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Defining a green building
First, we will take a look at what a green building is. Some people may think of a green, or sustainable building as just a building that doesn’t really have as bad of an impact on the environment as another ‘average’ building. Other people may find it to be the type of building, and the actual surroundings of the building.
The ideal green building would be a building project that would allow you to preserve most of the natural environment around the project site, while still being able to produce a building that is going to serve a purpose.The construction and operation will promote a healthy environment for all involved, and it will not disrupt the land, water, resources and energy in and around the building. This is the actual definition of a green building.
The U.S. EPA says “Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green building is also known as a sustainable or high performance building.”
Why go green?
Now, let us take a look at why it is so important to go green. Most people will find when going green that they are able to reduce their carbon footprint and actually lend a helping hand to the environment. You can go green in a variety of different ways, but builders and construction workers must do their part as well. If you haven’t begun going green, then you will find that there are a variety of different things that you can do to help you get started. You don’t have to jump in head first, and you can actually take some baby steps along the way. Green buildings are designed in such a way to reduce overall impact on environment and human health by:
Reducing trash, pollution and degradation of environment.
Efficiently using energy, water and other resources.
Protecting occupant health and improving productivity.
Does going green really cost more?
Some people feel that they just can’t go green because it will cost them more money, but that is really a common misconception. While it may cost you a bit more to get started when you are going green, because green materials and products can be more costly, you really have to consider the type of savings that you will be able to reap. You will be able to save on energy costs, because going green also means conserving energy. You should really look at the green building as more of an investment than anything else. An investment that will be able to save you money, as well as an investment that will be able to help the environment! It is a win-win situation for everyone!
Benefits of green building
With new technologies constantly being developed to complement current practices in creating greener structures, the benefits of green building can range from environmental to economic to social. By adopting greener practices, we can take maximum advantage of environmental and economic performance. Green construction methods when integrated while design and construction provide most significant benefits. Benefits of green building include:
Reduce wastage of water
Conserve natural resources
Improve air and water quality
Protect biodiversity and ecosystems
Reduce operating costs
Improve occupant productivity
Create market for green product and services
Improve quality of life
Minimize strain on local infrastructure
Improve occupant health and comfort
The goals of green building
Now, we should consider the goals of green building. Of course, one of the main goals is to make the earth more sustainable, but it really does go deeper than that. When you decide to go green, your goal will be to actually help to sustain the environment without disrupting the natural habitats around it. When you start a building project, and you disrupt the natural habitats around it, you can actually make an impact in the wildlife and environment that will be much like a butterfly effect. Even the smallest changes that you can make will help to promote a better planet earth, and a better place for us all to live- not just us humans, but also the plants and wildlife that take up their residence here on earth as well.
As you can see, green building is something that everyone should really jump on to. If you don’t plan to rebuild your home, then you may just want to make a few green changes within your home to ensure that you are able to get the goals that you want out of it. You can cut down on your energy usage, save money, and make a big impact on the environment. You will find that it isn’t as hard as people make it out to be, and you will feel better about yourself when you go green too!
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Written by Rinkesh Kukreja from conserve-energy-future.com.
Leading Hands-On Engineering Activities
with NASA and DESIGN SQUAD
An online workshop for educators and afterschool leaders
When kids do hands-on engineering activities, they expand their thinking, unleash their imagination, and discover the power of teamwork.
NASA and DESIGN SQUAD developed this online workshop for educators and afterschool leaders who want to build their skills and confidence in guiding kids through engineering activities.
Whether you’re experienced or new at this, you’ll come away with insights and strategies for strengthening your kids’ critical-thinking abilities and getting them excited about using the design process, the series of steps engineers use to arrive at solutions.
In this self-guided workshop, you’ll:
Experience the design process in action. Learn and reflect on ways you can use the design process to tap into your kids’ problem-solving skills and creativity.
Watch an engineering activity. See how easy it is to integrate the design process into the hands-on activities you do with your kids.
Get resources. Discover a variety of engineering activities from NASA and DESIGN SQUAD for kids in grades K–12.
Whether their goal is to create a spacesuit or a wheelchair, engineers rely on the design process to guide them. It’s the series of steps they use to come up with solutions.
When you see the design process in action, you’ll notice that it’s rarely the smooth succession of steps that the diagram at left implies. The steps often overlap and blur, and their order is sometimes reversed—it’s a creative, fluid way of working that has to be adapted to each individual situation. As you guide kids through the design process, you’ll want to be flexible and receptive to the different approaches your kids may try.
For more information go to website above.
Design Inspiration In Nature
Velcro — Inspired by Burrs
Velcro – which is probably the most famous example of biomimicry – was invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer George de Mestral. Mestral first got the idea for this new material from the burrs that were often stuck to his dog’s hair. When he placed the burrs under a microscope he noticed tiny hooks at the end of each spine. These miniature hooks easily caught on to anything shaped like a loop like animal fur, clothing, or hair.
Truck Technology for wheelchair mobility.
Engineering Supersonic Jet
Learning Lift Off
These 10 engineering games and apps can foster an interest in science and engineering and even teach kids to code from an early age.
10 Engineering Games to Get Kids Interested in STEM
Kerbal Space Program: Physics, aerospace and astronautically engineering
World of Goo: physics, construction, creative problem-solving
Minecraft: quantum physics, programming, electrical engineering
Amazing Alex: building, physics, problem-solving
Space Engineers: programming, problem-solving, physics, building
SimplePhysics: physics, construction, design
SimCity: civil engineering
SpaceChem: chemistry, programming logic, problem-solving
Truss Me: mechanical engineering, stress and structure failure
Technology and media in child care
Media screens are everywhere—television, smart phones, touch pads, e-books, computers—and new ones are hitting the market frequently. Parents and educators are raising and teaching children in an era when the abundance of digital media presents unique challenges as well as educational opportunities. Limited research shows that there can be many negative effects on young children through early exposure to specific types of screen time. Knowing how to manage this technology and use it appropriately is critical for early educators.
What are the concerns?
Are there positives to technology use in early childhood programs?
Television is still the most common form of technology to which young children are exposed. Studies vary in the average reported amounts of viewing time for two to four year olds, but one study indicated as much as thirty-two hours per week. Forty percent of three month old infants are regular viewers and as many as thirty percent of infants less than a year old have a TV in their room.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two have no screen time (including TV, computer, DVD, or video games) and that children over the age of two have no more than two hours per day.
Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) encourage limiting screen time for children ages two to five to fewer than thirty half-day early learning programs and no more than sixty minutes for those in full day early learning programs.
The Let’s Move! Child Care Initiative (LMCC) recommends caregivers allow no screen time for children in their care under the age of two and no more than 30 minutes per week for children over the age of two while in their care. Both and LMCC stress that caregivers work together with parents to ensure that children over two years are limited to no more than two hours of total, quality screen time per day.
What are the concerns?
Key concerns related to screen time for young children include:
Increased sedentary time that can lead to overweight or obesity.
Impact on ability to focus and concentrate on tasks.
Exposure to violence that has been shown to be related to increased bullying in school age years.
Marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages.
Difficulty in distinguishing between pretend and real life.
Exposure to adult situations they may have difficulty processing or understanding.
Replacing creative play, which is so critical for growth and development of social and cognitive skills.
Problems with sleep.
Even having the television as background noise can expose children unknowingly to situations they find confusing or scary, especially without an opportunity to talk through them with a caring adult.
Are there positives to technology use in early childhood programs?
According to the NAEYC position statement developed in 2012, there can be some effective ways to integrate technology into early childhood education though there are important factors to keep in mind.
Screen use must be interactive so that it enhances the educational experience, not just passive viewing.
Providers must be educated so that they can know and are familiar with appropriate uses of interactive technology with children aged two and older.
Engaging families in the conversation about appropriate media and technology use at home is technology in the classroom.
Technology used appropriately can provide support in early childhood education settings as well. For example, assistive technology for children with special needs can enable them to accomplish tasks that otherwise might not have been possible. Certain media (i.e. digital photos or e-mail) can be used to help build relationships with parents. Technology has also been shown to be helpful for dual language learners by providing information in their home language English.
There is no doubt that screen time for children needs to be limited. Realistically, digital media use and availability is on the rise in current culture and more research is needed to study the immediate and long-term effects. Managing the use of screens and communicating with parents are critical for smart use of digital media with and by young children.
Future Technology that will Change the World
Charge your phone by running.
New Bionic Eye Could Return Sight to the Blind
Surgeons successfully implanted a visual stimulator in a 30-year-old woman’s brain. The chip caused her to see flashes of color, spots and lines.
Doctors at UCLA performed the operation, and the patient consistently saw the exact signals sent to her visual cortex.
Dr/ Nader Pouratian, who performed the operation, told The Daily Mail:
“The moment she saw color for the first time was a very emotional experience. It touched us all very deeply as human beings. Based on these results, this system has the potential to restore sight to the blind.”
The procedure was simple. Surgeons cut a small hold in the back of the patient’s skull and laid the stimulator on the surface of her brain. A small receiver implanted into the skull gets the signals from the computer.
Researchers are waiting on the Food and Drug Administration to approve sending a video feed to the chip. The system, called Orion I, captures images from a camera on a pair of glasses.
Dr. Robert Greenberg, chairman of Second Sight, which developed Orion I, said in an interview:
“It is rare that technological development offers such stirring possibilities. By bypassing the optic nerve and directly stimulating the visual cortex, the Orion I has the potential to restore vision to patients blinded due to virtually any reason, including glaucoma, cancer, diabetic retinopathy, or trauma.”
Second Sight’s Orion project comes after a successful trial of their Argus II Retinal Prosthesis. Will McGuire, President and CEO of Second Sight, said he looks forward to the possibilities ahead for the company and patients:
“While we still have much work ahead, this successful human proof of concept study gives us renewed energy to move our Orion I development efforts forward. We believe this technology will ultimately provide a useful form of vision for the nearly six million people worldwide who are blind but not a candidate for an Argus II retinal prosthesis.
There are an estimated 285 million visually impaired people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of that number, 39 million are completely blind. About 90 percent come from low-income backgrounds, and 82 percent are over the age of 50. Making this type of procedure low cost could have a massive impact on the lives of those who would otherwise have no hope.
Israeli archaeologists dug up the remains of an ancient tower of Jerusalem, frozen in time before the Roman army bombarded its walls. The army them conquered the city and destroyed the Second Temple nearly two millennia ago.
The team also discovered projectile stones used by the Romans to knock out the Jewish guards atop the tower. They found nearly 70 ballista’s and sling stones in front of the wall. This evidence could prove the ancient battle reported by Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar and historian.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said the remains were found during an excavation in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. The compound is where the new campus of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design will be built.
“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple,” a statement made by the team said.
The segments found of the wall were more than six feet wide. The findings were traced back to the Roman era due to pottery shards surrounding the wall. The remnants found by the team relate to the Third Wall. For most of the 1900s, scholars debated as to the location and boundaries of the wall.
The findings will be presented at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem later this month. This discovery comes at a crucial time for Israel. The country is engaged with in a diplomatic debate with UNESCO over a decision made by the UN that Israel claims ignores Judeo-Christian ties to Jerusalem’s holiest locations.
In the resolution, the Temple Mount and Western Wall were only known by Muslim names. It also condemned Israel as the “occupying power” for the actions taken in both sites. UNESCO’s executive council confirmed the resolution last Thursday.
Engineers solve practical problems by applying mathematical and scientific knowledge.
The word engineer comes from a Latin word meaning ‘cleverness’.
As of 2010, the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE. It reaches an incredible 828 metres (2717 feet) in height. Check out more building facts or our list of the tallest buildings in the world.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Ancient Wonders of the World and the last one that remains largely intact. Enjoy more pyramid facts or learn about the Ancient Egyptian pyramids.
The building of the Panama Canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, was one of the most difficult engineering projects ever. It is estimated that over 25000 workers lost their lives during the long and dangerous project, with most dying from disease and landslides.
Golf balls have dimples because they help reduce drag, this allows the ball to fly further than a smooth ball would.
As of 2010, the longest suspension bridge in the world is the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Kobe, Japan. Opened in 1998, it spans an amazing 1991 metres (6529 feet). Check out more interesing bridge facts or our list of the longest bridges in the world.
Used for water distribution, the Delaware Aqueduct in New York, USA is the longest tunnel in the world (as of 2010). Drilled through solid rock, it reaches a staggering 137 kilometres (85 miles) in length. More tunnel facts.
The Hoover Dam, built along the Colorado River between 1931 and 1936 reaches 726 feet in height (221 metres). More interesting dam facts.
High speed passenger trains in China reach speeds of up to 350 kph (220 mph).
The Titanic was 882 feet (269 metres) long.
The London Eye in England is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe, standing at a height of 135 metres (442 feet).
The tallest wind turbine in the world has rotor tips that reach over 200 metres (656 feet) above the ground.
Branches of engineering include aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, forensic, genetic, mechanical, military, nuclear, reverse, software and structural.
5 Most Secret Military Aircraft
Aerocraft Engineering Students
Is your child a future engineering?
21 Apps That Teach Kids Real-Life Skills
Help kids navigate school, work, and life with these cool downloads.
With the boom in educational apps for kids, you may have already found great apps for the subjects your kids are studying in school — like math, writing, and science. But there’s so much more that kids can learn with mobile apps, including some skills that may surprise you. We found 21 fantastic apps that can help your kid with everything from managing money to handling stress.
Academic skills often take center stage when we talk about kids and learning, but part of developing the whole child is helping kids learn emotional skills. Kids can learn about handling stress, empathy, self-awareness, and overcoming obstacles with apps.
Calm Counter (age 5)
iDiary for Kids (age 7)
Surviving High School (age 12)
Responsibility and Ethics
Having a strong sense of responsibility and sound ethics will help kids as they navigate their school community, as well as interact with others in the world. Apps can help kids focus on making wise decisions, honoring the community, and learning from consequences.
Koda Quest – A Fingerprint Network App (age 8)
The Oregon Trail (age 9)
The group projects your kids do in school help prepare them for the kind of collaboration they’ll be involved in as they move through college and into their careers. Apps can help them learn to collaborate with others, too.
Faces iMake – Right Brain Creativity (age 5)
Rory’s Story Cubes (age 7)
Project Noah (age 10)
Thinking and Reasoning
Puzzle games frequently focus on thinking and reasoning skills, but so do apps in other genres. These apps can help kids learn problem solving, decision making, making predictions, and thinking critically.
Alien Assignment (age 5)
World of Goo (age 8)
The Room (age 11)
Managing Money and Other Resources
Whether it’s birthday money, an allowance, or income from an after-school job, some kids have money to manage from an early age. It’s never too early for kids to think about financial concepts. Many apps give kids an opportunity to manage virtual cash and resources.
Dinorama (age 7)
Savings Spree (age 7)
The Sims 3 (age 15)
Having strong self-direction skills can empower kids and make them more self-aware. Apps can help with goal-setting, personal growth, time management, and working efficiently.
Live (age 10)
Evernote (age 13)
Animation is just one way that apps can help kids unleash their creativity. Kids can use these apps to explore digital creation.
Toontastic (age 6)
Animate It! (age 10)
How to Draw
Whether kids are beginners learning basics or skilled artists looking to hone their craft, they can use apps to learn and create.
How to Draw – Full Version (age 6)
Sketchbook Pro (age 13)
Art Studio – Paint, Draw, Edit (age 15)
Discovery Education – Science Homework Help
Accelerate student achievement in your district by capturing the minds and imaginations of students with the fascination of Discovery, tapping into students’ natural curiosity and desire to learn.Discovery Education offers a portfolio of opportunities for districts to meet students where they want to learn in the digital age. With award-winning digital content, interactive lessons, real time assessment, virtual experiences with some of Discovery’s greatest talent, classroom contests & challenges, professional development and more — Discovery is leading the way in transforming classrooms and inspiring learning.
Discovery Education offers a breadth and depth of digital media content that is immersive, engaging and brings the world into the classroom to give every student a chance to experience fascinating people, places, and events. All content is aligned to state standards, can be aligned to custom curriculum, and supports classroom instruction regardless of the technology platform.
What is an Engineer
Engineering is concerned with the creation of systems, devices, and processes useful to, and sought by, society. The process by which these goals are achieved is engineering design.
The process can be characterized as a sequence of events as suggested in Fig. 1. The process may be said to commence upon the recognition of, or the expression of, the need to satisfy some human want or desire, the “goal,” which might range from the detection and destruction of incoming ballistic missiles to a minor kitchen appliance or fastener.
The first obligation of the engineer is to develop more detailed quantitative information which defines the task to be accomplished in order to satisfy the goal, labeled on Fig. 1 as task specification. At this juncture the scope of the problem is defined, and the need for pertinent information is established. Generation of ideas for possible solutions to the problem is the creative stage, called the concept formulation. When great strides in engineering are made, this represents ingenious, innovative, inventive activity; but even in more pedestrian situations where rational and orderly approaches are possible, the conceptual stage is always present. The concept does not represent a solution, but only an idea for a solution. It can only be described in broad, qualitative, frequently graphical terms. Concepts for possible solutions to engineering challenges arise initially as mental images which are recorded first as sketches or notes and then successively tested, refined, organized, and ultimately documented by using standardized formats.
Concepts are accompanied and followed by, sometimes preceded by, acts of evaluation, judgment, and decision. It is in fact this testing of ideas against physical, economic, and functional reality that epitomizes engineering’s bridge between the art of innovation and science. The process of analysis is sometimes intuitive and qualitative, but it is often mathematical, quantitative, careful, and precise.
Production considerations can have a profound influence on the design process, especially when high-volume manufacture is anticipated. Evolutionary products manufactured in large numbers, such as the automobile, are tailored to conform with existing production equipment and techniques such as assembly procedures, interchangeability, scheduling, and quality control. New techniques such as those associated with space exploration, where volume production is not a central concern, factor into the engineering design process in a very different fashion.
Similarly, the design process must anticipate and integrate provisions for distribution, maintenance, and ultimate replacement of products. Well-conceived and executed engineering design will encompass the entire product cycle from definition and conception through realization and demise and will give due consideration to all aspects.
Hierarchy of design
An adequate description of the engineering design process must have both general validity and applicability to a wide variety of engineering situations: tasks simple or complex, small- or large-scale, short-range or far-reaching. That is to say, there is a hierarchy of engineering design situations.
Systems engineering occupies one end of the spectrum. The typical goal is very broad, general, and ambitious, and the concepts are concerned with the interrelationships of a variety of subsystems or components which, taken together, make up the system to accomplish the desired goal. See Systems engineering
Time–worker-power resource dynamics
Another dimension of the dynamics of the engineering design process is the elapse of time and expenditure of worker-hours in the evolution of an engineering design project. Figure 2 plots time as the abscissa and resources (worker-power or dollars) as the ordinate. The various stages of the engineering design process are set out in time sequence from left to right.
To read more about engineering design go to link above.
Engineering students create products with humanitarian focus
In a world of smartphones and self-driving cars, cutting-edge products work to make consumers’ lives a little easier. But what about when consumers are barred from those technologies because of the cost or a disability? One group of students is working to eliminate that slant through a passion for humanitarian engineering.
Design for 90, a student group that stems from the Humanitarian Engineering Scholars program, aims to design engineering solutions for underserved populations in Columbus.
The group’s name comes from the idea that the vast majority of engineering solutions designed today are marketed to the top 10 percent of the population — those who can afford to benefit from expensive products. With 90 percent of the population unable to benefit from such products, Design for 90 set out with the goal to engineer solutions that enhance the lives of the other 90 percent.
“We focus so much on the top 10 percent, but why don’t we focus on making products for those in need?” said Alec Paige, a third-year in mechanical engineering and a project leader for Design for 90. “This group is more geared towards that. I think society as a whole should shift towards that kind of mindset.”
Adithya Jayakumar, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, began the group after volunteering with The Heinzerling Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the care, education and treatment of individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Jayakumar said he was struck by the facility’s care and attention to its residents, but saw how overworked some of the caregivers were by the demands of their patients. He wanted to find a way to combine his passions for humanitarian work and engineering in such a way that could benefit residents and employees.
Design for 90 first met Spring Semester in 2015, and the group, now almost 40 students strong, meets weekly to work on its products using Ohio State’s engineering labs.
The group’s first project is for a resident at The Heinzerling Foundation who suffers from Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a rare genetic condition that poses a number of physical and cognitive challenges. The condition causes her to have shortened limbs and small hands, which pose difficulties during meal times, when she requires assistance eating.
After meeting with the resident and employees at the Heinzerling Foundation, the group began designing an adaptive spoon for her. The goal, Jayakumar said, is the resident could learn to feed herself independently, which would benefit both her and the nurses that assist her.
“All her life she’s been fed by people,” Jayakumar said. “So the extra independence (she could have) is worth it.”
The group began working on the spoon in March 2015. The design’s first prototype was tested with the resident at the beginning of this summer, but was sent back for alterations. Students are currently working on a second prototype, which Paige said he hopes will be done by the end of Fall Semester.
“I’m most excited to get it completed and implemented,” Paige said. “I’m in good confidence that this prototype will be able to be implemented by the end of semester.”
Design for 90 has also taken up two other projects with The Heinzerling Foundation. One project is a cup to help a blind resident drink independently and the other is a wearable TV remote to help a resident with limited mobility change the channel without assistance.
Once these three projects are completed, the group plans to expand its reach to work with other underrepresented populations in Columbus.
“Our team has already been working on identifying other populations and organizations that we could partner with,” Jayakumar said. “Then we can go in and figure out what their needs are and if we could help them.”
Jayakumar said that Design for 90 not only benefits the populations they help, but also the students involved.
“We really do have a population of engineering students who are deeply passionate about humanitarian causes,” he said. “We are using our skills in real ways that not a lot of people are doing. It’s a source for us to get our creative sides engaged and attempting to solve problems that no one else are.”
Five Amazing Inventions
International Space Station
Orbiting 240 miles from the surface of Earth, day-to-day life aboard the International Space Station is often a mystery to terrestrials. The station is a faint glimmer that appears in the sky for a few minutes at a time—if you happen to be looking up as it passes. From inside, it’s another story.
“It felt like you were going into someone’s home after a long drive or a cold walk,” says Michael Lopez-Alegria who rocketed to the station in 2006. Inside what would be the NASA astronaut’s home for 215 days, trinkets, mementos, and photos of astronauts like Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, hang on the walls. A 360-degree bay window offers stunning views of our planet, its paparazzi-like lightning storms, billowing curtains of northern lights, and glowing city skylines all seen from above.
For astronauts, the day starts with or without sunrise, at 6am GMT. Cocooned in quarters the size of a telephone booth, crew unzip from jacket-like sleeping bags, heads sometimes fastened with Velcro to a pillow or bags bungeed to the walls.
Then they float to one of two bathrooms, “where you crave gravity a lot,” admits Lopez-Alegria. A small vacuum tube collects urine but solid matter is…another matter. Crewmembers strap onto the space toilet with a seatbelt and air suction draws waste downward into a bag which eventually burns up when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. Rinse-less body baths and shampoos replace real showers, and clothing is worn every day for about a week before it’s discarded.
Monday through Friday, the crew commutes to work in their socks. A conference call with Mission Control once in the morning and once in the evening allows the astronauts to discuss the day’s tasks. They spend most of their day maintaining or repairing the station—like the broken valve in the cooling pump in 2013—and working on experiments with scientists on the ground. One experiment might measure how space affects the astronauts’ reaction time and accuracy. Another may test a new invention, such as “spheres,” volleyball-sized robots that will someday carry out construction work autonomously. An electronic timeline of each crewmember’s tasks, called an On-Board Short Term Plan Viewer, tracks their activities in real time.
Daily cardiovascular and resistance exercises are not optional, since bone density loss is a serious problem when you’re weightless. Astronaut Leroy Chiao would alternate stationary biking and three-mile jogs harnessed into a treadmill every day. Astronaut Sunita Williams once participated in the Boston Marathon, and after 90 minutes, the time it takes for the station to lap the Earth, claimed that she had run around the world.
At every moment since the first astronaut stepped into the station, life support systems must run seamlessly. Chemical scrubbers absorb carbon dioxide and micro-impurities reactors remove toxic chemicals. Resupply ships bring oxygen to the station and a regulator injects it into the atmosphere.
Meals come as “flexible cans,” metal pouches heated in an oven, or freeze-dried foods that require a special water dispenser. The fajitas, casseroles, and pastas aren’t so bad, but “it was overwhelming to smell the fresh fruit that we take for granted on Earth,” says Daniel Bursch, whose mission began in 2001. Lopez-Alegria enjoyed the occasional latte-flavored coffee, a powder made with the help of his favorite California coffee shop and The Johnson Space Center. But when delivery costs $10,000 per pound of food, meals are mostly a time to talk with fellow crew from the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan or Europe.
Sometimes the crew stays up late together to watch movies—like The Godfather or, aptly, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bursch moistened strands of bamboo and wove them into tiny, Nantucket Lightship Baskets. Because going outside for a stroll is impossible, others read e-books, write emails, and shop online.
Most use their downtime in zero gravity to gaze out the window at Earth. “Here you are hundreds of miles away looking at the rainforest and the desert, but you’re looking at it from a pretty sterile environment,” says Chiao. “The thing I missed the most was nature, the smell of grass, being around trees and seeing birds and other animals.” Chiao also took the first documented photo of the Great Wall of China from space.
To connect back to people they left behind on Earth, astronauts use a space phone that reaches anyone, anywhere in the world. “The first few times you call from space, people would say, ‘I think it’s a prank call,’” says Lopez-Alegria. Even so, that’s how a place the size of a football field starts to feel like home.
What is a submarine?
Photo: Submarine ahoy! When we see photos of submarines floating on the surface, it’s hard to imagine how big they really are: like icebergs, virtually all of a floating sub is underwater. In this very unusual picture of a submarine in dry dock for maintenance, you can clearly see how big a submarine really is—and that it really is almost a perfect cylinder. Photo of USS City of Corpus Christi at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard by Dustan Longhini courtesy of US Navy.
Oceans are most turbulent where wind meets water: on their surface. The waves that race across the sea are a sign of energy, originally transmitted by the Sun and whipped up into winds, racing from one side of the planet to the other. Ships battle and lurch across tough seas where no fish—worth its salt—would ever swim. Sailing ships make good use of winds, harnessing the gusts of air to make a very effective form of propulsion. Diesel-powered ships stay on the surface for a different reason: their engines need a steady supply of oxygen to burn fuel. In theory, it should be much easier for ships to swim under the waves where the water is calmer and puts up less resistance; in practice, that creates a different set of problems.
If you’ve ever gone snorkeling or scuba diving, you’ll know that life underwater is very different from life on the surface. It’s dark and difficult to see, there’s no air to breathe, and intense water pressure makes everything feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Submarines are ingenious bits of engineering designed to carry people safely through this very harsh environment. Although they were originally invented as military machines, and most large subs are still built for the world’s navies, a few smaller subs do work as scientific research vessels. Most of these are submersibles (generally small, unpowered, one- or two-person submarines tethered to scientific research ships as they operate).
Parts of a submarine
Photo: Despite many technological advances, the basic concept of the submarine has changed little in over a century, since John Holland designed the USS Holland, the US Navy’s first submarine. Photo by courtesy of Naval Historical Center.
These are some of the key parts of a typical submarine.
The pressure of water pushing inward is the biggest problem for anyone who wants to go deep beneath the ocean surface. Even with scuba tanks, we can dive only so far because the immense pressure soon makes it impossible to breath. At a depth of 600m (2000ft), the maximum depth subs ever dive to, the water pressure is over 60 times greater than it is at the surface!
How do subs survive where people can’t? The hull of a standard ship is the metal outside that keeps the water out. Most submarines have two hulls, one inside the other, to help them survive. The outer hull is waterproof, while the inner one (called the pressure hull) is much stronger and resistant to immense water pressure. The strongest submarines have hulls made from tough steel or titanium.
Just as sharks have fins on their bodies to help them swim and dive, so submarines have fins called diving planes or hydroplanes. They work a bit like the wings and control surfaces (swiveling flaps) on an airplane, creating an upward force called lift. Buoyancy is the tendency of something to sink, rise, or float at a certain depth. While it’s underwater, a submarine is negatively buoyant, which means it tends to sink, left to its own devices, if it’s not moving. But as the submarine’s propellers push it forward, water rushes over the planes, creating an upward force called lift that helps it remain at a certain depth, creating a state of neutral buoyancy (floating). The planes can be tilted to change the lift force, so making the submarine climb or dive through the sea, as necessary. The planes provide most of the submarine’s control of its depth, most of the time. The amount of lift they generate depends both on the angle to which they’re tilted and on the submarine’s speed (just as the lift that wings generate depends on a plane’s speed and “angle of attack”).
There are spaces in between the two hulls that can be filled with either air or water. These are called the ballast tanks and, with the diving planes, they give a sub control over its buoyancy, particularly during the first part of a dive or a return to the surface from the depths. When the ballast tanks are filled with air, the submarine rises to the surface because it has positive buoyancy. With water inside the tanks, the sub has negative buoyancy so it sinks deeper into the ocean. The tanks at the front (known as the front trim tanks) are usually filled with water or air first, so the submarine’s front (bow) falls or rises before its rear (stern). The ballast tanks can also be used to help a submarine surface very quickly in an emergency.
Gasoline engines and diesel engines used by cars and trucks, and jet engines used by planes, need a supply of oxygen from the air to make them work. Things are different for submarines, which operate underwater where there is no air. Most submarines except nuclear ones have diesel-electric engines. The diesel engine operates normally when the sub is near the surface but it doesn’t drive the sub’s propellers directly. Instead, it powers an electricity generator that charges up huge batteries. These drive an electric motor that, in turn, powers the propellers. Once the diesel engine has fully charged the batteries, the sub can switch off its engine and go underwater, where it relies entirely on battery power.
Early military submarines used breathing tubes called snorkels to feed air to their engines from the air above the sea, but that meant they had to operate very near the surface where they were vulnerable to attack from airplanes. Most large military submarines are now nuclear-powered. Like nuclear power plants, they have small nuclear reactors and, since they need no air to operate, they can generate power to drive the electric motors and propellers whether they are on the surface or deep underwater.
Submarines are cigar-shaped so they can slip smoothly through the water. But in the very center, there’s a tall tower packed with navigation and other equipment. Sometimes known as the conning tower (because, historically, it contained a submarines controls), it’s also referred to simply as the tower or the sail.
Light doesn’t travel well through water, so it gets darker and darker the deeper down you go. Most of the time, submarine pilots can’t even see where they’re going! Submarines have periscopes (seeing tubes that can be pushed up through the tower), but they’re useful only when subs are on the surface or just beneath it. Submarines navigate using a whole range of electronic equipment. There’s GPS satellite navigation, for starters, which uses space satellites to tell the submarine its position. There’s also SONAR, a system similar to radar, which sends out pulses of sound into the sea and listens for echoes reflecting off the seabed or other nearby submarines. Another important navigation system onboard a submarine is known as inertial guidance. It’s a way of using gyroscopes to keep track of how far the submarine has traveled, and in which direction, without referring to any outside information. Inertial guidance is accurate only for so long (10 days or so) and occasionally needs to be corrected using GPS, radar, or other data.
A large military submarine has dozens of people onboard. How can they eat, sleep, and breathe, buried deep beneath the sea, in freezing cold water, for months at a time? A submarine is a completely sealed environment. The nuclear engine provides warmth and generates electricity—and the electricity powers all the life-support systems that submariners need. It makes oxygen for people to breathe using electrolysis to chemically separate molecules of water (turning H2O into H2 and O2) and it scrubs unwanted carbon dioxide from the air. Subs can even make their own drinking water from seawater using electricity to remove the salt. Trash is compacted into steel cans, which are ejected from an airlock system (a watertight exit in the hull) and dumped on the seabed.
Who invented the submarine?
- 1620: Englishman Cornelis Drebble (1572–1633) builds the first submarine by waterproofing a wooden, egg-shaped boat with leather and coating the whole thing in wax. Scientists are uncertain whether Drebble’s boat ever set sail.
- 1776: During the US revolution, David Bushnell (1742–1824) builds a hand-powered one-person submarine called the Turtle to help attack British warships.
- 1800: American steam engineer Robert Fulton (1765–1815) designs a convertible ship with folding-down sails that can turn itself into a submarine for traveling underwater.
- 1897: American inventor Simon Lake (1866–1945) launches the Argonaut, the first submarine to operate in the open sea.
- 1900: The US Navy launches its first ever submarine, the USS Holland, named for its Irish-American inventor John Holland (1840–1914). Although Holland had offered submarines to the Navy for years beforehand, it had originally shown no interest.
- 1914–18: During World War I, the German navy operates a fleet of highly effective military submarines called U-boats (short for Unterseeboot, which means underwater ship). In the 1930s, the Germans start using snorkel tubes (invented by a Dutch engineer) to supply air to their U-boat’s diesel-electric engines, giving them greater range and effectiveness.
- 1955: The US Navy launches the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine.
- 1968: The Soviet Union (Russia and its former allies) launches K-162, the first submarine with a titanium hull and the world’s fastest.
- 1969: The Soviets launch the first of their sleek, fast, titanium-hulled Alfa-class nuclear submarines.
- 1990s: Nuclear submarines made redundant by the end of the Cold War are used for oceanographic and climate research in the Arctic in a project named Science Ice Exchange (SCICEX).
Stanford engineers build, test earthquake-resistant house
Report first in 2014 – Standford News
Twenty-five years after the Loma Prieta earthquake, a Stanford team develops inexpensive design modifications that could be incorporated into new homes to reduce damage in an earthquake.
A Stanford team has developed inexpensive design modifications that might replace the need for residential earthquake insurance. Seismic isolators let a house skate along the trembling ground instead of collapsing.
Stanford engineers have built and tested an earthquake-resistant house that stayed staunchly upright even as it shook at three times the intensity of the destructive 1989 Loma Prieta temblor 25 years ago.
The engineers outfitted their scaled-down, boxy two-story house with sliding “isolators” so it skated along the trembling ground instead of collapsing. They also including extra-strength walls, to create a home that might replace the need for residential earthquake insurance, said project leader Gregory Deierlein, Stanford’s John A. Blume Professor in the School of Engineering.
The modifications are inexpensive and could be incorporated into new homes as soon as designers and contractors decide to try them, according to the researchers.
“We want a house that is damage free after the big earthquake,” said Eduardo Miranda, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. He co-led the project with Deierlein and Benjamin Fell, an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at California State University, Sacramento.
Residential homes already do a good job of keeping the people inside safe when a temblor hits. But earthquakes typically do a lot of minor structural damage. For example, after the 1994 Northridge quake, the majority of the $25.6 billion in repair costs paid for fixes to 500,000 residential structures.
Most of those homes were not destroyed, but nonetheless thousands of families had to find a new place to live while their houses were repaired. Even if the walls stay up in a quake, wall finishes like drywall and stucco, along with architectural fixtures like cabinetry, are damaged because of the large sideways movements caused by earthquakes, Deierlein said.
The house that Stanford built had two major modifications to stave off earthquake damage. For one, it was not affixed into a foundation, but rested on a dozen steel-and-plastic sliders, each about 4.5 inches in diameter. Under those sliders were either plates or bowl-shaped dishes made of galvanized steel. These units are called seismic isolators.
“The idea of seismic isolation is to isolate the house from the vibration of the ground,” Miranda said. “When the ground is moving, the house will just slide.” Seismic isolators already protect large structures like San Francisco City Hall and structures at San Francisco International Airport, Deierlein said, but they are quite expensive. He and his team adapted the technology for residential use by incorporating inexpensive materials into their scaled-down isolators.
Second, the engineers developed what they call a “unibody” design, a term borrowed from the automobile industry, in which every element of the structure contributes to its strength. Instead of simply screwing drywall to the wood framing, as in typical construction, they used glue to affix extra-thick, 5/8-inch drywall more securely. On the outside, they used strong mesh and additional screws to attach the white stucco tightly. These elements made the house stiffer and stronger, leading to a significantly better seismic performance.
How do you test an earthquake-resistant house? It takes a big earthquake simulator called a shake table. Deierlein and colleagues constructed their 36-by-22-foot three-bedroom home atop the biggest such platform in the country, the Large High Performance Outdoor Shake Table at the University of California, San Diego. The facility uses computer-controlled hydraulic pistons to move the platform back and forth in a pattern selected by the engineers, so it can replicate specific earthquakes like Loma Prieta.
The table is part of the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), with sites across the United States funded by the National Science Foundation. The engineers tested partial versions of their design earlier at Stanford, California State University, Sacramento, and a NEES site at the University of California, Berkeley.
After a seven-week build, in September it was time to rumble the house. First, the engineers tested the isolators, the flat versions and the dish shape. The dishes are designed so that after the temblor ceases, the isolators’ pegs will settle back into the lowest point of the dish. That way, the house always winds up where it started. Although flat pads are easier to build, they also leave the house more vulnerable to migrating from its original location.
While it is difficult to put the simulations on the Richter scale, the engineers shook the table at three times the intensity of the ground shaking during Loma Prieta, which measured 6.9 magnitude. The house slid from left to right, but held together. “Under the isolators, the house basically saw no damage,” Deierlein said. Even in a strong quake like Northridge, a 6.7 on the Richter scale, isolators should protect a home, he said.
Next, the researchers bolted the house to the shake table, to test how well the unibody system held up without isolators. They had developed computer models to predict when the house would fall, but it outperformed their expectations.
“We are really seeing very little damage,” said Ezra Jampole, a doctoral candidate at Stanford whose T-shirt read, “I’m an earthquake engineer… If I run you run.” Under the triple-Loma Prieta conditions, a few cracks appeared in the stucco and drywall, and a swinging light in the garage shattered. The test window and steel door stayed put, as did the table and chair that furnished the test house.
Encouraged, the engineers cranked up the table to shake 50 percent faster, the maximum quake the table can simulate. That did it. The engineers whooped and clapped as the house sashayed from side to side. The window and door fell out and stucco sheared off. The house wound up listing to the side like the Tower of Pisa.
“It came really close to collapse,” Deierlein said. He said the engineers still have some work to do to figure out precisely how much shaking a unibody house can withstand before crumbling.
Want your own earthquake-resistant home? Though it should be possible to retrofit houses with these modifications, it would be simpler to incorporate them into a new construction, Deierlein said. He and his colleagues intentionally designed protective features that were not only effective, but also affordable. The unibody system, requiring some glue, mesh and screws, should add less than a few thousand dollars to the cost of building a building the size of the test house, and very little time to the construction process, Miranda said.
Deierlein estimated that building a house on this type of seismic isolators would add about $10,000 to $15,000 to the total cost of a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot house; and it would take contractors about four extra days to install them before building the home on top. However, he said, that one-time cost is minimal compared to annual earthquake insurance with high deductibles. Californians paid an average premium of $676 in 2013, according to the California Department of Insurance, but the majority of homeowners don’t carry a policy at all.
Contractors could start incorporating these changes into new homes anytime, Deierlein said, though it will likely take a few pioneering engineers to add them to designs and work with building departments to incorporate them into existing building codes.
“We are always cautious never to talk about earthquake-proof,” he said, “but our resistance is getting better and better.”
More To Rainbows Than Meets the Eye
In-depth review charts the scientific understanding of rainbows and highlights the many practical applications of this fascinating interaction between light, liquid and gas.
There’s more to rainbows than meets the eye. Knowledge gained from studying these multicoloured arcs of scattered light can be incredibly useful in ways that may not immediately spring to mind. Rainbow effects can warn of chemical contamination in the atmosphere, help to develop more efficient combustion engines and possibly even provide insight into the mechanics of reinforced concrete.
Writing in European Journal of Physics, Alexander Haußmann of the Institute of Applied Physics at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, has reviewed the latest developments in the field of rainbow research. His article takes a comprehensive look at natural rainbows and touches on the many practical applications of this fascinating interaction between light, liquid and gas.
Haußmann has been studying rainbows for more than 20 years. His interest began at school where he and his friends would log meteorological data for fun to keep tabs on changes in the weather. Today, weather watching has become more sophisticated with the introduction of techniques such as radar remote sensing, but observing rainbows remains important. As Haußmann points out, these patterns of scattered light can provide considerable clues to the size distribution and shape of raindrops falling during wet weather. If paired with radar data, this information could be used to quantify the amount of rainwater reaching the ground. “If our analysis methods are precise enough, we can turn rainbows into optical remote sensing tools to study the physics of rain,” he comments.
Haußmann’s review delves deep into the challenges of simulating rainbows as mathematical modeling is an important tool in furthering our understanding of this field. There are some key points that add to the puzzle. “Rain drops are not exactly spherical, but become deformed into slightly flattened ‘hamburger bun’ shapes due to air drag as they fall through the sky,” he explained. “This has a drastic influence on the appearance of rainbows and makes scattering calculations numerically very demanding.”
As well as focusing on the science, the article also provides tips for capturing rainbows on camera, which could help to win bragging rights on Instagram and other popular photo-sharing websites. “Rainbows are short-lived and special phenomena such as twinned bows are pretty rare, so it’s important to always have your camera to hand,” recommends Haußmann. “This can be a smartphone or, in my case, an SLR camera with a fisheye lens to capture the full width of a rainbow in a single frame.”
Atmospheric scientists boldly go into the heart of a tornado
It was the afternoon of May 9, dead center in Tornado Alley: Oklahoma. Severe thunderstorms were forecast for the southern part of the state.
That was the “go” call for atmospheric scientists Josh Wurman and Karen Kosiba of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder, Colorado. Wurman and Kosiba were at the start of a project called TWIRL: Tornadic Winds: In-situ and Radar observations at Low levels, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
TWIRL’s field season ran from May 1 through June 15. That’s the time of year when two ingredients required for tornadoes — very unstable air and strong vertical wind shear — are most common.
The TWIRL scientists are developing 3-D maps of the strongest tornado winds near the ground, and studying how these winds cause damage to buildings, power lines, trees — and anything else in their way.
“TWIRL researchers are focusing on low-level winds flowing into the cores of tornadoes,” said Ed Bensman, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds TWIRL. “They’re using a combination of surface weather sensors placed ahead of developing storms, and Doppler-on-Wheels [DOW] mobile weather radars. From TWIRL, we will gain a better understanding of the role low-level winds play in the development of tornadoes, and why some tornadoes become the most violent.”
To peer into the heart of a tornado, TWIRL researchers — nomads of science — traveled more than 16,000 miles this spring across the Great Plains, from Texas to the Dakotas, Montana to the Mississippi River, chasing thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.
“It’s an ideal location due to warm, humid air flowing northward from the Gulf of Mexico at low levels, and cold, dry air coming down from Canada at upper levels, producing very unstable air,” said Roger Wakimoto, NSF assistant director for Geosciences.
Tornado on the way
On May 9, TWIRL’s fleet of instrument-laden DOW trucks was split between two towns in Oklahoma, Sulphur and Wynnewood. The DOWs sought out vantage points ahead of a developing storm. Deployed less than a mile from a rapidly forming tornado, they scanned every seven seconds and measured details of the storm as low as 30 feet above the ground.
A DOW looks more like the dish of a radio telescope mounted on the back of a flat-bed truck than a sophisticated weather instrument. With a DOW onboard, the truck becomes an odd configuration of generator, equipment and operator cabin.
Ungainly as it may appear, Wurman says, it’s ideally suited to providing detailed information on the inner workings of tornadoes and other storms such as hurricanes and blizzards.
Wurman should know. He and colleagues developed the first DOW, now one of several, in 1995. The DOW uses Doppler radar to collect velocity data about objects (such as tornadoes and other severe storms) at a distance.
The stories a DOW could tell. Like the time one measured a world-record wind speed of 301 miles per hour just above ground level in an Oklahoma tornado. Or when a DOW was the only “scientific team” to successfully brave Hurricane Ike’s knock-down winds in Galveston, Texas.
DOWs may hold the key to more accurate forecasts of tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms — whatever severe weather Earth’s atmosphere produces.
Scrambling into position
Tornadoes usually occur in association with particular types of severe storms, such as supercells and squall lines. But not all such storms form tornadoes. Tornadogenesis, as the formation of tornadoes is called, remains the “holy grail” of tornado research, Wakimoto said. “TWIRL will improve our understanding of tornadogenesis and tornado evolution.”
On May 9, the TWIRL DOWs and tornado pod vehicles suddenly scrambled to get as close as possible — safely — to a supercell thunderstorm. A tornado had formed in nearby Katie, Oklahoma.
The DOWs and Pods were placed directly in the tornado’s path, but the storm fizzled out. The TWIRL team, however, was far from done for the day.
Another, still larger, tornado had formed near Joy, Oklahoma. The TWIRL researchers again worked to get out in front.
“The second tornado was huge,” Wurman said. “It created a damage swath more than a mile wide.” Getting ahead of it meant driving through the core of the supercell thunderstorm, watching warily with the DOWs for any deviation in the tornado’s path.
After minutes that seemed like hours of pummeling by wind-driven hail, the TWIRL researchers and vehicles were safely east of the huge, wedge-shaped vortex. One crew quickly dropped a pod in the path of the tornado, then dashed to safety. Pods, says Wurman, “get run over by tornadoes. Their job is to measure winds three feet above the ground.”
Into a tornado’s heart
DOW7 was parked just north of the tornado’s predicted path, while its crew coordinated the deployment of the other DOWs.
Data from DOW7 revealed winds of more than 224 miles per hour and a dangerous multiple-vortex structure. A pod recorded winds of 100 miles per hour at the edge of the tornado; one of its anemometers was destroyed by airborne debris. The TWIRL scientists could see buildings flying apart.
The crew in SCOUT-3, a customized pickup truck, drove south in front of the tornado, sampling an intense downdraft with winds at 100 miles per hour. “Power lines, trees and weaker structures were all destroyed,” Kosiba says.
On days like May 9, Wurman and Kosiba constantly balance a desire for instrument deployments that will collect new and important data from inside tornadoes, with the critical requirement to keep the TWIRL research team safe.
“We hope to discover new information about which storms are most likely to have violent tornadoes,” Wurman says. “Our ultimate aim is to protect not only TWIRL teams, but everything and everyone in these tornadoes’ paths.”
The Engineer Girl
The EngineerGirl website is designed to bring national attention to the exciting opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women.
The site was launched in 2001 with input from a specially selected Girls Advisory Board—bright, energetic girls from all over the United States and Canada. In 2012 a new Girls Advisory Board was instituted in order to re-design the site for a modern audience. The ongoing work of EngineerGirl is overseen by the EngineerGirl Steering Committee with the generous support of our sponsors.
The website is a service of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and grew out of the work of the NAE Committee on the Diversity of the Engineering Workforce.
The NAE also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. The purpose of the NAE is to promote the technological welfare of the nation by marshaling the knowledge and insights of eminent members of the engineering profession. The NAE was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr. is president of the NAE. You can find out more about the NAE by visiting the NAE website.
Why Engineering for Children?
Introducing children to engineering in elementary school brings a host of benefits.
If you’ve ever watched children at play, you know they’re fascinated with building things—and with taking things apart to see how they work. In other words, children are natural-born engineers. When children engineer in a school setting, research suggests several positive results:
Building Science and Math Skills
Engineering calls for children to apply what they know about science and math—and their learning is enhanced as a result. At the same time, because engineering activities are based on real-world technologies and problems, they help children see how disciplines like math and science are relevant to their lives.
Research suggests that engineering activities help build classroom equity. The engineering design process removes the stigma from failure; instead, failure is an important part of the problem-solving process and a positive way to learn. It is equally important that there’s no single “right” answer in engineering; one problem can have many solutions. When classroom instruction includes engineering, all students can see themselves as successful.
21st Century Skills
Hands-on, project-based learning is the essence of engineering. As groups of students work together to answer questions like, “How large should I make the canopy of this parachute?” or, “What material should I use for the blades of my windmill?” they collaborate, think critically and creatively, and communicate with one another.
Classroom engineering activities often require students to work in teams where they must collaborate and communicate effectively. In the 21st century, these skills will be critical for career success in any field.
Research also shows that when engineering is part of elementary instruction, students become more aware of the diverse opportunities for engineering, science, and technical careers—and they are more likely to see these careers as options they could choose.
This finding is important at a time when the number of U.S. college students pursuing engineering education is decreasing. Early introduction to engineering can encourage many capable students—but especially girls and minorities—to consider engineering as a career and take the necessary science and math courses in high school.
Finally, consider some of our nation’s most pressing policy issues—energy, healthcare, the environment. Engineering and technological literacy will be critical for all U.S. citizens to make informed decisions in the 21st century.
Work Based Learning: Engineering Activities
General Engineering Activities
- Design Squad includes dozens of “hands-on challenges that focus on the engineering design process. They use simple materials, allow for multiple solutions, and are ideal for ages 9-12.” Most include video demonstrations, and many are translated into Spanish.
- DiscoverE has hands-on activities to interest young people in engineering.
- Engineering: Go For It (eGFI) provides a list of engineering activities, organized by grade level.
- Iridescent: The Curiosity Machine includes dozens of engineering challenges, organized by topic. Young people who take on these challenges can receive guidance from online mentors, and professional volunteers can adapt these challenges for classroom visits, company tours, or other volunteer opportunities with young people.
- PBS Zoom includes more than 100 activities and printable resources for children aged eight and up from a PBS show that aired until 2005.
Aeronautical Engineering Activities
- The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics provides a collection of recommended activities on topics such as flight dynamics, rockets, and structural dynamics.
- NASA has activities in PDF with step-by-step instructions for both teachers/volunteers and participating students.
Civil Engineering Activities
- The American Society of Civil Engineers provides more than 100 civil engineering activities for elementary and middle school children, materials to use in career fairs, and tips for talking to young people about civil engineering.
Mechanical Engineering Activities
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers offers low-cost, hands-on mechanical engineering activities and experiments for middle-school students, organized by topic. These activities have been vetted and improved by a panel of teachers and engineers.
Petroleum Engineering Activities
- The Society for Petroleum Engineers features a broad set of resources, including lesson plans, activities, games, presentation guides, and videos of energy engineers talking about their jobs.
Great sites for kids interested in early engineering skills!
The Best 10 Things Parents Can Do to Promote Engineering
- Keep the Faith – Your child can do it! – Remember that math and science grades are not always good indicators of success in engineering school. My son claims that math is his favorite subject. However, he only has a C in the class because he forgets to turn in his homework. Grades in his case are a poor indicator of his ability and potential.
- Don’t pass on bad math attitudes – Engineering is not all math. It’s just one of the tools in the engineer’s box. Show your child that math and science are fun by making real world connections. My daughter became very skilled at math because when we went shopping for clothes and the sale price was 20 percent off, she knew she wouldn’t get that beautiful jacket unless she could tell me the correct price.
- Help your child explore careers – I talked to an engineer who told me he loved to fish as a kid. Every chance he got he was out fishing. Wouldn’t it be great if your child found the perfect job within his or her favorite hobby? The guy in the fishing story is now the head fishing reel engineer for Pure Fishing, Inc. There are countless stories about engineers finding their dream jobs through their hobbies.
- Enroll your son or daughter in an engineering camp this summer – Camps are a great way to expose your son or daughter to engineering. See a listing of summer camps here.
- Promote after-school activities – After-school programs in robotics or math are available at many locations. The best place to search for a quality after-school program is your child’s school. To find more programs you can also explore this list of engineering related competitions.
- Provide subtle communication – If your kids are typical teenagers, sometimes it’s very hard to talk to them about career opportunities. If I ask my children to look at a book or catalog, they find a million reasons to ignore my request. A successful strategy in my house is to very quietly leave college catalogs or career books lying around the house. Make sure they are visible but not too obvious. After a few days or weeks, you may notice that the book or catalog has been moved.
- Supply direct communication – Many students form their attitudes about careers as a result of their interactions with family members. This can be used to your advantage by inviting to dinner any engineers or people in the field of technology. Encouraging that person to talk about his of her career – how he or she got into it and why it’s satisfying. This can be a natural springboard for your child’s questions and exploration.
- Take educational vacations – When you travel around the country or even in your local area, there are many sights that will help your family learn about engineering. Places such as Hoover Dam, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Thomas Edison’s Birthplace, Museums of Ceramics or Aeronautics, roller coasters, etc. can all be educational and fun too. For sights in your area or to help you plan a road-trip, visit www.discovere.org/our-activities.
- Visit the websites of engineering colleges – Sit down with your child and check out the websites for your local colleges of engineering. Find out what is going on in your local area and look for ways to be involved. Make notes of what each school offers and especially about what seems exciting to your child. Make sure they know how to look for important information such as scholarships and entrance requirements. You can never do this too soon.
- Find a mentor – Mentoring is successful because it’s a one-on-one learning experience that can be so much more than a technical learning experience. Mentors can help students learn approaches into competitive industries, help them network, introduce them to key players, teach them how to listen, and help them evaluate solutions to problems. Mentoring is a part of being successful in any industry but especially for careers that are competitive. MentorNet is good place to begin searching for a mentor if you don’t know anyone locally.
According to Inventors About they are the largest source of expert content on the Internet. They help millions of users answer questions, solve problems, learn something new or find inspiration.
Inventors About – http://inventors.about.com/
Example of content – Who Invented the Zipper?
The story begins when Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine, received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” It didn’t go much further beyond that though. Perhaps it was the success of the sewing machine, that caused Elias not to pursue marketing his clothing closure system. As a result, Howe missed his chance to become the recognized “Father of the Zip.”
Forty-four years later, Whitcomb Judson, who also invented the “Pneumatic Street Railway,” marketed a “Clasp Locker” device similar to system described in the 1851 Howe patent.
The Chicago inventor’s “Clasp Locker” was a complicated hook-and-eye shoe fastener. Together with businessman Colonel Lewis Walker, Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker debuted at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and was met with little commercial success.
It was a Swedish-born electrical engineer named Gideon Sundback whose work helped make the zipper the hit it is today. Originally hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company, his design skills and a marriage to the plant-manager’s daughter Elvira Aronson led to a position as head designer at Universal. In his position, he improved the far from perfect “Judson C-curity Fastener.” And when Sundback’s wife died in 1911, the grieving husband busied himself at the design table and by December of 1913, came up with what would become the modern zipper.
Gideon Sundback’s new and improved system increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, had two facing-rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. His patent for the “Separable Fastener” was issued in 1917.
Sundback also created the manufacturing machine for the new zipper. The “S-L” or scrapless machine took a special Y-shaped wire and cut scoops from it, then punched the scoop dimple and nib and clamped each scoop on a cloth tape to produce a continuous zipper chain. Within the first year of operation, Sundback’s zipper-making machine was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The popular “zipper” name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, which decided to use Gideon’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments.
In the 1930’s, a sales campaign began for children’s clothing featuring zippers. The campaign advocated zippers as a way to promote self-reliance in young children as the devices made it possible for them to dress in self-help clothing.
A landmark moment happened in 1937 when the zipper beat the button in the “Battle of the Fly.” French fashion designers raved over the use of zippers in men’s trousers and Esquire magazine declared the zipper the “Newest Tailoring Idea for Men.” Among the zippered fly’s many virtues was that it would exclude “The Possibility of Unintentional and Embarrassing Disarray.”
The next big boost for the zipper came when devices that open on both ends arrived, such as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere, in clothing, luggage, leather goods and countless other objects. Thousands of zipper miles are produced daily to meet the needs of consumers, thanks to the early efforts of the many famous zipper inventors.
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