Engineering Design challenge

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background notes, prototypes for 2013.02.23

ideas, related information, prototypes...

What were they thinking

Learn about engineering by doing these thinking things. The Engineering Design challenge activities will be posted regularly (weekly?). If you are not familiar with the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), Engineering Design Process (EDP), visit these first.


  • Freshman Engineering, Middle School Discovery Day projects
    * 1 session - right question intro, design challenge activity intro, pair for challenge walk through ? show and tell activity, share.
    * follow on - 2nd challenge, more time for show and tell prep, web deliverable for sharing, create a design challenge.

  • Aerospace Automotive Civil & Structural Electronics Energy & Environment Medical & Healthcare Military & Defense Rail & Marine

Engineering challenges

  • Build a Prosthetic Device [1]
  • bridges - two types of loads: dynamic (live) the weight of the cars, trucks, or people expected on the bridge; or static (dead) the weight of the bridge itself. [2] “Galloping Gertie” Destroyed by a 42-mph wind After considering these and other factors, including the aesthetics (attractiveness) of the bridge, the engineer is ready to begin the design. The Physics of Bridge Design The terms Load, Compression, and Tension are terms used in design. When a load is placed in the middle of the beam, it tries to compress on the top of the bridge (compression). The bottom of the bridge tries to pull apart, creating tension. Racking is a kind of stress that distorts a square or rectangle, causing it to be a parallelogram as shown. To strengthen a square or rectangle, a diagonal brace converts (changes) the rectangle into two triangles, making the figure much stronger. This action minimizes the racking effect. Construction Techniques When making wooden models of bridges, joints are the most critical aspects of making a strong model. Once a joint fails, the structural integrity of the entire bridge is weakened. This weakening starts a chain reaction, which cause the total failure of the structure. Using different types of joints can increase wood joint strength. While certain types of joints are more effective than others, you also need to consider your skill level. Notching a joint will make it stronger, but only if the joint is made accurately. Otherwise the joint will fail.
  • water - collection, cleanup. sanitation. distribution
  • kids toys - phone with wheels - pull toy, handset string length, competitor wireless handset separate from base * evolution, child safety regulations
  • [ medical devices and coat material] - hip replacement
  • Boeing assembling an airliner
  • explain the importance of the Industrial Revolution [3]
  • machines that may have been used to build the pyramids in Egypt
  • a timeline of important mechanical inventions in history.
  • Look at two groups of aboriginal people (Inuit, Australian aborigine, First Nations). Make a list of the traditional tools each group of people created and used. Describe at least two ways that each tool changed the lives of the people who created them.
  • Work in a group or individually to develop a cartoon strip, short skit, or mural about the inventions of Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton or Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Make a model to demonstrate how different pulley systems minimize the force needed to lift an object
  • masonry arch - Cambridge
  • things that go bump, in the beginning - early inventions, basic tools and structures, wonders of the ancient world stone chopping tool , handaxe , wonders of the ancient world
  • living together, better living * Engineering and Society 1. Electrification 10. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration 4. Water Supply and Distribution 15. Household Appliances Florida history, water distribution, purification, waste disposal, electricity, telecommunications, kids' toothbrush [4]
  • Energy, mining, natural resources 17. Petroleum and Petrochemical Technologies 19. Nuclear Technologies - nano solar steam - cook waste mediation
  • tools for discovery and scientific inquiry, measurement, observation 12. Spacecraft 14. Imaging 18. Laser and Fiber Optics - telescope - early, Hubble , navigation - sextant, sonar, GPS , lighthouse Fresnel lens , microscope
  • engineering in life sciences - health and well being 16. Health Technologies - stethoscope, MRI, CAT scan, robotic surgery, hip replacements, prosthetic, dialysis , MRI
  • food and agriculture 7. Agricultural Mechanization - peanut harvesting
  • Engineering disciplines - Aeronautical - NASA, Boeing , Biomedical - prosthesis, computer, industrial, systems, Mechanical, Civil - New York subway, Electrical
  • Mother Nature, P.Eng - examples from nature - red blood cells shaped to squeeze through blood vessels
  • failure analysis - mistakes, accidents
  • Grand challenges - Future engineering [5] - what needs to be invented video - Make solar energy economical * Provide energy from fusion * Develop carbon sequestration methods * Manage the nitrogen cycle * Provide access to clean water * Restore and improve urban infrastructure * Advance health informatics * Engineer better medicines, Reverse-engineer the brain, Prevent nuclear terror, Secure cyberspace * Enhance virtual reality * Advance personalized learning * Engineer the tools of scientific discovery [6]

Nancy's suggestions


  • Man-made - Sand sculptures, Ice sculptures, Miniature village in Germany, Churches/public builds/theaters/museums, national monuments, Recreational structures: golf courses, water parks, Disneyland/world, stadiums (football, baseball, and soccer), ski jumps, skateboard parks, Sports equipment: helmets, gloves, shoes, bats, racquets, sticks), Transportation (trains, planes, cars, race cars, skateboards), Roller coasters and other amusement rides
  • In nature - DNA Helix & Human body systems (actual structures and real and virtual models), Crystals, Ice bergs, Snowflakes, Spider webs , Animal patterns (tiger, zebra, butterflies, finger prints)), Coral, ant, wasp giant termite colonies, Constellations, Bird nests, Beaver dams, Honeycombs, Fibonacci numbers in nature, Rainbows
  • Movies with Structures as Important Features - Harry Potter, Polar Express, Star Wars, The Hobbit, Wizard of OZ, Holes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hugo, Hunger Games
  • Videos & Games - Minecraft, Animusic , a computer animation video album, see Nancy for a copy, Computer graphics
  • Landmarks series of 3D puzzles, Structures series of 3D puzzles, Pop up Books, 3D street calk artist works, Consider structures made of food, dominoes, Legos, found materials

Learn more...

  • storytelling - design, user narrative [7] [8]
  • teams, cooperation, roles - logical, creative, intuitive, organized, cautious, optimistic