The word engineer is derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”). Today, engineering is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
In the classroom, engineering calls for teens to apply what they know about science and math—and their learning is enhanced as a result. At the same time, because engineering activities are based on real-world technologies and problems, they help teens see how disciplines like math and science are relevant to their lives.
In anticipation of Engineers Week next month, I’m delighted to share with you 25 activities and resources to help you teach engineering concepts to teens. Engineering is one of the five subjects that comprises the popular acronym STEAM. The activities and resources shared below bring together science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
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DiscoverE Engineers Week
Engineers Week is a focused celebration of how engineers make a difference in the world. In 2017, the celebration is slated for February 19th – 25th with events around the world.
Founded originally by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, National Engineers Week is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. .
The goal is to bring engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents. There are many ways to get involved:
- Dream Big is a new film for IMAX® and giant screen theaters, opening in theaters during Engineers Week.
- Girl Day is a worldwide campaign to introduce girls to the fascinating world of engineering has become an annual event on the Thursday of Engineers Week.
- Global Day is an opportunity for you to get involved. It can be as simple as sharing a photo of an engineering wonder on social media.
DiscoverE events are not limited to a week in February, however. Opportunities are available year round.
- Future City Competition challenges middle-school students to imagine, design, and build cities of the future.
- Global Marathon is an online forum where professional and college women can network, learn, and share. http://discovere.org/our-programs/global-marathon
Reach out to your local chapter to find events in your area or consider hosting a DiscoverE event of your own. Check out the online calendar today.
Activities for Homeschool Teens
There are many engineering activities easily implemented at home or in a co-op that are challenging, engaging, and a ton of fun! Here are twenty of my favorite:
- Strongest Shapes – Using index cards and only one shape in your design, build a bridge that can support a toy car.
- Slender Tower Challenge – Build the tallest tower you can with the smallest footprint possible.
- Wind Powered Cars – Design and build a car that moves by wind power.
- Design a Catapult – Build a catapult that launches a projectile and hits a target.
- Squishy Circuits – Create a play dough creature with eyes that light up.
- Alarming Surprise – Build an electrical circuit to power an alarm that is small enough to hide and that goes off when you flip the switch.
- Aeronautical Airfoils – Design an airfoil that will enable a glider to fly the greatest distance.
- Bobsled Racer – Build a miniature bobsled that can win a race down a frozen slope.
- Water Pollution Cleanup – Design a process to treat water contaminated with acid and oil.
- Design a Dome – Design a domed structure strong enough to support 60 pennies.
- Paper Towers and Skyscrapers – Make a paper tower that can withstand as much wind as possible.
- Marble Run – Make a roller coaster for a marble that has a loop, a hill, and a jump.
- Spaghetti Towers – Build a tower with spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. Can you build one that can withstand an “earthquake”?
- Reverse Engineering – Take apart an alarm clock or cassette player.
- Better Roofing – Design a roof that will keep a cardboard house from getting wet.
- Green Roofing – Design a green or living roof for sustainable gardening.
- Build a Simple Motor—Explore how we can convert the potential chemical energy inside a battery to kinetic energy by creating a very simple motor.
- Ice Keeper – Design a container to keep an ice cube from melting.
- Mini-Robots – Using a HexBug, create a robot that can draw its own designs.
- Bridges – Design a toothpick bridge that can withhold the heaviest load. Alternatively, try straws or wooden coffee stirrers.
Biographies and Milestones
Biographies can introduce students to a whole new world of historical figures and different eras. Studying them can also inspire students as they read about people who overcame problems, faced obstacles and criticism, but persevered to succeed.
Here are a few biographies of engineers and inventors who made a difference in their respective fields:
- Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel engineered the Eiffel Tower and the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty.
- Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps the most well known architect in the United States.
- Joseph Strauss designed one of the seven wonders of the modern world, the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Pioneers of Flight highlights the contributions of Leonardo da Vinci and Wilbur Wright.
- The Montgolfier Brothers were the inventors of the first practical hot air balloon.