I Have to Teach Engineering??

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SWBAT identify the steps of the design process to recognize how engineers create designs.

Big Idea

How can I teach engineering? Take a look at this lesson on the basics of engineering and the design process.

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5 minutes

You have just been hired to teach a STEM class. You know the standard you are responsible for evaluating is the engineering design process. Where do you start? This lesson is a great place to start. It uses a fun movie to get the kids thinking about design in the real world and the process of developing a design solution.  

In the Explore Section students examine a copy of the Design Process Steps. You can use mine or if you do a Google search, you will find many other samples. Choose the one you like best to make it your own. In the Explain Section, students use a graphic organizer to explain how the movie ties to the engineering design process. In the Expand Section, students create other design problems. This is a really important section for my classroom because later in the year I allow the students the opportunity to create their own design problem and work to develop a solution. In the Evaluate Section, I explain how I use an Engineering Notebook for assessment. I also tie in Common Core Writing standards as students write a summary. 


15 minutes

My strategy in teaching how engineers use a process of design includes promoting student understanding of how engineers develop and test designs. By using the Next Generation Science Standards Practices in a graphic organizer, students can identify important steps and apply what they learn to a real design problem.

To start the lesson, I want to build prior knowledge. I ask the students how they solve mechanical problems. For example, when a bike breaks, when the computer breaks, other mechanical problems. My strategy is to review common problem solving strategies. I record answers on a white board. I give the students a copy of the Design Process Steps. Students compare the white board discussion answers with the steps of the design process. I want the students to unify connections as they look for similarities and differences.

I explain that students will be watching Apache Skateboarders. The video opens with an American Indian tribe that has gone through some bad times. Schools have been closed and the students have lost recreational facilities. The design problem is, "How can we build a skate park so the students have a great place for recreation?" My strategy is to use an authentic design problem so my students can understand the process of design.

I use this movie for several reasons. It quickly moves through the design process and it is fairly easy for students to follow. The ideas are concrete and intriguing to students. I can stop the movie at any time and discuss answers or generate ideas. 


45 minutes

Design Squad is a popular television series on Discovery Network. I use the Apache Skateboards episode of the series for several reasons. It quickly moves through the design process and it is fairly easy for students to follow. The ideas are concrete and intriguing to students. My strategy is to connect to their backgrounds. I can stop the movie at any time and discuss answers or generate ideas. I can fast forward over parts not important to the learning goals.

I have students record using the Design Process Steps as they watch the movie. My intention is to generate answers for a discussion after the movie. One of my strategies is to integrate Common Core standards by offering practice in finding references from movies. I ask them to write quotes from the movie that would be included in a specific step. If necessary, I stop the movie and discuss a specific step at a particularly good example or when a step is not obvious. After the movie, students collaborate to learn from one another. My strategy is to allow students the time to discuss their misconceptions as well as to hear other interpretations. 


5 minutes

After watching the movie and going over the steps with the students, my students and I choose a design project. My intention is to use what the students have learned in a real situation. My science lab needed a new seating arrangement so the students came up with ideas to design seating arrangements for tests, movies, discussions, and labs.

I have also taught the process with ideas, such as, Design a House, Design a Wheelchair Shower, and Design Furniture. In Core Science my students completed Design a Cell (biology), Design a Super Material(chemistry), Design a Roller Coaster (physics), and Design an Ocean Creature (ecology).

Each of these ideas are realized on the design process graphic organizer. My intention is to promote student understanding of how a process allows a variety of interpretations. 


10 minutes

I use a three to five sentence bullet point summary as an evaluation. I ask the students to explain which step they feel is the most important step of the design process and why. My strategy is to evaluate what students think as opposed to what they can memorize. Students can use the advanced organizer as a reference and I tell them they must use the specific content words (we circled them) to explain the process. My intention is to support students as they use content vocabulary. My evaluation intention is to understand student misconceptions and where students have holes in their learning.

I ask students to complete this summary in their Engineering Notebook (Student Samples). The engineering notebook is a very important part of my teaching. Engineering notebooks are designed to be a journal in which designers make sketches and notes of design ideas, design tests, and the metamorphosis of a design. Check out my introduction to the engineering notebook in Engineering Notebook. My intention for using an engineering notebook is to make immediate formative and summative assessment. I carry a stamp pad to formatively assess the learning process. If the student understands a concept, I stamp it. I also use the notebook for scaffolding. The student and I can evaluate how the learning is progressing and if there is a problem, I can offer the student the opportunity to change an answer. By the time we reach the summative assessment, I have had a chance to scaffold the students and to differentiate the students who need more rigor.