Scientific inquiry leads to an engineering challenge, and both are illuminated.

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1 Scientific inquiry leads to an engineering challenge, and both are illuminated. By Brenda M. Capobianco, Chell Nyquist, and Nancy Tyrie ody Green is the owner of Cloud Nine Sunglass Shop. Many of her clients are active snowboarders and skiers who must wear sunglasses when they are on the mountains. Her clients want a device to determine how effective their sunglasses are at protecting their eyes from the Sun s rays while skiing or snowboarding. Using what you learned from your investigations with UV light detecting beads, devise a way to design, construct, and test a sensor that can detect the amount of UV light not blocked by the sunglasses. Keep in mind that the cost of your materials must be low and that you have two class periods to construct and test your prototype. Are you up for the challenge? Miss Tryie then turned to us to say, Ever since I started doing these engineering design tasks in my class, I feel like my students are more engaged in science. I feel like I am better prepared to teach science through engineering design and to incorporate the new standards. With the integration of new science education standards fast approaching, teachers like Miss Tyrie must begin to think carefully about how they teach science and how they get students to think about the science they learn. According to A Framework K 12 Science Education, teachers must now consider both practices of science and engineering to help students form an understanding of the crosscutting concepts and disciplinary ideas of science and engineering (NRC 2012, p. 42). For elementary science teachers, this means providing students opportunities to immerse themselves in these practices using approaches such 58 Science and Children

2 as the engineering design process. In this article, we a fifth-grade science teacher, an engineer, and a science teacher educator describe the steps we took to incorporate the engineering design process in a fifth-grade science classroom. Rather than taking an isolated engineering design-based activity and adding it into the curriculum, we took an existing scientific inquiry activity using UV light detecting beads and purposefully created a series of engineering design-based challenges around the investigation. We then instructed fifth-grade students to use evidence from their inquiries to inform their designs. During this process, we reviewed our model for the engineering design process and identified seven essential features for teaching engineering design. We quickly learned that these features aligned well with each design task we implemented. By sharing our instructional approach, we hope to demonstrate how teachers can take small steps toward effectively incorporating engineering design in the elementary science classroom and better preparing their students for engaging in the practices of science and engineering. A Working Model An engineering design task is typically structured around a particular model of the engineering design process. Like scientific inquiry, the engineering design process is both iterative and systematic. It is iterative in that each new version of the design is tested and then modified, based on what has been learned up to that point. It is systematic in that a number of steps must be undertaken. Our design model is based upon five interactive phases that students use to solve an ill-structured problem (see Figure 1). Students work in teams to first identify the overall context of the problem, including the overarching problem and needs of a particular client and user. Second, students individually generate ideas based upon what they know about the problem and relevant scientific knowledge. Students then share their ideas within their design team and mutually agree upon one detailed plan. Third, design teams create and test their plan or model. During this phase, emphasis Figure 1. The Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) Model for engineering design. is placed on recording results from testing and using existing scientific knowledge to explain what is happening. Fourth, design teams share their design results with another team and/or the entire class. Finally, design teams gather feedback from other teams and return to their design to revise and retest. From Inquiry to Design Brief In a previous article we described how we devised a way for fifth-grade students to use UV light detecting beads to develop and conduct a fair test investigation. In their investigations, students examined the effects of three different variables on the UV light detecting properties of the beads. These variables included (1) the SPFs of sunscreens; (2) the color of fabric (hand towels), and (3) sunglass lenses (polar- ized vs. non-polarized). The students learned that sunscreens with at least a SPF of 30 are most effective at blocking UV light radiation. Sunscreens with SPFs higher than 30 did not offer much more protection. In some cases, sprays were more effective than lotions. Students also learned that the darker the fabric color, the greater the level of ultraviolet protection. Last, students learned that polarized lenses filtered Students constructing prototypes of their designs. January

3 Table 1. Applications of the essential features of engineering design tasks. Essential Feature Application of the Essential Feature for an Engineering Design Task Client #1 Client #2 Client #3 1. Client-driven and goal-oriented Miss Newton Director of the Childtime Day Care Center Mr. Cook Owner and Chief Landscaper of Cook s Greenhouse Kavita Landers Lifeguard 2. Authentic context Child care center Local greenhouse Local water park 3. Constraints Age appropriate and safe Cost and time Cost, waterproof, remain in soil over time Cost, sun exposure, waterproof 4. Materials, resources, and tools familiar to students 5. Solution is a product or process Examples: UV light detecting beads, string, pipe cleaners, duct tape, wax paper, cardboard, shoe boxes, thin wooden dowels, clear nail polish, rulers, protractors Prototype Prototype Prototype 6. Multiple solutions UV Sun Sensor Wristbands Bracelets made of UV light detecting beads covered with sunscreen. Sunscreen Monitor A cardboard placard that contains beads sprayed with different sunscreens and arranged by SPF. The placard can be hung from a swing set or stuck into the ground. Plantastic Sensor A pipe cleaner, covered with clear nail polish and three UV light detecting beads. A package of three sensors can be placed in one or more plants. UV Light Guard A necklace or bracelet made of UV light detecting beads covered with sunscreen. 7. Teamwork Each design team is required to submit a team plan that includes a detailed sketch of its design; a description of how the sensor works; and instructions for how to use the sensor. Students initial each section of the team plan to verify their individual contributions to the plan. the UV light radiation best (For more detail, see Capobianco and Thiel 2006). After students completed their fair test investigations, Miss Tyrie brainstormed with her students different ways they could develop an engineering design task using the evidence students gathered from their fair test investigations. She asked questions such as Who could benefit from knowing what we learned? Who might want to use this information to solve a problem they face every day? and What kinds of situations require attention to overexposure of the Sun s damaging rays, and how could we help people in these situations? Students responses to her questions included We think people who work in the sun a lot would like to know what we learned from our investigations. When my little sisters are playing outside, I want to know when they need to put on more sunscreen so they don t get sunburned. As a result, A student demonstrates a prototype of his team s design to detect sunlight while snowboarding. 60 Science and Children

4 Shedding Light on Engineering Design Figure 2. Client Cards Three examples of engineering design tasks using UV light detecting beads. Client Card #1 Nina Newton is the director of the Childtime Day Care Center and she is concerned about children getting too much sun exposure during play time. She would like a device that can monitor the amount of sun the children are getting. The cost must be affordable and the sensor must be age appropriate and safe for her children, who are four years of age and younger. Client Card #2 Charlie Cook is the owner and chief landscaper for Cook s Greenhouse. Mr. Cook is interested in a device that can monitor sun exposure to his plants. Some of his plants need indirect light and other plans require lots of direct light. This device must be low-cost, waterproof, and be able to remain in soil for long periods of time. Client Card #3 Kavita Landers is the chief lifeguard at Columbia Water Park. She would like to know which sunscreen to buy and how often she needs to reapply it. She needs a device that can monitor whether or not her sunscreen is still effective. The device must be comfortable, easy to put on and take off, and be able to withstand extended sun exposure and be waterproof. we generated a series of engineering design tasks that required students to use evidence from their fair test investigations. These tasks were presented in the form of what is commonly called an engineering design brief. An engineering design brief is a plausible scenario or situation in which students are asked to solve a problem using the engineering design process. The students are given a limited number of materials and resources, a fixed amount of time, and specific parameters or guidelines to follow. Embedded in a design brief is a description of the context of the problem that includes a targeted end user, a client who needs help, a description of the problem that needs to be addressed, and a list of requirements for the design. The purpose of the design brief is twofold. First, it serves as an entry point for the engineering design process, allowing the teacher to create an anticipatory setting for student learning in science and engineering. Second, it allows students the opportunity to immerse themselves in engineering practices, exploring why they are central to engineering and to understand and appreciate the skills of an engineer. Each design team of four students was given one design brief or what we call Client Cards (Figure 2). Once they received the card, the teams were required to (1) define the goal of the task; (2) identify the client and end user; (3) identify all constraints; (4) list the available materials; and (5) develop individual plans that they would share with members of their design team and merge these plans into one mutually agreed upon team plan. Seven Essential Features Underpinning each of these tasks are seven essential features for teaching science through engineering design. These features include the following (1) client-driven and goal-oriented; (2) providing an authentic context; (3) incorporating constraints; (4) using materials, resources, and tools that are familiar to students; (5) requiring the solution to be an artifact or process; (6) yielding more than one solution; and (7) involving teamwork. What follows is a description of each essential feature with a supporting example. In addition, we identified questions that facilitate students learning of the essential features. Table 1 provides an overview of how each feature applies to the three engineering design tasks using UV light detecting beads. January

5 1. Client driven and goal-oriented Engineers are goal-oriented by nature. This means that teams of engineers work to meet a specific goal. This goal is often centered on the needs of a client and/or end user. The client may be an individual person or a large company. The end user may be a consumer of a product made by the company. Biomedical engineers, for example, may be asked by an orthopedics company to design a new prosthetic limb for a young child. The client would be the orthopedics company and the end user would be the child. For Client Card #1, Miss Nina Newton is the client and the children at her day care center are the end users. Miss Newton s primary concern is protecting the children from too much sun exposure. To prompt students initial understanding of the design brief, the teacher may ask questions such as What is the problem? What is the goal? Who is the client? Who is the end user? How can you help Miss Newton and the children at her daycare facility? 2. Providing an authentic context One of the more appealing features of engineering design tasks for students is that the problem is often couched in an authentic context. Like most problembased learning activities, students are more motivated, engaged, and excited to learn when they are presented with a problem that is situated within their world. Settings, such as the local water park (Client Card #3) and greenhouse (Client Card #2), provide realworld appeal for students. Other ideas for authentic contexts may include a local pond or river where the water may appear unclean or polluted. Students could work in teams to design, create, and test a process or product to make the water clean. This becomes even more relevant for students and their families who live in areas damaged by natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding. 3. Incorporating constraints Constraints are rules, conditions, or regulations imposed upon the design. Examples include cost, time, and limited materials. In the early stages of a design task, constraints may tend to be limiting or undesirable. For example, a car engine cannot exceed the size of the space in which it fits, yet it cannot produce less than a specified amount of power. As a design proceeds, constraints help frame a design problem as well as its solution. For example, a bearing must have the same diameter as the shaft it supports. Student questions regarding constraints for the UV light detecting tasks may include: How much can we spend on materials? How much time do we have to design, produce, and test? How many prototypes A student wears the prototype of her team s design for children at the day care center. can we design and construct? What are some environmental conditions we need to consider? 4. Using materials, resources, and tools familiar to students Engineers use investigations to gain data essential for specifying design criteria or constraints and to test their designs. Planning and designing such investigations require the ability to use appropriate equipment, materials, and tools best suited to make accurate measurements. Teachers must provide materials and tools that students are familiar with or are able to use effectively. For the UV light detecting tasks, materials such as duct tape, string, scissors, and rulers are resources that students are either accustomed to using or can quickly learn how to use. In what ways can these materials or combination of materials inform your design? Are there are other materials to consider? are examples of questions the teacher can ask to prompt students thinking during the creation of their designs. photographs courtesy of authors 62 Science and Children

6 Shedding Light on Engineering Design 5. Requiring the solution to be a product or process The solutions of most engineering design-based problems include a product or a process. An example of a product is generally an artifact that is called a prototype. A prototype is a three-dimensional model which may be a physical model or a computer model. An example of a prototype is a UV light detecting sensor. A process is a series of steps or methods to make a specific product. An example of a process is the procedure necessary for making an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) laundry detergent (see Internet Resources). Teams of engineers design, construct, develop and test their prototypes or processes in such a way that is possible for another team to replicate or reuse the design. A key question the teacher can ask students at this point in their designs is: In what ways does your product or process meet the client s needs? 6. Yielding more than one solution An important feature of engineering design tasks is that there is no one particular or right solution to any task. Like science, engineering requires the construction of a plausible solution. However, in engineering, engineers must balance constraints with available resources, compliance to the client s needs with the demands of time, safety, and cost constraints. There is usually no single The change in bead color indicates that it is time to reapply sunscreen. best solution but rather a range of solutions. This allows students design solutions to be creative, innovative, and original. 7. Involving teamwork Engineers, like scientists, work in groups that are called technical or design teams. The difference between a team of engineers and a team of scientists is that engineers must work within constraints while meeting specific design criteria. Today s engineering projects are far more complex and diverse and would require more time and energy for a single engineer to complete. Therefore, when students are given a design task, they are often encouraged to work on the problem as a team and to be mindful of each individual s contributions and expertise to the task. Questions to foster cooperation among students in design teams are: In what ways are elements of each member s individual plans represented in your team s design? How has each member contributed to the planning, constructing, and testing of your design? Why is it important for your group to work as a team? Were their times during the design process that your team worked well or did not work well? How could your design team improve their performance on the design task? In Miss Tyrie s class, students could easily identify each team member s contribution by pointing to different parts of the team s plan or sketch. Students responses to her questions included the following: We think it is important to work together because we need to meet the client s needs and make a good sensor for the kids at the day care center, so they don t get sunburned. We had trouble making our sensor look exactly like our sketch in our notebooks. We worked really good when we tested the sensor to see if it worked because everyone did something to help. We could probably do a better job at having everyone make a good sketch of our prototype and making sure we include feedback from other groups. January

7 Assessing Students Abilities To assess students engagement in the engineering design process, we Keywords: UV Index developed a rubric that aligns with both the essential features of design Enter code: SC and A Framework for K 12 Science Education (see NSTA Connection). More specifically, the rubric addresses disciplinary core ideas, entitled Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science, including ETS1.A: Defining and delimiting an engineering problem; ETS1.B: Developing possible solutions, and ETS1.C: Optimizing the design solution (NRC 2012, p. 203). The purpose of this rubric is to provide a tool for assessing students engagement in the engineering design process. The rubric can be used both formatively and summatively. Depending on where students are within a design task, a teacher may identify one or more engineering practices from the rubric and assess students accordingly. For example, Miss Tyrie wanted to see how well her students could brainstorm possible solutions and draw detailed plans of their prototypes of UV sensors. She focused on two elements of the rubric: (1) brainstorm a solution (plan) and (2) develop a solution (plan), at the beginning of the lesson and assessed the ideas students presented in their design notebooks. She specifically looked at the number of ideas each student generated and if the sketch of their prototype had the materials and dimensions labeled. As students progressed through the design task, Miss Tyrie was able to assess how well her students tested their sensor prototypes, communicated their findings, and re-designed. Conclusion As science teachers begin to take their first steps in moving toward the next generation science education standards, we recommend integrating one or more of these essential features when learning to teach science using the engineering design process. These features motivate students through real-world situations and challenge them to chart their own course of action while applying science concepts and fostering a sense of curiosity, innovation, and collaboration. These features also provide a useable framework for teachers to craft their own engineering design-based tasks, related assessments, and cross-disciplinary activities. n Connecting to the Standards This article relates to the following National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996): Content Standards Grades 5 8 Standard E: Science and Technology Abilities of technological design Understanding about science and technology National Research Council (NRC) National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Brenda M. Capobianco is an associate professor of curriculum and instruction and codirector of the Science Learning through Engineering Design [SLED] Partnership at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Chell Nyquist is the project manager of the SLED Partnership at Purdue University s Discovery Learning Research Center. Nancy Tyrie is a fifth-grade teacher at Sunnyside Middle School in Lafayette, Indiana. References Capobianco, B., and E.A. Thiel Are You UV Safe? Science and Children 44 (1): National Research Council (NRC) A framework for K 12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Internet Resources American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) s K12 STEM education teacher resource entitled Engineering: Go for It Boston Museum of Science s Engineering is Elementary Educational Innovations: Color, Light, and Sound: UV Detecting Products Edmund Scientifics: Solar Beads Purdue University s Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) Partnership sledhub.org SunGuard laundry aid that washes UV protection into clothing https://sunguardsunprotection.com Tryengineering NSTA Connection Download the (SLED) Model for engineering design, client cards, rubric, and a list of trade books for various grade levels at 64 Science and Children

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