Today was our Last field trip of National Engineers Week (but not the last of the year: we still have ~10 field trips left this year. Today, 70 fifth grade students from the Murphy K-8 school came for an engineering design process workshop / field trip, wherein they learned about engineering, thinking like a mechanical engineering as they puzzled through some mysterious objects to determine what they might be and what problem they solved (What is This Thing?), and practiced their civil engineering skills by building tall towers using just paper and tape.
Today’s lead teacher were Maya and Karen – nice job teaching today! Additional volunteers assisted throughout the day, particularly in breakout rooms: Chris, Isabela, Lauryn, Maya, Nathalie, Samantha and Sena.
Inspired by some of the pictures shared during the discussion of the What Is This Thing? activity, I created a visual answer key that makes some of the answers more clear (Lots of “ohhhh”s in the chat when showing these).
When looking at the Airbus Beluga, we see why the airplane is named after the whale. However, the airplane also looks pretty similar to the parrotfish. This brought up the question – how do we name our products (and why is this important)?. In fact, naming products is very important in engineering, and lots of market research goes into finding a favorable and well-received name. Airbus Beluga makes you think of the Beluga, which is a cute whale. Compare that to the Airbus Parrotfish, which sounds pretty weird, plus the parrotfish isn’t a very attractive animal.
Whilst working on towers, students had some interesting designs, with a variety of shapes used, such as a triple cylinder design, embedded triangles, and stacked rectangles. Interesting observation in that every tower got skinnier as they go up (in height). This is how supertall structures are built in the real world too (staying either the same width or narrowing towards the top) – as it reduces the stress on the building (less mass as you go up), but also because buildings that are narrower allow for more sunlight to reach the street. The shape of the tower is also important when building super tall towers, as the wind is a critical factor.
Thank you all volunteers, teachers, and students for today: I hope everyone had a lot of fun!