Math Monday: Engineering Design Challenge - Skyscraper

Ever have one of those days? You're schedule is so crazy, flipped around, and choppy you feel like you might not get anything done?

Don't lie.

I recently experienced one of these days. We had an assembly, then my kids had computer lab, then we went to the science lab, we switched classes, more labs.  Whoa. I had about 35 minutes with each block of kids.  I decided it was a great day for an Engineering Design Challenge.

If you've never had your kids do a design challenge before, it's pretty awesome.  You provide kids with simple materials and give them a task to accomplish.  Like any good teacher, I stole this engineering challenge. FrugalFun4Boys has a great post on challenges using items you probably already have in your classroom.

Since we'd already completed our first challenge, I took just a few minutes to review the guidelines the kids created, as well as the engineering design process. 

You can find the Engineering Design Challenge graphic and other resources at Engineering is Elementary.  

Check out this great video from NASA.  It's a really fun way for kids to become familiar with the design process.

Next up, I explained the challenge and the guidelines. The kids, of course, had LOTS of questions.  Try your best not to answer them.  They need to discover problems, and explore solutions in their groups.  I only answer questions about the guidelines. 

Here's the challenge:

 

Students then, plan, test, re-plan, retest, and come to a final structure before time runs out. 

Here's one of my kids explaining her group's design.

I love seeing the stuff they come up with.  Check out these cool structures:

The BEST part of these challenges is listening to the kids talk about what went wrong, and how to fix it.  Without any prompting, kids were talking about balance, mass, height, and gravity.

Guys.

They were asking for rulers. No joke.

When time is up, we gather around each group's structure to find out their plan, how it changed, and if they would have made any further modifications.

The next step - which we didn't get to - was researching 601 Lexington in New York City - an awesome building that stands on just five pillars.  If you'd like to learn more about 601 Lexington (and its design flaw), listen to this episode of one of my favorite podcasts of all time: 99% Invisible.

 

I'm hoping to do more of these challenges.  They really are great for the kids.  They learn perseverance, cooperation, and time management. 

Do you have any suggestions for design challenges?

Link below to any websites I need to check out. 

Three awesome things:

1. It's January and 70 degrees outside.

2. My kids are able to make their own data tables.

3. I finished my science collaborative homework and it's not even due for another three days.

Karina