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Engineering Design Challenges

Page history last edited by slaterbenny@... 8 years, 3 months ago

Welcome to the Engineering Design Challenges class wiki page. We will use this page to in class to link to various resources. In addition, some of the class assignments will be posted here if you are interested in working on them at home. Material will be posted as we cover it and the most recent will be at the top. For the class syllabus, see Mr. Howard's teacher page.


Interested in building bridges, designing rockets, learning basic computer programming, or launching an egg drop container 100 feet from a giant slingshot? Would you like to experience what is like to be an engineer through hands-on building and problem solving projects? In Engineering Design Challenges, students gain practical experience with various engineering fields and their associated careers through hands-on building and problem solving projects. 



A Wordle is a “word cloud” generated from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends. To create a Wordle go to http://www.wordle.net/ or http://www.tagxedo.com.
Our First Day Wordle project: Advanced Wordle Project using Tagxedo.pdf



Bridges are a great introduction to the engineering design process and structural engineering. After a brief overview of the 3 main types of bridges, the students learn about how bridges work and the two types of stress on the strut of a bridge - tension (pulling stress) and compression (squeezing stress). The human bridge demonstration helps the students understand how a simple truss  works and how to reinforce the struts depending on the type of stress they are under. Next we use Cargo Bridge to learn what truss designs work (and don't work) and how the weight held effects the design of the bridge. Our final bridges designs are done using West Point Bridge Designer and then built using balsa wood. Finally, their bridges are broken and we use the engineering efficiency equation to calculate who had the best overall bridge.


  • Cargo Bridge (if this doesn't work, try Link 2 or Link 3 )- Build a bridge and test your construction skills. Help your workers to collect items located on the other side of valley.Also try Cargo Bridge Armor Edition or Cargo Bridge 2 (if this doesn't work, try Link 2)
    • Build a bridge using your mouse and available budget. When it is done click "Test your bridge". Your workers will use it to get items located at the other side of valley, and bring them back to the shop. Your goal is to collect all items in level.
    • For each level you have limited budget. The money that you don't use becomes your score, so cheaper bridge = higher score.
    • There are two types of bridge elements: "walk" - workers can step on them, "connectors" - used only to connect elements of the bridge, workers do not collide with them. * "Connector" elements are cheaper and lighter so use them as much as you can.
    • At the beginning of game only wood elements of bridge are available. In further levels, additional materials will be accessible also, so use them wisely.


Google Sketchup

Google SketchUp is software that you can use to create 3D models of anything you like. The main page (including the download) is at http://sketchup.google.com/. It’s free so you can try it at home too!! You can build models from scratch, or you can download what you need.

> For resources and tutorials, see our wiki's Google Sketchup page.


Straw Rockets

This challenge focuses on the optimization process engineers go through as they improve their design. The students will collect data on the various components that make up the rocket (weight, fin design, tube length, etc) in order to create the optimal rocket design. They will eventually compete in two challenges - distance and accuracy. The next phase of the project has the students convert their rockets into straw rocket gliders that initially launch like rockets then glide back like gliders. It's a far greater challenge that teaches them the basics of flight.


Introduction to Computer Programming 

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” — Steve Jobs, the Lost Interview
Programming is a key skill necessary to be able to create in today's digital world. In Tech Careers, we introduce some of the fundamental concepts through Code.org's excellent Intro to Computer Science Interactive Course. This course teaches the students the basics of structured programming in a fun and easy way. Concepts covered include: Sequence, If/Then, If/Then/Elses, Loop (numbered and until), While, Counter, Functions, and Functions with Parameters. MIT's Scratch is a great next step.



Want More Computer Programming Challenges?

Try these three games-based learning exercises. These concepts are explored in much more detail in our Robotics Careers and Video Game Design classes.

  • Light Bot - Artificial Intelligence is hard to program. Not every bot ever created can maneuver and function on its own. Rather, some bots run along a path that the programmer presets for them for various situations. Your job is to light up all the blue tiles in the factory by the commands you issue to Light-Bot
  • Light Bot 2 - Even more Light Bot
  • Blocky - Blockly is a web-based, graphical programming editor. Users can drag blocks together to build an application. No typing required. In this challenge, you use Blocky to solve a maze.
  • RoboZZle - A social puzzle game. Control the robot through increasingly difficult levels. Learn the basics of programming

Stuck? Try one of these engineering games instead:

  • Wallace's Workshop - a physics puzzler that will well and truly test your noggin. Necessity is the mother of invention and apparently it's a necessity to get Crash-Test-Wallace from one end of a workshop into a waiting chute by inventing contraptions to help him get there. You'll use a variety of apparatus and mechanisms in your creations including balloons, motors, wheels and rockets. There's even dynamite!
  • Fantastic Contraption - A fun online physics puzzle game where you build whimsical machines to solve each level.  
  • Cargo Bridge 2 - Build a bridge and test your construction skills. Help your workers to collect items located on the other side of valley


Introduction to Graphics Design Using Pixlr.com 

Graphic Design is essentially art with a purpose. Most people have a vague idea of what a graphic designer does. Creating logos for businesses? Working with images in Photoshop? Making magazine ads? Many designers do these things, but really they’re just little elements of a much bigger picture.  A graphic designer uses text, illustrations, symbols, photography, textures, colours and letterforms to create print and web-based design for a huge variety of clients. Movie posters, concert tickets, corporate reports, your favorite apps all rely on effective design to get the user's attention and get to the heart of what the client is trying to say.


Student get a touch of graphic design by learning to use Pixlr.com - a relatively advanced and powerful free online image editor similar in use to Adobe Photoshop. GIMP is another free alternative to Photoshop, but it requires you to download and install it. Since it is web-based, Pixlr Editor can be used anywhere without any installation.

Our class projects: Pixlr Intro and Creating a Digital Urban Graffiti Wall in Pixlr



Interested in building and flying airplanes, filming and editing movies, constructing balsa wood bridges, experimenting with solar energy, designing circuits, and exploring lasers? In Technology Careers, students gain practical experience with various technical fields and their associated careers through hands-on building and problem solving projects.



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