Real-World Engineering Connections

Real World Connections: Challenge Books

Research has shown that students often have narrow perceptions of what it means to be an engineer, particularly concerning the impact that engineers have on human lives. Through Novel Engineering, students gain exposure to the various dimensions of the engineering discipline, including human-centered design, environmental factors, structural challenges, sustainability, and health considerations. Different books lend different opportunities in terms of what types of engineering problems students may be engaged in. Here are some different engineering disciplines and content areas that arise in different Novel Engineering units:

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

Civil Engineering

Mr. McGreely wants to protect his garden and the rabbits want to eat his vegetables.  How can they achieve their goals?

Real world connection:  Civil engineers don’t randomly design buildings and bridges.  They do it with a specific purpose in mind.  Mr. McGreely builds a fence and later a moat to keep the rabbits out.  Engineers design bridges for better and safer transportation over rivers, or design buildings to be resilient to rough weather or earthquakes.  

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Environmental Engineering

It wouldn’t be nice of Mr. McGreely to harm the bunnies for the sake of protecting his plants.  How can he build something to protect his garden that won’t harm them or other local wildlife?

Real world connection:  Environmental engineers design solutions to problems related to human impact on the environment.  This can cover a wide range of possibilities, including minimizing pollution, water treatment, and even recycling systems.  They also set regulations for how, what, and where people can build in a way that reduces environmental harm.

Marine Engineering

Mr. McGreely constructs a moat to keep his vegetables from being eaten. The rabbits are able to swim across, but if it were wider, what could you do in order to help the rabbits get across the moat?  

Real world connection: Marine engineers design and implement many systems inside of a ship such as the steering and electrical needs for complex ships. They often work with naval architects to design the boats.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Security and Automation

How can Peter keep his pet turtle safe when he isn’t around?

Real world connection:  For many things, such as an alarm clock, it is necessary to function without the active use of a person.  If your alarm clock only goes off if you need to press a button immediately before it sounds, it won’t be any good at waking you up.  Some examples found in the real world include automatic watering systems for farms and automated alarm systems for houses or other buildings.

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How it works:  There are many ways to automate a system electronically, but most include writing a program that waits until something happens, and then does something else.  Someone could open a door, which sets off a security alarm, or a clock reaches 7 a.m. and your alarm starts making noise.  Other systems can be automated by tying a physical response to an action.  Doors are a common object that can be used to start an automated process.  By tying string to a door handle it is possible to pull on or release tension on the string each time the door opens or closes, which opens a wide range of possibilities for automation.

Simple Machines: Pulleys

Real world connection: In construction, pulleys are used with cranes to help carry heavy or large materials that someone cannot carry on his or her own.  Pulleys are also useful to change the direction of force.  

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How it works: In a simple pulley system, one end of a rope is attached to something a person would like to lift. The rope goes around the pulley and a person must pull on the other end of the rope in order to lift the object. The direction of the force is reversed, so when you pull down on the rope, the weight is lifted upward.


Structural Stability

How do we build a safe home for the field mice?

Real world connection:  Civil engineers design buildings, bridges, and many other structures that people use daily.  We rely on their stability, or their tendency to not fall apart.  By using strong materials and stable structures, buildings and bridges can be built to safely withstand decades of use.

How it works:  Civil engineers must decide which type of material and design to use depending on the circumstances of the bridge or building they are constructing. The structure is designed so that it can hold up weight and stay strong in various weather conditions. There are many types of bridges and they all are constructed to withstand the forces on it.

Simple Machines: Wheels

Real World Examples: Wheels are used in everyday life in many forms of transportation to help move items or people.

How it works:  Wheels reduce friction and allow a person on a bike or a wagon being pulled to move more easily. Rather than an object simply being pulled or dragged along a surface, the wheel spins to move the object. When there is less friction, less force is required to move the object.

Connections with other Novel Engineering Books

The Snowy Day written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

mechanical :  constructing snowball launchers, shoe plows, snow stamps

materials properties: designing snowball savers with materials such that the snowball won’t melt

Shiloh written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

 civil : creating secret escape and hidden access paths for Marty to get to Shiloh’s secret pen in the woods, constructing fully enclosed spaces with sturdy walls to keep Shiloh safe and hidden

manufacturing: contraptions to keep Shiloh comfortable

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  written by E. L. Konigsburg

mechanical: designing items such as an alarm clock, guard distractor, scooter, money scooper, and, periscope to allow the children to live inside the museum undetected from the guards

communication: designing a communication system for life inside the museum

A Long Walk to Water  written by Linda Sue Park

water resource engineering: water filtration, water conservation

manufacturing: designing shoes, padded water carriers, backpacks to help Nya as she walks long distances