DYF Institute III: Engineering is Elementary – Tuesday

Posted in Dyf at 10:37 pm by Beth

Outline for the Day

  • Review yesterday and address feedback
  • EIE Parachute Design
  • Rube Goldberg & other cool videos
  • Helping students work in groups
  • Dry Ice Explorations
  • EIE Water quality materials testing
  • Selection of Module for presentation on Thursday
  • Minute Paper

Review yesterday and review feedback

We discussed the feedback from the day before.

EIE Parachute Design

We started Lesson 4 of the EIE Unit: A Long Way Down: Designing Parachutes. Folks worked in groups of three to design their own parachutes that met the design challenge constraints.  All three teams met the design criteria their first try.  So folks re-designed to try new ideas.

We discussed the black box diagram used to help focus the designer on what the problem is.  We discussed the importance of developing criteria before one begins to brainstorm on solutions.

We discussed typical design criteria and how these criteria usually conflict with one another, so engineers have to consider trade-offs between different criteria.  Most lists of engineering criteria include:

  • safety
  • cost
  • effectiveness
  • aesthetics

Rube Goldberg and other cool videos

Helping students work in groups

Participants shared ideas about how they help students learn how to work in groups.  Some themes were team building, strategies for selecting teams, roles on teams.

Team Building and Establishing Ground Rules

Project Adventure has curriculum for building teams. Teaching Engineering Made Easy also has some team building curriculum.

Participants seemed to agree on the importance of taking time out of the school year to establish norms and expectations for team work.

Rocio shared the use of role playing to teach children how to behave during group work.  She has them role play inappropriate group behavior and then have student process how that behavior made them feel.  She then has them role play appropriate group work behavior and then asks them to process that as well.  The children enjoy the role playing and they seem to learn from it.

Elizabeth shared the strategy of leaving the teamwork norms on the wall for constant reference.

A number of participants were familiar with the Jigsaw or Numbered Heads Together approach to facilitating group work, but holding individual’s accountable for their own learning, as expected in cooperative learning.

Strategies for selecting teams

Beth discussed the idea that a team is a group of people that will work together for a long time (e.g. 10 weeks or more) while a group of people that are not together for long, will not really have a chance to become a team.  In engineering education, teams are usually selected to increase diversity in learning/thinking styles as well as backgrounds.   More diverse teams have higher potential of being more creative, but it is harder to work with a diverse team.  We avoid isolating students because of gender or underrepresented background.  When forming teams, we almost never allow students to choose their teammates.

However, when working in groups for a short task, it is not seen as critical to form teams based on learning style etc.  Some strategies for choosing groups are

  • Random (can also be used to assign roles)
    • colors associated with a student’s seat at a table
    • use a deck of cards, each with one student name on it.
  • Let students choose
    • as a reward (so this method is used infrequently
    • let students choose a buddy and then assign the buddies another pair of buddies to work with
    • choose team captains and then help the team captains choose

Participants discussed that sometimes students need to learn through experience why it may not be a good idea to work with a friend.

Peer Evaluation

We discussed that peer evaluation can be helpful to include individual accountability to teamwork.  Beth has used a software package developed at Purdue called CATME.  There are also tools to help teams self monitor their progress with team processes.

Team Roles

Beth shared that four main roles are introduced to HSU engineering students and Jen added a 5th that works well in K classes:

  • Presenter
  • Task and Time Keeper
  • Scribe
  • Facilitator
  • Getter (and put-ter back-er)

We discussed that all students need to learn all these skills.  Students should try to learn from others that perform these roles well.  Some times a cynic is needed on a team and sometimes someone needs to be encouraged to not be a cynic!

The following comes from Concurrent Engineering. “There are nine team roles defined to help the team function more effectively:

  • Organizer – a person who visualizes and plans for the whole design process.
  • Motivator – a person who takes care of the schedule and goals of the team.
  • Pusher – an active person who makes team work faster.
  • Solver – an imaginative person who deals mainly with problem resolution.
  • Gatherer – a person who is good at collecting information and communicating with other teams.
  • Listener – a perceptive person, who can listen and combine the ideas and statements of others.
  • Completer – a careful person who specializes in eliminating design defects.
  • Specialist – a dedicated person who is extremely skilled and has a lot of knowledge in a specific area.
  • Evaluator – a person who has good strategic skills, keeps the balance between immediate needs and long-term goals, and weighs consequences (Skalak, Susan).”

Dry Ice Explorations

Ken showed us some demonstrations using dry ice.

Ken has tubs.  Send him an email and he will have them delivered to your school via courier when school starts.

EIE Water quality materials testing

Participants completed Lesson 3 of the Environmental Engineering module.

Selection of Module for presentation on Thursday

Each participant chose one of the EIE modules to present on Thursday.  Some participants are working in pairs.

Minute Paper

Most Important thing learned

  • Discussion of collaborative groups (2).
  • The engineering process became more clear.
  • Hands on activities.
  • Learning the procedural outline for presenting the lessons.  It was great to focus time and energy on asking, imagining and planning the design.
  • First hand knowledge of the design process
  • How important the “ask” stage is
  • I have abandoned many good practices in our current education culture.
  • I have learned to say… “Yes, and” instead of ” Yes, but” to build teamwork and be more positive.
  • Reinforce the engineering process.
  • Hands on activities for new experiences/experiments/investigations
  • Plastic canopy really was best, though I thought it would be too floppy.
  • EIE can be easily modified to different ages/class levels.

Remaining Questions

  • Still want more ideas on how to implement these ideas into my class (more ideas are always welcome!)
  • How do I initially present the project?
  • Classroom management issues during the initial materials tests and design component.
  • Clarification on Thursday project.
  • How will I get the materials and the adult help I will need to pull off 1-3 EIE units/year?
  • How will I make time in my busy schedule to implement on or two modules of the EIE curriculum?
  • Are sand/gravel filters better vertical or horizontal?


  • Super Fun!
  • I loved all the group work!
  • These have been great lessons.  I feel that I could readily implement these lessons with great success and fun and learning.
  • Having lots of down time was both good and bad.
  • I really love working in groups and need to have my students work together more often to problem solve and have fun!
  • Fun!  Thanks!
  • Fun day.  Mix of talk vs. activity was very good.

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