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Summer SAVY Session 5, Day 5, Engineering Design: Full STEAM Ahead!

Posted by on Friday, July 21, 2023 in blog, SAVY.

Dear Parents,

I hope your children have enjoyed their week in Engineering Design: Full STEAM Ahead as much as I have! We ended our day with a final bridge building challenge. Student chose to either work independently or with a partner for this challenge. Our guiding question for today was: “How can we use our knowledge of materials and properties, different bridge types, and the Engineering Design Process to design a strong, stable, cost-effective bridge?”.

Each engineering team was given 6 blocks to use as abutments. For each team, the abutments had to be the same width across (15 inches) and the same height (4.5 inches). The bridge also had to have space for a “barge” to pass underneath.

Students were then given a list of materials to choose from. Each material had a cost to consider. Materials students could choose from included (tape, string, paper, index cards, craft sticks, straws, and paper clips). Much of the day was spent planning, creating and improving bridge designs. Then, in the afternoon. . . it was time for the big contest!

The contest was judged by adding up the scores in three different categories: cost effectiveness, stability, and strength. For cost effectiveness, teams could earn 1-5 points. The points varied based on how much they spent on materials. For example, if they spent less than $4.00 they scored 5 points, but if they spent more than $10.00 they only scored 1 point. To test stability, toy cars were run across the bridge 4 times. For each trial the car made it all the way across – the team received a point. Finally, for the strength category – teams placed weights equally distributed on their bridges and earned points based on the number of weights it could hold without collapsing. If they placed more than 100 weights they received 5 points, but if their bridge held less than 25 weights, they only received one point.

All the teams did a fantastic job working through the Engineering Design Process. . . but we had one champion whose design scored the highest possible points! Small prizes were awarded to our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and everyone received a certificate, star buddy, and toy car. I hope students will try this design challenge again at home! They all have their toy car to test for stability, and coins work well for weights. Students also came home with their engineering notebook and journal with all information needed for the challenge.

Questions you can ask your child following today’s challenge: What bridge designs did you consider and why? How did you determine what materials to use? How did you improve your design? Is there anything you would do to further improve your bridge?

Please encourage your child to recognize when problems they encounter in everyday life can be solved with engineering. Then, ask them to consider using the Engineering Design Process to design a prototype to help solve the problem. Wishing you happy engineering and a great summer!