TAME Engineering Adventure: Valentine's Day

TAME Engineering Adventure: Valentine's Day
Welcome to the first installment of TAME Engineering Adventures! Every month we will strive to bring you two engineering activities (one for middle school, one for high school) that will help you challenge your students with hands-on learning. 

This month we've picked two sweet adventures, which your students are sure to love!

Middle School Adventure: Heart-Shaped Marshmallow Structures

Adaptable for any age, these would be perfect for sixth graders as they learn about geometry and spacial reasoning. Other related TEKS Common Core topics: 
  • acute/obtuse/right angles
  • polygons
  • circles
  • triangles
  • quadrilaterals
  • radius
  • diameter
  • circumferences
  • estimation/measurement of length

Challenge your students to build towers, and see which shapes are the strongest.

Bonus: place the students' creations on top of a text book and ask them which designs they think will be more stable if the book begins to move in an earthquake. To help them find some real-life meaning in this activity, you can show this 1.5 minute TED Ed video that compares the same kind of earthquake in two places around the world. After the video, ask your students to re-design their structures and perform the earthquake experiment again. 

High School Adventure: A Sweet DIY Pinball Machine

This is a perfect rube-goldberg style activity to help high school students learn about what it takes to engineer an idea into a finished product. In the original blog post, The Scientific Mom encouraged her young engineers to:
  • take measurements
  • draw blueprints
  • do research
  • tackle construction with trial and error 

Bells and buzzers provide plenty of opportunity to play with simple circuits like electrical engineers, while ramps and flaps will have your students thinking like civil engineers in no time.

Bonus: As Dan Meyer explains in his famous TED talk Math Class Needs a Makeover, students thrive when we give them opportunities to ask their own questions and become patient problem solvers. Give bonus points to students who write their own word problem to solve for surface area and volume, or measure probability and statistics by observing other students play with the pinball machine. Students can incorporate (and label) 3D geometrical shapes like prisms, pyramids, spheres, cones, cylinders, and composites into their design. 

Encourage them to reverse engineer their own math problem, based on what they find most compelling about their pinball machine invention.

Looking for more? 

These ideas come from our curated idea boards on Pinterest. If you liked these, you'll love our Engineering: Activities for All Ages board!

With over 2,800 pins organized into 46 different boards, TAME's Pinterest presence is specially curated to help teachers, parents, and students of all ages get excited about STEM. 

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