STOMPers could have been clearer about the intentions and purposes of this activity-- many students fell back on the idea of building sturdy vs not sturdy buildings and demonstrating why they are that way, while our intention was to have them develop models of science concepts to be used in a variety of engineering tests later on.
When students did building, most of the models turned out really great-- students definitely thought about the concepts and developed skills to evaluate models. However, all the projects turned out MESSY-- sand, dirt, water, clay, beans, etc; all the projects had to be dumped out at the end of Week 5. Therefore they could not be used as intended to move into engineering based on their models.
Week 6: Evaluate an Outside Model, Build a Sturdy Structure
STOMPers brought in a model they had constructed of "the ground shaking" out of some craft materials and an NXT motor. STOMPers presented the model to the class as one constructed by another team, with different materials but studying the same topics. The class watched the model run, and then wrote in their science journal answers to the following questions: What is this a model of? What does the model do well? What about it could be improved? Students then talked about the model in small groups, then as a class. Once it had been fleshed out, we did a blind vote on whether or not to accept the model into our class and use it for testing further projects. The class voted to accept it, although a few kids disagreed---we had a discussion with students sharing arguments on both sides. After the model had been accepted, we challenged them to build a two-story house out of raw spaghetti and clay that could survive the earthquake simulation. We thought it would be difficult given the materials and the building requirements (the base could only be a certain size) but all groups built surviving structures; many groups did not the first time, but did a redesign. This was a great culminating activity for the past 4 weeks of classes.
Fellows: Alyssa Kody and Daniel Pavitt