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Guidelines for Teachers and Engineers: Before You Begin

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You might like to start by introducing engineering as a career. There are many different types of engineers; for example, civil engineers who build structures like roads and bridges; mechanical engineers who build machines like airplanes and boats; electrical engineers who build telecommunications and computer systems, etc. You can learn more about the types of engineering and potential jobs on the National Engineering Month Web site at: www.nem-mng.ca.

  • Introduce the project to your class. The Engineering Challenge is a mechanical engineering project, where students will work in teams to build prototype machines. When completed, students will have the chance to test the prototypes against other teams in their class or school.
  • Give an overview of how a team of engineers typically tackles a design and building project, using an “engineering design process”:
    • recognize and define a problem
    • investigate the problem
    • generate many ideas and possible solutions
    • evaluate ideas to identify the best solutions
    • create working diagrams and models
    • build a prototype to solve the problem
    • test the solution (prototype)
    • modify the solution (prototype) if not successful.

Program Schedule

The Engineering Challenge activity is designed to coincide with the celebrations for National Engineering Month, in March (NEM).

Week 1

  • Introduce and present the project (include volunteer engineer if possible).
  • Organize teams and identify student roles (see below).
  • Engage students in relevant preparatory activities in the classroom by introducing the concepts of forces, structures and mechanisms, simple machines and motion as per your curriculum requirements.

Weeks 2 & 3

  • Teams design theirprototype and plan materials to use.
  • Design is ‘approved” by teacher and/or volunteer engineer.
  • Teams gather construction materials.
  • Teams begin building their prototypes and modify as required with the guidance of the teacher and/or engineer. NOTE: much problem solving required at this stage.
  • Teams conduct trial testing of their prototype and make final construction modifications.
  • Teams finalize drawings and prepare presentation.
  • Teacher begins organization of in-school competition (invite special guests, arrange for required space, equipment, etc.).
    NOTE: this is a valuable in-school teacher “team” project and several teachers can organize a school competition together.

Week 4          

  • Grand Finale: students showcase their projects and face-off in a fun and friendly competition in the school or at another venue.

Organizing a Grand Finale:

Once construction is completed, teams gather together to test their prototypes against the other teams in the class and/or school. You may choose to make this an exciting culmination to the project by creating an event to celebrate National Engineering Month and to demonstrate the achievements of your students. Here are some tips on planning a Grand Finale.

  • Gather the teams together in a large area, such as the gymnasium, auditorium, library, or cafeteria.
  • Invite special guests to “judge” the competition. These can include parents, volunteer engineers, school administrators, reporters from your school paper or community newspaper, etc.
  • Create a testing area that is visible to all participants and guests, for example on a stage, in the centre of the gym, etc.
  • Standardize the testing area so that all teams start from a common point and are being measured in the same manner. For example, for the rubber band car challenge, create a race course and record each team’s time to rank their positions; for the catapult challenge, create a launch pad area and keep the target at a standard distance from the launch pad.
  • Standardize the testing criteria. For example, each team will have 2 chances to demonstrate the performance of their prototype.
  • Recognize the achievements of your teams. Certificates of Participation to distribute to all students are available by contacting education@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.