DYF Institute III: Engineering is Elementary – Wednesday

Posted in Dyf at 9:03 pm by Beth

Outline for the Day

  • Review yesterday and address feedback
  • Overview of Engineering Fields
  • Tour of Environmental Resources Engineering facilities at HSU
  • EIE Water Quality Design Challenge
  • Review of Redwood Coast Energy Authority Kits
  • Tour of Hydrogen Fueling Station
  • Brainstorm on how to change what we measure to improve learning
  • Minute Paper

Review yesterday and review feedback

We discussed the feedback from the day before.

Inspiration for the Day

We got inspiration from Sheryl Steiner’s experience working with middle school children who ended up winning a national transportation design competition.

We watched the Build a Tower, Build A Team to learn that Kindergartners are great designers when working on teams.

Overview of Engineering Fields and touring the ERE building

We visited the Engineering Go For It site developed by the American Society for Engineering Education to learn about the different fields of engineering.  This site tries to convey to children how engineers make a difference.

We learned there is a teacher resources site on eGFI and an online community of teachers teaching engineering.

Engineer Your Life is site devoted to communicating to girls about engineering career options.  Again, this site is trying to convey what is great about studying engineering using the messages developed in Changing the Conversation as described in this NAE The Bridge article.

We then learned more about the Environmental Resources Engineering program at Humboldt State University and about how people become licensed engineers.

EIE Water Quality Design Challenge

We started Lesson 4 of the EIE Unit:  Water Water Every Where, Saving Salila’s Turtle. Folks worked in groups of three to design their own water filters that met the design challenge constraints.  The filters needed to filter out tea, soil and cornstartch, not be too expensive and not be too slow.  Folks had a chance to re-designed to try new ideas.  In general, no one was satisfied with their filter’s ability to remove color, but most filters were able to move sediment and cornstarch.

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.

Review of Redwood Coast Authority Energy Kits

Allison Oakland of the Schatz Energy Research Center(SERC)  and Shannon Atherton of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority asked DYF III participants to review Energy Teaching Kits that were developed by ENGR 215 students. This activity was similar to the DYF activity reported in this blog.  However, SERC is now funded by RCEA to update the most useful kits using the feedback from the DYF participants.

Tour of Hydrogen Fueling Station and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle

Richard Engel, SERC engineer, met with DYF participants and showed them the fueling station and vehicle.

Brainstorm on how to change what we measure to improve learning

The group discussed the following questions

What would you measure so you could facilitate learning to prepare a student to graduate in 2020 in Humboldt County?

What would you measure so you would facilitate the type of learning you think should happen in your classroom?

The teachers thought project based learning was the way to go.  This type of learning allows cross curricular and integrated experiences that are real world because the are long term.  A rubric could be used to assess how well a student performed.  Some aspects to assess are

  • demonstrates cooperative behavior in a group
  • demonstrates emotional and social development during project

We discussed the importance of public education in preparing students to become active members in a democratic society.  We discussed that PBL could be used to engage students in civic projects.

We focused more on what needs to be measured.  We commented that if the student is competent in the affective domain (e.g. demonstrates resilience/persistance, has impulse control and core character values – trustworthy, respect, work ethic, honesty) that teaching/learning becomes very easy.  So, it becomes important to work first on the affective domain.

We discussed the importance of students developing skills such as good study and homework habits, problem solving, project management, critical thinking, and creativity.  We thought that helping students develop self assessment skills and meta-cognition around these skills and the affective domain characteristics was important.

Jen noted that in her experience, as guided by another professional development activity that overt, explicit grading had led to deeper learning.  So, if we can find the right measures and communicate them carefully with students, parents, teachers and administrators, we thought we would could make a positive change.

Ken suggested an idea where a kindergartner is required to learn about one career, including the required preparation.  Each year in school the child is required to investigate at least one career option.  By senior year, you could require the investigation of 5 careers. So, by the time the student had graduated, they might have thought about 30 different careers.  We also thought internships were very important.

One barrier that was discussed were parent attitudes about what should be taught at school.  Many commented that parents are NOT interested in the assessment of their child in the affective domain.  They are more interested in their child learning content knowledge.  Some parents think more work means more learning.  This group of teachers were concerned with “drill and kill”.  Students need time to reflect and synthesize.

Another barrier was administrative control of the classroom.  Project based learning can appear to be chaos to an administrator.  PBL requires skilled educators and administrators do not know how to identify areas for professional development when a teacher is not successful with PBL. However, testing small bits of information (e.g. standardized tests) are easier for an administrator to manage.

Teachers discussed feeling put in the role of a villain because of films such as Race to No Where and Waiting for Superman.

Minute Paper

Most Important thing learned

  • Redwood Coast Energy Authority Kits
    • Hands on learning with a variety of kits from Redwood Coast Energy Authority (2).
    • Getting to try out the school kits for my students – happy about the prospect of using this great teaching tool for more fun and learning in my classroom!
    • I liked the RCEA kit on global warming.
  • Hydrogen station & car
    • I always like  learning more about the hydrogen fuel cell car.
    • Hydrogen fueling station
    • I learned about the hydrogen fueling station at HSU.  This type of technology for new way to fuel our cars will be very important for the future and decrease our dependency on oil.
  • Water filtration process
    • The hands-on lab and refining the water filters was an engaging and useful experience.
    • Cotton fibers make good filters.
  • Interaction with other grade levels

Remaining Questions

  • Is there a correct way to filter with available materials?
  • How am I going to do the project on Thursday?
  • Can we make time on Friday to tour SERC? (3)
  • Still have questions on how these design kits will play in the classroom. – Would like to do one of these design projects as if we were in elementary class – explicit- step-by-step
  • How do we set aside other “have tos” so we can teach engineering/more science in general?
  • I am concerned we did not have any time to construct our module for tomorrow’s presentation.


  • Long day and super informative.
  • Very informative and fun on several levels and many areas of education – thanks!
  • Thanks for more engaging experiences and activities.
  • Only so many videos and chats and visits hold me hear, even though fun and interesting – need to see how they relate to me teaching engineering.
  • I liked going to the different labs and the fueling station.
  • Brainstorming ideas was great at the end…. gave me ideas.

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