathways using these resources.

The Complete Pathway 

The complete design plan touches on elements of the CTS Media/Design/Communication Arts cluster (MDC), Biology 20 Science and Technology Emphasis, Math 20-1, and CTS Computer Science curriculums. Our goal is to use the concept of design to teach students to learn and apply computational thinking. Using an integrated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) approach, this project aims to introduce students to the notion of design through three perspectives via a series of process-based learning lessons and activities. 

Architecture is a perfect way to introduce the notion of aesthetics through form and function. Here, we challenge students to think of design not only in terms of form but also in the context of the function. We consider how, as a society, we might move beyond creating structures that impose upon the environment; instead of creating structures that integrate into the ecologies they inhabit. For example, imagine a future in which our structures are more than just spaces, but contribute to the natural processes of the ecologies they inhabit, seamlessly integrating into the ecology’s energy and geochemical cycles including solar, geothermal, water, oxygen and carbon dioxide cycles, to name a few. It’s easy to envision the potential benefits of the integration of our built environment into the natural ecology it inhabits, especially as we seek to reduce our environmental impact. Unfortunately, achieving ecological integration of our built environment is not an easy task. 

Ecological integration is of course regularly achieved in nature, but how?  In the second Inquiry, we challenge students to think about nature’s designs.  For example, why is an organism so well suited for the ecological niche it uniquely occupies?  Here, students will be introduced to the concept of adaptation through the process of natural selection, by emphasizing that nature’s designs are achieved through repeated iteration of a simple principle: better-adapted individuals will prevail over less adapted ones.  Can a similar process be used to achieve biomimicry of our built environment?  Clearly, an exact real-world replication of natural selection is not a practical approach but, through mathematics and computing, we will emulate natural selection to achieve ecological integration.

In the third Inquiry, we ask students to think about emulating the process of natural selection through computational means. In this way, students are introduced to mathematical modelling and the process of computer simulation and, in this context, students are encouraged to think about what it means for a mathematical model or computer simulation to be well-designed. Ultimately, we guide students to a basic understanding of how natural selection can be modelled, and how evolutionary algorithms can be used to emulate natural selection, with the goal of finding a better design.

A “Hack-a-thon” caps the activity off. Students learn about passive solar capture and how a building’s surface orientation affects its ability to capture the sun’s energy, as well as how the building’s envelop and window to wall surface area ratios affect energy loss. Students are then challenged to assemble what they have learned to develop their best design for the building that maximizes the use of passive solar energy. 

 

CTS Media Design and Communication Arts and CTS Computer Science Pathways

The Media Design and Communication Arts and CTS Computer Science pathways follow the same basic course as the Complete pathway presented above.  The MDC pathway places emphasis on design studies and deemphasizes the technical aspects associated with the Biology 20, Math 20-1, and Computer Science curriculums. In contrast, the Computer Science pathway places emphasis on mathematical and computer modelling and computational thinking and while deemphasizing aspects of Design Studies. Both allow the majority of learning activities to be included, but with some presented in an abridged version.  

The narrative for both the MDS and Computer Science pathways remains largely unchanged.  As before, students are challenged to think computationally by considering the notion of “design” through three perspectives on form and function.  Architecture remains the point of entry and provides the first perspective on design. The notion of sustainable design is introduced, providing students with an understanding of the principles and objectives of sustainable design as well as an overview of the complex problems that arise. Natural selection is again used to transition from architectural design to that of modelling, computational thinking and problem-solving.  Through their brief exploration of Natural Selection students are exposed to the idea of simulating Natural Selection as a means of problem-solving, which in turn provides motivation to learn about Genetic Algorithms. Genetic Algorithms are then used as part of the “Hack-a-thon” that caps the activity off. Students learn about passive solar capture and how a building’s surface orientation affects its ability to capture the sun’s energy, as well as how the building’s envelop and window to wall surface area ratios affect energy loss. Students are then challenged to assemble what they have learned to develop their best design for the building that maximizes the use of passive solar energy. 

 

Biology 20 Natural Selection Pathway

This design pathway is intended to augment the Biology 20 curriculum by expanding the exploration of Natural Selection as an evolutionary process both as it is operated in nature but also how the process of Natural Selection has inspired computational approaches to problem-solving. As a standard part of the Biology 20 curriculum students are taught the principles of natural selection as they apply to populations of organisms in nature.  This design pathway follows the standard curriculum approach and will enable students to understand and explore the mechanisms by which plants, animals and fungi change over time, in a process that itself is driven by continuous changes in their environment. Natural selection is a key mechanism for change in populations and species and therefore evolution.  Although it is not the only driving force for evolutionary change it is the only evolutionary mechanism that drives adaptation. To better understand how Natural Selection operates students are introduced to the concept of modelling and learn about the role that modelling plays in science. Students are able to see the modelling process in action by exploring Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection, which serves as an example that highlights the use of mathematical modelling has played in the development of Evolutionary Theory. Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection is a bit of an obscure result, but its appeal here is that it is appropriate for this level with a simplified version and presentation available for a purely biological focus. An online Lab is provided via Jupyter Notebooks that allows students to explore how Natural Selection operates by simulating of the evolution of a virtual population of “stick ungulates”. Through this project, students are exposed to the idea of simulating Natural Selection as a means of problem-solving, which then provides motivation to introduce students to learn about genetic algorithms.

 

Math 10/20 Functions and Relations Pathway

In this design plan, students study Relations and Functions curriculum from Math 10 and Math 20 framed from the perspective of Mathematical modelling.  First students are introduced to the concept of modelling in general terms, examining different types of model and their uses. Examples might include, 2D-visual models, 3D visual models, logic models, mathematical models and computer simulation models.  Students learn that models are simplified representations of real-world systems that play important roles in the development of theory, the application of theory in problem-solving and the transmission and translation of knowledge.

 

To start the unit on Relations and Functions and to provide context for the study of mathematical modelling the students are presented with a real-world problem.  Specifically, we challenge students to consider how, as a society, we might move beyond creating built structures that impose upon the environment; instead of creating structures that integrate into the ecologies they inhabit. For example, imagine a future in which our structures are more than just spaces, but contribute to the natural processes of the ecologies they inhabit, seamlessly integrating into the ecology’s energy and geochemical cycles including solar, geothermal, water, oxygen and carbon dioxide cycles, to name a few. Students will work on this challenge as their “building green” project that serves as the unit’s summative performance task.

 

To provide the students with the necessary knowledge and skills to tackle the summative performance task, students will first be introduced to modelling and analysis by way of considering how nature achieves ecological integration. Here, the students are briefly introduced to the concept of adaptation as a result of natural selection.  Next, students will see the modelling process in action by exploring Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection, which serves as an example that highlights the use of mathematical modelling in the developing Scientific Theory. As noted above, Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection is a bit of an obscure result, but its appeal here is that it is appropriate for this level; its development and analysis drawing on the math 10C and Math 20 Relations and Functions curriculum, which is detailed below.

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