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Fall SAVY 2022–Engineering Design for Grades 3 & 4

Posted by on Monday, October 24, 2022 in blog, SAVY.

Day 3: Saturday, November 5

Wow! It is hard to believe that the session is over! I am so proud of all the kids accomplished over the course of the last few weeks! They have really grown!

Today’s focus was to take all of the information and skills they have learned, and use that to build and design bridges. We had already discussed different types last week, but it was wonderful to have that hands on time where they could build their own beam, deep beam, and arch designs! They were amazed at the difference in the designs and how that impacted their ability to bear weight! We explored how the force impacted the design, and they did a great job of problem solving, especially when they realized the longer the span, the more susceptible it was to failure!

After we explored the design and redesigns of the bridges, we then worked on original bridge designs. They started with a specific amount of supplies and the constraint was that it had to be more than 6 inches but no more than 12 inches. Once they had planned and started the engineering process, it was amazing to see the diversity in the designs and the amazing ways they implemented everything they had learned! Once they mastered that, along with testing the design to be sure it would hold the weights, we then kicked it up a notch and they had to at least double the length of their bridge! This was a great way for them to see the challenge of reinforcing those areas of weakness and really think about how to adapt their designs to changing expectations! Honestly, they were very excited by the challenge!

As you saw, their designs were outstanding. I love that they incorporated concepts from arch, beam, suspension and other designs into their own original designs! Each one was able to allow a tennis ball to roll across and support the weights we used to test the strength. I love that some of the kids were actually willing to stand on their bridges as proof of their sound designs! I am so proud of them!

This class really challenged their thinking and was a lot of hands-on learning, but in a way that encouraged them to take risks and try out new ideas. I love that every student was willing to try things, share ideas, and express their own creativity as they connected those concepts to their designs. They did a fantastic job!

Thank you so much for the opportunity to work with your child! I really enjoyed each of them and was very impressed with all of their attitudes, support for each other, willingness to share ideas, and to help each other out when needed. I hope they continue on with their creative endeavors!


Dr. Mall

Day 2: Saturday, October 29

Good afternoon! We had a great time in Engineering Design today! We started with a little teambuilding, because we had some new people and working with partners in engineering takes trust! We shared where we are from, pets, and siblings, and shared some fun stories. Then, we got to work!

The first challenge was to create a triangle with flexible straws with no tape. That may sound easy, but it took some time and effort (and a little frustration at times!) for them to figure out how to make that happen. Then, they had to make 4 triangles and figure out how to make them stand on their own. They had some very creative designs, and each group created multiple variations of the design.

From there, they moved to creating a triangular prism. This proved to be a little more challenging, and they were given tape to accomplish that. They struggled at first, because a triangular prism has a triangular base, and they worked hard to create them. They did a great job! They then created a pyramid using similar strategies. That is why many of you now are the proud owners of straw prisms and pyramids, because most did not want to lose them or dispose of them! We used those shapes to talk about the strengths in the designs, and they had great observations and discussion points.

The next challenge was to take what they had learned making the 3D shapes out of straws and create a tall tower. There were some amazing ideas and strategies being used. The tallest tower was about six feet tall, and they did a great job with creating abutments and braces to support their design. There was also a great design that was based on the triangular pyramids! It was beautiful! Every child contributed a lot to their contraptions, and we had a great discussion about what worked and what didn’t work. We also looked at the designs of the 10 tallest buildings, and they were amazed that some of their ideas were also used in those designs!

Finally, we began learning about bridges. We started by reading a book about a boy who has to build a bridge to get to his fort. It was a great segue into force, motion, and how that impacts bridges. The really exciting thing was when the book referenced the Natchez Trace Parkway bridge for its amazing arch design. They were able to use the concepts we had just learned to identify the span, pier, arch, and abutments! We did some experiments to reiterate the way force impacts design. We also had some very telling lessons about gravitational force, as their tower designs suffered from the downward force!

They will be building bridges next week and they are so excited! They are already thinking about what they would like to build, and they are excited that we are going to see how much force their bridge can withstand! It will be a great way to really solidify the concepts they are learning! I am really looking forward to seeing their designs!

Have a great week!

Dr. Mall

Day 1: Saturday, October 22

We had a FUN day learning more about the Engineering Design Process by applying it to several challenges throughout the day. With each challenge, students spent time with their team members asking questions, imagining and planning potential designs, creating and experimenting with their designs, and finally reflecting on ways to improve them. As we worked through these challenges, students took notes on what worked and what didn’t, sketched pictures of their various designs, and created flowcharts to outline the steps they used.

We began the day with the paper chain challenge, where students were asked to create the longest possible paper chain using only one piece of construction paper. After imagining and planning their design, students created their group chains, which were then measured. We spent time reflecting on the process, the designs, what worked, and what didn’t work, and students were given the opportunity to improve up on their designs. Each group was able to create longer chains the second time around with one group doubling the length of theirs. We concluded this activity by talking through the what worked and what didn’t work for each group and discussed what they would do differently if given a third opportunity to create paper chains. We then moved to our “Save Fred!” Activity, where students had to save their gummy worm, Fred, from drowning after his boat capsized creating a flowchart to document the steps used.

After lunch, students worked in groups to create the tallest, free standing cup tower. It was through this activity that we began to discuss important concepts, such as having a strong base, that students will build upon during the next 2 Saturdays. The last challenge for the day included building a tower or structure using only spaghetti and marshmallows. Students were encouraged to reflect upon what they learned about creating a solid base and consider how the sides could or could not support the weight of the tower as it is being built.

For each challenge, we utilized the steps of the Engineering Design Process, reflecting and recording notes, sketches, challenges, and solutions in their notebooks. Through the use of teams, students worked on their collaboration skills, learning to listen to each other, determine roles for themselves and others, and overcome challenges that can arise when working in groups. During the day, we frequently discussed the importance of communication and ways to improve communication, as well as how to resolve potential disagreements and competing visions for the various designs. We also spent time discussing ways to persevere through difficult challenges when the solution does not come quickly or easily and when frustration arises.

Questions to ask your Engineering Design scholar:

  • What challenge(s) did you encounter during the construction of your design for the different activities?
  • How did you solve these challenges?
  • Looking back, are there other possible solutions you could have tried? Tell me more.
  • What part of your prototype/design did you really like? Why?
  • What other materials would you have liked to use if given the chance?
  • What have you learned about yourself and your own abilities?

We look forward to seeing your scholars again next Saturday!