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Solving Hard-to-Reach Problems with ROVs

Remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, are often used in environments that would be unsafe or difficult for people to enter to explore. In this activity, students will think critically about how engineering practices can be used to monitor environmental issues or solve real-world problems before designing and modeling an ROV that could be used to investigate a real-world problem impacting their local environment.

Health Effects of Climate Extremes and Thermal Technology

Climate extremes are impacting human health and inspiring new technology. This guide provides lesson plans paired to recent news articles covering a new thermal fabric prototype and its ability to regulate temperature and how wildfire smoke impacts the air quality index and human health.

Not too hot. Not too cold

Staying cool in the summer and keeping warm in the winter may become easier. Learn about a new thermal fabric prototype and its ability to regulate temperature, answer questions about its design and function and discuss potential applications.

Vibration check

Most of us drive across bridges every day and never question their structural integrity. We trust that the bridge will stand. In this activity, students will study a famous bridge collapse and consider how it could have been prevented. They also will learn how engineers are testing whether crowdsourced cell phone data could be used to determine when bridges need repairs. Using simulated data of bridge vibration frequencies, students will identify whether an imaginary bridge might be unstable. Students have the option of creating model bridges and testing their structural integrity.

Form fits function in extreme environments

From buildings to machines to household objects — and even in the natural world — the structure of something relates to its function. Sea urchin skeletons, for example, have a recurring geometric design called a Voronoi pattern that also shows up in honeycombs and dragonfly wings. The pattern probably strengthens the skeleton and could inspire the creation of strong, lightweight materials. In this activity, students will explore aspects of structure and function in everyday objects before applying the same concepts to the natural patterns found in sea urchin skeletons. Inspired by the sea urchin, students can use an engineering design process to brainstorm solutions to real-world problems.

Exploring materials

After reading a journalistic article about materials science and engineering over the last century, students will discuss and research why and how new materials are developed and how they transform society. Student groups will develop museum-style exhibits to communicate what they learned to the rest of the class.

The physics of flying seeds

Students will design and build models inspired by flying seeds with the goal of making the models travel as far as possible. Students will test the models, analyze which ones performed the best and explain why those models performed well using physics principles.

Reimagining plastics recycling

Students will evaluate experimental methods for recycling plastics, gather data about the types of plastics they use at home, research plastics recycling in their community and write a letter to local officials that advocates for improving plastics recycling.

Building better boxes based on beetles

In this activity, students will learn about the seemingly indestructible diabolical ironclad beetle and review Newton’s laws of motion and force diagrams. Then, students will design, build and test crush-resistant packaging using biomimetics, the practice of solving problems using solutions inspired by biological structures and systems.

Coating Provides Infrared Camouflage

This guide, based on the Science News article “Coating provides infrared camouflage,” asks students to explore the physics and potential technological applications of a material, discuss the various types of electromagnetic radiation, analyze infrared images and research how infrared imaging is used across a range of fields.

Seeing in infrared

In this activity, students will analyze infrared images and then explore how infrared imaging is used across a range of fields of work. Skills include researching, evaluating, synthesizing and presenting information.

Hiding heat radiation

Students will answer questions about the Science News article “Coating provides infrared camouflage,” which explores the physics and potential technological applications of a material.