Note: As a TTT-published classroom teacher, Curtis Funkhouser will participate in a session at ITEA's Louisville Conference titled, "Writing for The Technology Teacher."
Make plans to attend this session, scheduled for Friday, March 27th at 3:00pm in room L6 of the Kentucky International Convention Center.
Egg-crash projects are used by educators across the country every school year because students embrace them. Remember the excitement you felt the first time you personally designed and tested a project? The egg-crash project at Mars Middle School provides many students with this experience, all under the proverbial umbrella of the approaching climax of definite success or certain failure. There is no gray area. You can't argue with a broken egg.
For this activity, students work in groups to design a vehicle that will withstand a high-speed frontal impact crash. They are given a strict time frame and budget to follow. To ensure that everyone is safe, we test the vehicles on a guided track with a concrete block at one end. The unit requires students to work in groups and have tasks divided among the individuals. The following are typical group assignments: team leader, secretary (a person to take notes through the engineering design process), treasurer, and a person to sketch/draw. Obviously, these tasks can be adjusted. The instructor plays the role of facilitator and banker to ensure that the groups remain on task and to allow the instructor to provide ideas when roadblocks occur. I use The History Channel's Modern Marvels Series: Car Crashes video to introduce the unit. This is a great hook to pull in the students' interest and get them thinking about why the unit is important. The video shows actual and simulated car crashes conducted by manufacturers who continually research vehicle safety.
Having students purchase materials and holding them accountable for their checking account is an aspect that I incorporate in many projects. I play the role of the banker to whom students must write out checks. I keep a running tally of checking accounts to verify that the groups' balances are correct. Groups cannot return materials once purchased and must maintain a ledger that holds them accountable for their costs.
Journaling is another important aspect of this unit. Journaling is often a process of reflection and provides students with a time to review and improve their projects. Students will usually ask, "Why do I need to write in tech ed?" My response is to ask the class probing questions such as, "Why do you need to write in your language arts classes?" This discussion almost always leads into a time to reflect, and most students recognize the connection between reflection and design evaluation. After further discussion, students begin to see the similarities between technology education and language arts.
This unit naturally blends Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics as the students see firsthand the connection between STEM elements. For example, students will learn how important it is to measure correctly while constructing their vehicles. If a group makes its vehicle too small, it won't fit into the design parameters and therefore it cannot be tested.
Another example of integration would be the application of technology with science to reduce the effects of inertia on the crash vehicles. The students need to design a bumper and restraint system to lessen the impact of the crash. The students are not permitted to create a braking device to slow the vehicle down. Mass, gravity, inertia, friction, and energy are all science principles incorporated in this activity.
The theory behind integrating curriculum is to guide students into making the natural connections between different curricula. Having students apply the skills and objectives from different classes on a common project aids in their learning by helping them make natural connections. …