Zipping Towards STEM: Integrating Engineering Design into the Middle School Physical Science Curriculum
This project will advance efforts to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics through the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program. It will integrate engineering design principles into Akron Public School district's curriculum unit on force and motion for 1800 underrepresented eighth grade students across 12 schools and 98 classrooms. Students will be introduced to basic applied physics concepts in rigid-body dynamics where they will design, test, and redesign model stock mini-cars using computer assisted design software, 3D printers, and virtual and desk-top wind tunnels. To prepare students for this challenge, university-led summer institutes will provide all eighth grade science teachers with the knowledge, technical content, and technology experience needed to implement the integrated curriculum based on engineering practices. This step provides assurance that teachers can move students from the fundamental to the challenge level where students will seek a deeper understanding of engineering design principles.
Graduate and senior-level aerospace systems engineering students and faculty members from the University of Akron and other local partners will help guide teachers and students through six basic tasks using model mini-cars. As students engage in the design and redesign process they will manipulate weight placement to maximize speed and use computer-based virtual wind tunnels to assess car performance in terms of drag coefficient. User-friendly graphical interface software will help students account for computational fluid dynamics and provide students with design performance metrics on drag and fluid flows through fog induced streamlines. Models for further testing will be produced using 3-D printers. Data collected will determine how well teachers and students move through the engineering design tasks. If the results show that teachers and students grasped the basic concepts that undergird engineering design, school district leaders have agreed to continue to use this model system wide to bring real-world experiences to eighth grade classrooms using engineering design to teach force and motion.