To be competitive in today’s global economy, students will benefit from an understanding of engineering. It will help them identify possible career pathways. In addition, engineering activities develop problem solving skills, teach essential science and math concepts, and promote collaboration. TechnoKids technology projects can help elementary and middle school teachers integrate engineering into curriculum.
What is an Engineer?
An engineer develops technological solutions by applying their expertise in science and math. During the design process they define a problem, conduct research, analyze information, and develop a solution. An engineer must test ideas and consider various choices to select the solution that will have the most successful results. The field of engineering is very broad. There are four main branches of engineers: civil, electrical, mechanical, and chemical. Each branch has multiple types of engineers that have a wide range of job duties. Most people specialize in a particular field or area of expertise. To learn more about the engineer profession visit Engineers Canada or read the Engineering Wikipedia article.
Many, many years ago the word engineer was used to describe a person who made siege weapons. They were makers of military engines. Today, the term can be used to include a variety of professions. An engineer can be a software engineer that develops computer programs, computer engineer that controls computing devices, environmental engineer that monitors nature, architectural engineer that designs buildings, aeronautical engineers that builds spacecraft, or a biomedical engineer that creates prosthetic limbs. This list is just a few of the exciting career opportunities related to engineering. There are so many more!
TechnoKids Projects and Engineering
TechnoKids projects can be used to teach elementary and middle school students about engineering. The instructional materials are project-based. The engineering activities can be used to develop a foundation for future learning in high school or college.
An electrical engineer studies or creates devices or systems that use electricity. This role often includes other branches of engineering. An electrical engineer might write software programs, maintain computer hardware, design telecommunication systems, or design electric devices such as motors or circuits. TechnoKids has projects that apply electrical engineering tasks. For example, in TechnoHTML students become software engineers by writing code to build a web page, and in TechnoSpecialist students become computer engineers by learning about the function of hardware components. These are meaningful engineering activities that students enjoy.
A civil engineer designs, constructs, and maintains the physical and natural environment. This job is diverse, extending from infrastructure projects such as roadways to construction projects such as dams. A civil engineer might develop structures such as bridges, build transportation systems such as railways, or conduct environmental assessments such as monitoring air pollution. That is a lot of different types of jobs!
TechnoKids has projects that introduce civil engineering concepts that are suitable for elementary and middle school students. For example, in TechnoRestaurateur students draft a floor plan for a restaurant. This problem solving activity requires students to consider people’s needs to develop a viable layout. The combination of creative and critical thinking required to complete the task is a precursor to applying engineering fundamentals in fields such as architectural engineering. Another TechnoKids project that applies engineering principles is TechnoQuestionnaire. In this project, students design a questionnaire to research an issue, analyze the findings, and propose action based on the results. The design process and reasoning required to complete the activities are similar to the methods used by engineers when researching a problem.
A mechanical engineer designs and operates machines and mechanical systems. This job includes a wide range of professions. They may manufacture items; design vehicles such as boats, cars, or spacecraft; construct power plants using a range of energy sources (coal, geothermal, tidal, wind, solar); or monitor the efficiency of building systems such as heating or air conditioning. This year, TechnoKids will be creating a project that uses 3D modelling that will target this area of study – it is going to be so fun!
A chemical engineer mixes natural and man-made materials using chemical processes to produce various substances. This area of engineering is vast. For example, it includes refining petroleum, creating paper products, and manipulation of genes. Although a fascinating career path, TechnoKids does not have a project that targets this area specifically. Instead, there are several TechnoKids projects that could be integrated into a unit of study related to chemical engineering. For example, TechnoDebate could be used to explore the ethical issues related to engineering practices, TechnoPresenter could be used to explain an engineering process, or TechnoResearch could be used summarize an engineering topic.
Don’t Hesitate – Integrate Engineering Activities into Curriculum
Engineering activities can be suitable for elementary and middle school students. Instruction does not need to wait until high school or college. Instead, young children can learn about engineering and how it applies to real life to create a foundation for future learning.