Can We Build It? Yes, We Can!

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Create a model of a roof that can withstand a tornado simulation by designing and then testing the model.

Big Idea

By developing models, engineers improve existing technologies, or develop new ones to solve real world problems.


1 minutes

Warm up

5 minutes

When my students walked in, I already had the "test" area set up and covered with a sheet. There were a lot of questions as to what could be under the sheet, but I just told them it was for Science, which started even more speculation!

This lesson required some prep time in advance because I wanted each group to have exactly what they needed, and ready to go when they started building their roofs. This also ensured that no group had an unfair advantage over an other when it came to the building materials.

I then started this lesson with some footage, taken by a surveillance camera, of a house that was in the path of a tornado. This was enough to hook my students, and let them see the magnitude of tornado winds. We also looked at pictures of other homes that were damaged by tornadoes. I wanted them to zero in on the fact that in each case, the roofs were heavily damaged. This set up the lesson and the design challenge for this engineering lesson. 

Guided practice

15 minutes

I created a Power point, Can We Build it? Yes, We Can!!, to guide our engineering process. The Power point helped me tap into many of the diverse learning styles in my class by using images, graphics, videos, and the written information embedded right in the power point itself. We have been studying the cause and effect relationships of tornadoes. The students now have schema to help them make informed decisions about tornadoes. I took it to the next level and through the PowerPoint because I used to help me set up a scenario in which the students are applying for an engineering job in which they have to design a roof that can withstand a simulated E-F1 and E-F2 tornado. If I had not used the Power point and laid out the directions step by step, I don't think the lesson would have been as successful for my students.


30 minutes

I wanted the engineering process to be as smooth as possible for my students. With this in mind, I created three items to help guide them, Roof Design Challenge,  Engineering LoopTest Simulation Organizer.pdf and a Roof Design Evaluation. Without these organizers, my students may not have been able to focus on the challenge as an engineering piece, and it would just have been, "let's build some houses and put them in front of a turbo fan and  see if they make it". These organizers kept them focused on the task at hand, "How can I build a roof that can withstand an E-F1 or E-F2 tornado?' It had them going back, documenting changes and trying again, just as engineers and scientists do.

Class Discussion/Wrap up

15 minutes

I think it is essential to have a discussion after a lesson, just so that we can revisit the different points that were made during the lesson, things students may have observed, or still had questions about.  I also created a rubric because it acts as a demonstration of learning for this lesson. Not all of my students were successful building a roof that wouldn't fly away, and I did not include that criteria in the rubric on purpose. The purpose of this lesson is to obtain a greater understanding of the design process itself and that we cannot give up if something doesn't go our way the first time. This is not only an engineering skill it is also a life skill.