We are very fortunate to have a parent who is an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation. For the last six years she has been coming to do an engineering workshop with our fourth graders.
This has worked out very well because it is very interactive, and the fourth graders really love the activities.
The students learn about different types of careers in engineering. Then they learn that there are for basic steps in engineering. 1.) Define a problem that you need to solve. 2.) Brainstorm possible solutions. 3.) Develop your plan or solution. 4.) Test it out.
The fourth graders use these steps to try and build a six inch high table using only eight pieces of newspaper, a piece of 8” by 11” cardboard, and some masking tape. The table has to be able to hold a heavy book, like a dictionary. One of the three groups succeeded the first time. The other two groups needed to go back and revise their plans.
We also discuss the materials on roadways and why some work and some don’t. Then we tried making a no-bake cookie. If we followed the directions, our cookies worked out well. If we vary the materials by very much, they aren’t as successful.
We also watch a video of a bridge imploding (always a favorite with 4th graders). We are shown some of the tools that are used in planning road construction and some of the materials used.
Students are always amazed at the size of stop signs and the reflective stripes that go down the interstate.
It is a very educational and rewarding experience for all of us.