Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Temporary Housing for the Homeless: A Pre-Engineering Design Project

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Temporary Housing for the Homeless: A Pre-Engineering Design Project

Article excerpt



A recent trend in technology education has been to broaden its scope to include pre-engineering. This trend is evident with the development of Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (STL) (ITEA, 2000/2002), with a strong emphasis in design and an endorsement by William A. Wulf, President, National Academy of Engineering. Following the development of the STL standards, the Center to Advance the Teaching of Technology & Science (CATTS), through its Engineering byDesign[TM] model, produced a curriculum guide entitled, Engineering Design: A Standards-Based High School Model Course Guide (International Technology Education Association, 2004). Gerhard Salinger (2003), Program Officer at the National Science Foundation, stated, "In the last decade or so, technology education has reinvented itself to look more like engineering education" (p. 9). As a result of this trend, there is a need to develop standards-based curriculum activities that integrate engineering design approaches, without eliminating technology education's strengths in problem-based and hands-on learning.

Although design is not unique to engineering, the engineering approach to design is unique. The engineering design process expands on design processes that have been a part of technology education for a number of years (ITEA, 1990; ITEA, 2000). One of the primary differences of engineering design is its emphasis on analysis. Thus, engineering design approaches (particularly at the high school level) are structured processes for analysis-based creation. While the number of steps included in these processes varies, the steps shown in Table 1 are typical. There are two additional factors that are important to consider when implementing such a process. First, the process is not linear, but iterative. Each step (or group of steps) may be repeated several times as the designers search for an optimal solution. Second, there is no single "best" solution. Each design represents an optimum resulting from the sequence of design choices. The design decisions are based on one or more scientific principles, often (but not always) by representing those principles in the form of one or more equations. This project is centered on the creation and movement of heat energy. The design decisions are made using empirical data for human heat generation and the thermal properties of materials combined with the theoretically based Fourier's Law for thermal conduction.

Project Goal

In this project, students in tenth through twelfth grades are asked to design a lightweight, low-cost homeless shelter capable of supporting a family through a cold winter night. Body heat is to be the only source of warmth. The project expands upon the homeless shelter project developed by Gomez, Oakes, and Leone (2004, pp. 384-386; ITEA, 2004, pp. 92-94). Their documents include additional supporting materials and an assessment rubric. This project has been developed so that it can be ended at various stages, depending upon the course's pedagogical goals, time constraints, and funding availability. These stages include: (1) development of the analysis-based design, (2) development of plans using computer-aided design or creation of a scale model of the design, (3) construction of a full-scale prototype, and (4) testing of the design. Each stage of development includes the previous stage. This paper will focus on the first stage, since the skills and techniques used in the second and third levels are already well developed in the technology education community.

Project Significance

It has been reported by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (2004) that this past year over 3.5 million Americans were homeless. While many homeless live in temperate climates, many others live in locations where it can get very cold in the winter (see Table 2) (National Climatic Data Center, 2005; Western Region Climate Center, 2006). …

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