This project focuses on integrating engineering design concepts and skills in the Force and Motion unit in Middle School to address the Next Generation Science Standards’ focus on STEM integration. The goal of this project is to increase students’ interest in STEM and expose them to integrated engineering activities. Students are introduced to the concepts and skills of engineering design, CAD software, virtual testing, prototyping, optimization, and additive manufacturing (3D printing). Students are engaged in using technology (CAD Software, Virtual wind tunnel) to design and test a shell for a mini race car, while learning science concepts and practices.
This curriculum presents the students with a real world problem of optimizing a Soap Box Derby Car, which is a race car powered by gravity. Working with a model Soap Box Derby Mini-Car (scaled to 1/13 of the size), students investigate the motion of the car down a track using various car shell shapes (box, semi-circle, trapezoid, etc.), and collect data on the performance of each shape. Next, they are guided to propose explanations of why the different shapes of the car shell result in different speeds. They are then introduced to study the basics of aerodynamics, with investigations using a physical wind tunnel and a virtual wind tunnel simulation that was developed for the project. Using this new knowledge of aerodynamics, and problem constraints and specifications, they will redesign a mini car shell using 123D Design (an intuitive and free CAD software), test it through the virtual wind tunnel, and collect data to evaluate their designs. The students will make conjectures based on what they have learned about force and motion to modify their designs to optimize performance. Students can print their designs using 3-D printers, and use a full scale wind tunnel to test their manufactured designs.
We will share activities from this integrated STEM curriculum, as well as sample student work. students learn about engineering design, as they apply scientific concepts related to forces, motion, and energy, and scientific practices of constructing explanations, analyzing data and using computational thinking. Real world applications of the technology are emphasized (virtual testing, additive manufacturing).
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