What is Engineering?

Submitting Organization: National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science, Boston

Grade Levels: 1st Grade – 5th Grade

Subject Area: Engineering

Standards Alignment: Next Generation Science Standards

K-2-ETS-1; 3-5-ETS1; Science & Engineering Practices

Description of the Activity: In this activity, students learn how engineers design technologies. Students are given a problem they need to solve: they must raise a stuffed animal “statue” off the ground. Students are then encouraged to ask questions about the problem and what they need to do in order to solve it. Small groups of students’ design solutions using index cards and tape. Groups measure, test, and present their designs in front of the entire class. In whole-class discussion, students reflect on their problem-solving process and compare it to the Engineering Design Process that engineers use to solve problems.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is technology?
  • What is an engineer?
  • What is the problem? What questions do you have before you start?
  • Can you tell me about your design? Why do you think your design will work well?
  • What do you observe is the same/different about all of these towers?
  • How do you think you could improve your design if you had more time?
  • What do you think the word “process” means?
  • Did you use any of the Engineering Design Process steps (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve) when you designed your tower?
  • What other problems do you think the Engineering Design Process can help you solve?

Resources Needed:

  • Index cards
  • Cellophane tape
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Small stuffed animal.

Link to further resources: www.eie.org