Problem Solving / Pre-Engineering


NEW! Materials Testing and Material Strength—‘Sweet’ Activity Teaches the Basics
Fun project uses Tootsie Rolls to teach the key concepts of materials testing and material strength.The activity appeared in the April 2014 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted as an independent student project with ready-to-copy student instructions. It does not contain any additional information. Only $2.95!

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3-D Visualization Practice with Cube Puzzles
Solving Piet Hein’s cube puzzles gives students great experience with the 3-D visualization skills essential to success with drafting, CAD and engineering graphics. Mini project, only $2.95.


Automotive Aerodynamics
First students study aerodynamics and drag coefficient to find out how wind tunnels help engineers build efficient cars. Then they build their own cars and a gravity track raceway to test their designs.


Bat Wing Flyer: A Glider Challenge
By constructing model gliders from foam egg cartons, students are introduced to the parts of an airplane and learn how to balance for maximum flight performance.


Biotechnology: Ergonomics
The art of designing products to better fit the people who use them is examined in this project by having students make a mannequin, study its range of motion, and design a chair that best conforms to the mannequin’s body.


Biotechnology: Waste Management
Students learn how toxic waste makes its way into water system s, what radioactive elements such as plutonium, cesium and uranium are made up of, and how these radioactive materials can be measured at a waste site.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Boomerangs!
Studying and making boomerangs teaches students about four forces that affect an airplane’s flight: thrust, gravity, drag and lift. Flying the boomerangs is motivating for students and teachers alike!


Building a Better Mousetrap Offers Cross-Curricular Connections
Technology students create and test innovative designs that allow a mouse to survive the trapping process. Cross-curricular connections include social studies, English, math, science, art, and ecology. The activity appeared in the October 2012 issue of Tech Directions and has been reformatted. Extras include a grading rubric and design handouts. Only $2.95.

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Building a Putt-Putt Golf Obstacle
Enjoyable, low-cost activity engages middle school students. Incorporates design, teamwork, engineering, and problem solving, with an emphasis on power transmission.


Cardboard Boat Challenge
Students research, design, construct, and race cardboard boats, gaining substantial math, science, communication, and engineering experience. Includes key definitions, detailed student instructions, 13 pages of student work sheets, plus an evaluation sheet.


Cardboard Chair Design
A five-day unit for middle schoolers, this project teaches kids how to apply different modeling techniques, use several modeling materials, apply modeling as a part of the design process, work in small groups and other skills in technology and critical thinking.


Cardboard Wind Tunnel
Middle schoolers on a budget can make their own wind tunnel to test the aerodynamic qualities of CO2 racers. Includes design brief and assembly instructions, testing procedures, short-answer quiz and list of references.


Cereal Box Design
This interdisciplinary activity introduces students to graphic design; basic drawing; sketching and rendering; measuring area, volume and weight; oral and written technical communication; applied problem solving; marketing; consumer research; environmental education; recycling; and considerations of form, function, and aesthetics.


Cheapo Aerospace Technology
Students learn about simple orbital mechanics, design and construct a model rocket, balance it prior to flight, measure its altitude with a homemade sextant and recover it after launch.


Collapsible Structures
Students learn the principles of how collapsible structures are designed and built. The project culminates with students building a model module of the International Space Station that will fit inside the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle.


Collapsible Wooden Table Project Teaches Design and Engineering
Challenge students to design a collapsible table. Project adapts woodworking technology to teach design and engineering. It appeared in the February 2012 issue of Tech Directions and has been reformatted to provide a student handout listing the Design Challenge. It does not include specific design plans. Only $2.95.

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Conduct Load Test Experiments Using Simple Materials
Experimenting with simple paperboard, students learn how engineers conduct load tests. They start with a simple strip, add a strut support system to improve their results, and finally design their own support. Worksheets for recording and charting results included.


Construction Acoustics: Acoustical Insulator
Using inexpensive materials, student teams construct boxes and insulate them for sound, then test the results of their efforts.


Cookin' with Sun—Design and Build Solar Cookers
Hot dogs and marshmallows anyone? Bring together math, science and technology in an activity that teaches students about designing products that address human needs, along with issues related to health and the environment.


Cost-Effective Tower Building and Testing
Students learn structural engineering by building tower sides, then testing them with a teacher-made testing device—“Big Buster.” Note: This project appeared in the May 2008 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted for easy classroom use.


Crash Testing Challenge Aims to Save Egg/Driver
In this twist on the classic egg-drop activity, students modify a small crash test vehicle to protect its raw egg occupant. Project appeared in the November 2011 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted for easy classroom use. Mini project, only $2.95.

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Crash Testing in the Lab
Students find crash testing CO2 cars really exciting--and in the course of the activity they learn a lot about the nature of force, mass, energy absorption, crumple zones, passenger containment and automotive safety.


Creating a Coin Sorter
With simple materials (cloth, paper plates, plastic cups, tape, thread, etc.), students design and construct a device to sort pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Creativity
Students use problem-solving steps to go from a mental idea to an actual prototype while learning to work as part of a team. Six creativity-fostering activities, including two peg-board games made from readily-available materials, are included.


Crumple Zones
Teach your students how energy is dissipated by crash barriers and product packaging in ways that keep people safe and products unbroken. In this project, students build a freeway barrier and a vehicle to test the barrier.


Crush-Worthiness—An Introduction to Materials Testing
Using a teacher-made testing device, students experiment with various materials to find how well they stand up under presssure.
This project appeared in the February 2011 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted for easy classroom use with added student data recording sheets.


Cryptology
Scytale transposition ciphers, substitution ciphers, picture alphabets, grill ciphers and one-time systems are all covered. Includes two encryption activities, one of which requires middle schoolers to build and use an encryption wheel. Mini project, only $2.95.


Design and Build a Kayak from PVC Pipe and Shrink-Wrap
A real-world “sink or swim” challenge for students in grades 9–12. Following the IDEAL problem-solving process, students design and construct a prototype kayak using only PVC piping, zip ties, and shrink-wrap. Then students take their kayaks for a test run in the school pool. This project appeared in the April 2011 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted for easy classroom use and also includes an evaluation form and a list of standards met.

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Design and Build Gumball Machines
Students get great experience with research and design, problem solving, use of jigs and fixtures, and the details of the mass production process.


Designer Concrete
Background on composite materials and their use in construction, with an activity that has students experiment with different formulas for concrete, then strength test the results.


Designing a Self-Sustaining Community
Students assume the role of consultant for a small community that wishes to be self-sustaining in terms of electrical service. The activity appeared in the November 2012 issue of Tech Directions and has been reformatted. Student handouts and worksheets are now included. Only $2.95.

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Egg Bungee Jump!
Pre-engineering activity gives students experience with the value of risk, failure and serendipity; the role of calculation; and Newton’s laws of motion. Lots of fun for the whole class!


Engineering Design: Testing Paper Clip Strength
This project discusses the roles of failure, conflict and serendipity, as well as production concerns involved in engineering design, and includes an engaging, low-cost fatigue-testing activity.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Factory Layout and Planning
Discusses the different advantages of process plants and product plants, and eight essential qualities of safe and maximally efficient factories. Middle schoolers then design their own toy factory layout. Project includes machine template, room patterns and accessories.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Fire as Technology
Challenge your students to be survivors in a five-day classroom activity! Students research various materials and methods to produce fire without the use of matches or other modern means, then must create “fire” to keep their “society” alive. Mini project, only $2.95.


Forensics 101—Applying Physics to Solve Crimes
Capitalize on CSI mania! Students apply math and science knowledge to solve a class "murder case" that shows how forensic experts use physics principles.


General Challenges
From the best of the “More than Fun” archives! Nineteen puzzlers to develop your students’ logical-thinking skills. Includes two sheets of problems and two sheets of solutions. Perfect one-day project for you or a sub!


General Challenges 2
Nineteen more brainteasers and thought-provoking problems from the best of the "More Than Fun" archives -- guaranteed to test your students' problem-solving skills! Great for those students who finish activities before the rest of the class or when lesson plans run short.


GPS Projects for the Technology Class
One of the hottest new crazes, geocaching--a high-tech treasure hunt--uses GPS technology. Used for a number of years in navigation and location finding, GPS has many different applications. Introduce it to your students with these engaging projects.


Hovercraft Curriculum
Want a great capstone activity for your Tech Ed class? We’ve got you covered! Hovercraft Curriculum brings together the concepts of force, work, and rate, and shows how they apply to mechanical, fluid, electrical, and thermal systems. This 39-page comprehensive curriculum describes how a tech ed teacher challenged his students to build an actual working hovercraft and how they went on to compete in a national hovercraft race event! Project includes a teacher intro, student handouts on the science and physics involved in hovercraft design, homework sheets, lab activities, and vocabulary lists. (Hovercraft plans not included.)


Hovercraft Design and Testing
Activity uses very inexpensive materials—foam board, a pop-up bottle cap, and a balloon—to teach design and testing procedures. Includes background information on engineering processes and detailed instructions. This project appeared in the August 2011 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted for easy classroom use and also includes a grading rubric, drawings, and additional photos.

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Hydrodynamics and Boat Hull Design
A week-long, hands-on project on mechanics and fluids for middle schoolers. Includes project notes for teachers, a unit calendar, evaluation rubric, bill of materials, quiz and quiz key—17 pages in all!


Industrial Design: Packaging Design
Students develop a solution to a packaging design problem by first creating a design portfolio of sketches, then a technical drawing of the best solution, and finally the package itself using simple, inexpensive materials.


Industrial Models: A Futuristic Product
With a variety of low-cost materials (clay, cardboard, pieces of wood, components from discarded toys and devices), students develop an idea for a product, then construct a model of the product.


Katapultos: Teaching Basic Statistics with Ballistics
Heads up! This technology project increases math, science and technology correlations within the classroom while giving students a fun way to collect and apply measurement data.


Landscape Architecture: Design and Problem Solving
Series of projects introduce students to a variety of issues in landscape architecture.
Projects include designing backyard retreats, planning a neighborhood community, and solving community design problems.


Lasers
Four separate activities make up this laser project. Students design and arrange the course of a laser, then learn how to draw and measure angles using protractors. Next they draw shapes and check their accuracy using a laser, and finally try their hand at laser surveying.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Launch Pad Design
Student teams design and construct a device that will launch a Ping Pong ball into a large cup. Features extensive problem-solving, physics, and mathematics content.


Manufacturing: Criteria Ranking
After learning the principles of manufacturing design as determined by such criteria as product safety, reliability, durability, comfort, styling, and cost, students build a cereal box marble maze.


Marble-A-Maze
An amazing extension into language arts and writing, this activity—aimed at meeting students’ basic literacy goals—shows how to incorporate language arts into your classroom while introducing students to the principles of technology.


Materials Science
Middle schoolers learn about the basic types of materials and their properties, how to measure and safely use basic tools, and how to design and construct a prototype and final project using these materials.


NEW! Materials Testing and Material Strength—‘Sweet’ Activity Teaches the Basics
Fun project uses Tootsie Rolls to teach the key concepts of materials testing and material strength.The activity appeared in the April 2014 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted as an independent student project with ready-to-copy student instructions. It does not contain any additional information. Only $2.95!

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Mini Solar Race Car
Here’s a miniature solar-powered electric car that students can construct, plus background on how transmissions work and advice on sources of information on solar cars.


'Nerf' Football Project Scores Points with Students
Students learn about chemistry, problem solving, and the importance of accurate measurement and precision timing while making flexible polyurethane footballs. The activity appeared in the November 2013 issue of Tech Directions and has been reformatted for easy classroom use. It contains additional photos.

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A New Twist to Bridge and Tower Building
Picking up where “Newspaper Structures” leaves off (see next item), this middle school project teaches principles of mathematics as they relate to structural stability and the building of model structures. Includes 8 pages of student handouts.


Newspaper Structures
Challenge—build a geodesic dome large enough for a student to sit inside. Capture students’ interest in this fascinating project that uses only newspaper, scissors, masking tape, and dowel rods. Students will have fun and learn about physics topics, such as strength-to-weight ratios, Euler’s Law of regular polyhedra, and much more.


Newton's Laws of Motion Challenge
Activity challenges students to design and build a simple energy-transferring machine that helps them understand Newton’s Laws of Motion.


Pinball Machine Project
Find out who’s the pinball wizard in your classroom! This project challenges students to design and construct their own pinball machine using their knowledge of simple machines, such as gears, pulleys, inclined planes, levers, and wheels. Students also learn various engineering concepts while honing their problem-solving skills. Perfect for Introduction to Technology classes. Project includes a design brief, materials and equipment lists, a grading rubric, guidelines for a written project summary, and a list of standards addressed.


Planned Community
You don’t have to look very far to find a planned community nowadays, they’re all around us. In this activity, students individually construct one piece of property, following strict covenants, that together will make up one large planned community.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Power: Magnetic Levitation
Introduce your middle schoolers to the principles of magnetic levitation and build a Maglev train! Includes test questions, directions for assembling a Maglev train and Maglev train evaluation questions.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Problem Solving Discovery Days
These projects build students’ problem-solving skills, developing their use of creative logic, conflict resolution, organization and sound judgment in decision making. Perfect for middle schoolers. Includes 15 pages of handouts for six complete projects.


Problem Solving with Commercial Illustrations
Use design of signs and packaging to teach students valuable problem-solving skills.


Project Gizmo
Students learn the design process used in industry and use CAD to create appropriate packaging for products of varying shapes.


Project X Air Cannon
A student simulation of NASA’s historic Project X-15 high speed and altitude program. Challenge your middle schoolers to design, construct and test models of rockets and aircraft made from simple materials while learning about aerodynamics, physics and mathematics.


Question Dice
The design process is not a crap shoot. A big part of solving problems is asking the right questions. This project describes how to make a set of wooden dice that ask students the how, when, where, why and more about designing manufacturing products and processes.


Rubrics for Drafting and Engineering Classes
Wouldn’t it be great if students knew beforehand the specific criteria on which their work will be graded? Here are rubrics for drafting and engineering that students can use to better evaluate their own performance, along with tips on how to use them.


Soils Engineering and Its Impact on Construction
Students gather and test a variety of types and mixes of soil to learn how builders and engineers are influenced by local soil considerations when they design and construct buildings. Mini project, only $2.95.


Structures and Bridges
After learning about the forces of tension, compression and shear, students build a simple beam-and-truss bridge to test for its resistance against these forces.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Submarines: Building a Water Elevator
With a syringe, plastic hose and container for water, students build a small-scale elevator system in which they can submerge and raise a small capsule.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Supertankers
Background on the physics involved in keeping heavy ships afloat, plus activities for building four types of small-scale boats.
Mini project, only $2.95.


Teach Deflection Concepts with Hacksaw Blades and Rubber Bands
Students conduct a variety of deflection experiments with simple, inexpensive materials. The activity appeared in the February 2013 issue of Tech Directions and has been reformatted. Student instructions and worksheets are now included.

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Tensional Integrity
Tensional integrity, or tensegrity, is covered with explanations of torque, stress, and Hooke’s Law. Once students understand the principles, they can complete three activities building structures based on what they have learned.


Testing How Structure and Shape Affect Strength
Using only paper, tape and glue, students construct several structures and shapes to examine how different construction techniques affect an object’s strength. Then, using a teacher-built “smasher,” the objects are put to the test.


Toothpick Experiment: Investigating Construction Strength
Students experiment to determine the strength of various kinds of joints, then design and test the strength of bridges made from toothpicks.


Towers: A Smashing Activity
Students explore mathematical and technological problem solving and apply concepts of measurement, geometric modeling, geometric stability and perimeter in designing, building and testing (kaboom!) inexpensive wooden towers.


Twenty-Second Timer
Using simple materials (paper cups, rubber bands, paper clips, plastic straws, etc.) students construct a timing device and learn the process of problem solving. From Technology Projects for the Classroom, in ready-to-use format. Mini project, only $2.95.


Up Periscope
Students learn about buoyancy, propulsion, and control systems in the course of designing, constructing, and testing a submarine that uses PVC pipe and a basic dc switching circuit. High school level.


Vacuum Cannon: A Demonstration of the Power of Atmospheric Pressure
A teacher-made and operated shop-vac-based “cannon” is used to demonstrate the principles of propulsion, then students experiment with design of their own projectiles, which the teacher can test.


Water Pressure Basics
Students experiment with water pressure and flow using two simple, easy-to-make water tank designs.
This project appeared in the January 2011 issue of Tech Directions. It has been reformatted for easy classroom use with added student data recording sheets. Mini project, only $2.95.


Wind Power & Wind Turbines
In this project for middle schoolers, students learn about torque, build and test their own wind turbines, learn to calculate kilowatts per hour and measure the power of their wind turbines.


Wright Wings: An Introduction to Aero-Modeling Basics
Middle school students learn how to identify and model basic aircraft by learning its characteristics. They are then challenged to produce a model glider/airplane, using research information to solve an instructor-created design problem and such simple and cheap materials as foam, paper and wood.


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