Learning the Engineering Design Process

During the last two weeks, the students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering have been learning and practicing the engineering design process (EDP). We follow an EDP we borrowed from NASA – click here for a Powerpoint explaining this process. The EDP is a methodical way to solve problems, and we emphasize to students that it is not just a process for engineers – it’s useful in many situations.

For the 8th graders, I started with a short review of what they learned and practiced last year as they did ten major engineering projects. We then started a project to design, build, and launch a model rocket that will accelerate as much as possible using a A8-3 engine. This project integrates with their science unit on force and motion. We will start by testing the rockets in the wind tunnel this week, then launch them and measure/calculate their acceleration next week. Here are photos of the 8th graders:

Academy 8th Graders Make Rocket Nose Cones on 3D Printers


For the 7th graders, Ms. Garavel introduced them to the NASA EDP. She then gave them a challenge to make a “cable car” that would take a marble as far as possible down a monofilament line rigged on an angle. Each student group, or crew, was given a baggie with several different materials, and they could use some or all of these materials in any way they chose. The students were given time limits for each step of the EDP. In the end, most crews were successful in making a cable car that traveled all the way down the line. It was an excellent way to reinforce the EDP with a hands on exercise. It also taught perseverance, as most cable cars did not work on the first test – the crews had to go back and refine their designs before they achieved success. Here are photos of the 7th graders:


Author: Bryan Holmes, Physics & Math Teacher, STEM Competition Mentor

Starting at Thomaston High School in Thomaston, Connecticut, in fall of 2018.

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