What does an engineer do?

What does an engineer do?


Engineers use math and science to design new artifacts and technologies that may be used to solve practical problems. While Barkley tried to create wings to help him fly, he followed the Engineering Design Process.

The Engineering Design Process has eight basic steps. These include:

* Identify the need or problem
* Research the need or problem
* Develop possible solutions
* Select the best possible solution(s)
* Construct a prototype
* Test and evaluate the solution
* Communicate the solution
* Redesign to improve your original design

Engineers use math and science to not only help us understand the world, but to apply what they know to solve problems. For example, engineers have used what they know about light to develop lasers and fiber optic technologies. They apply what they know about modern communications to improve telephones, fax machines, and electronic mail. Scientists also can design new artifacts and technologies just as engineers can explore how the world works. There isn’t always a clear dividing line between science and engineering.

A child’s natural curiosity about how things work is clear to any adult as that child works to improve the design of a paper airplane or take apart a toy to explore what’s inside. Children are natural engineers and inventors, builders of sandcastles at the beach and forts under furniture.

ACTIVITIES



What does an engineer do?

National Science Education Standards:

Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry
Content Standard C: Physical Science — Properties of objects and materials; Position and motion of objects
Content Standard E: Science and Technology — Abilities of technological design

International Society For Technology In Education Standards:
Basic Operations and Concepts

International Technology Education Association Standards:
Attributes of design
Apply the design process


This activity helps students experience the design process.

(BACKGROUND INFORMATION)
This is what we already know about engineers:

  • Engineers use math and science to design new artifacts and technologies that may be used to solve practical problems
  • The Engineering Design Process has eight basic steps. These include:
    • Identify the need or problem
    • Research the need or problem
    • Develop possible solutions
    • Select the best possible solution(s)
    • Construct a prototype
    • Test and evaluate the solution
    • Communicate the solution
    • Redesign to improve your original design

Activity – Flying Wing


Per pair: plastic foam meat or pastry tray (or plate), sharp cutting knife and cutting surface, emery board or sandpaper, tape, dime, permanent marker, scissors


Pre-Lesson Instructions:

  • Although not necessary, this lesson will have the most benefit when students work in pairs.
  • The instructions tell students to cut out their flying wing. For younger students, the teacher may want to have the wings already cut out of the plastic foam and let the students experiment with flight patterns.

Background Information:
The shape of the Flying Wing is adapted from the Zanonia seed that is found in southeast Asia. When mature, the seed drops from the vine and glides to a new location to reproduce itself.

To provide stability in flight, the wing tips of the Flying Wing are upturned. These tips appear to serve as drag rudders that keep the trailing edge of the wing trailing in flight. The presence of the upturned wing tips also directs air flowing over the wing tips upward. This results in a downward thrust that attempts to pitch the trailing edge of the Flying Wing downward around its center of gravity.

The dime is taped to the underside of the leading edge of the Flying Wing to increase its weight there and balance the pitching tendency during gentle, gliding flight. At higher forward velocities, the downward thrust of the wing tips is magnified, pitching the trailing edge down and the leading edge up. The Flying Wing begins looping maneuvers and continues until drag slows it and the Flying Wing gently glides to the ground.

  1. Cut out and trace the Flying Wing pattern on the bottom of the foam tray. Create your own template using the drawing below as a model. Position the pattern so that the shaded wing tips lay on one of the upturned edges of the tray. When cut out, the wing tips will have a permanent upward bend.
  2. With the emery board or sandpaper, shape the upper surface of the Flying Wing into an airfoil. Take your time and try to keep both sides symmetrical. This part is better done outdoors.
  3. Tape the dime to the underside of the wing so that it is positioned just forward of the center mark. It will probably be necessary to adjust the position of the dime a few times to get the best position for flight. The Flying Wing is ready for test flights.
  4. Image of flying wing example.

  5. Go to an open area and hold the Flying Wing in your hand as shown in the diagram below. Toss the wing gently straight forward. Observe the flight of the Flying Wing.
  6. Image of hand tossing wing gently straight forward.

  7. Having problems? Check the table below and see if it helps.
    Problems and Cures
    Flight Path Correction
    Goes straight glides smoothly Don’t mess with it!
    Banks to the right Slightly flatten the right wing tip bend
    Banks to the left Slightly flatten the left wing tip bend
    Stalls Move dime slightly forward
    Dives to the floor Move dime slightly backward
  8. Keep trying until you get your glider to fly both straight and smooth.
  9. Discuss results. How does this activity compare to Barkley’s experiences in the video?
  10. Discuss how the work done today is similar to what engineers do every day.



Extension:

  1. Let the students compete to see whose glider wlil fly the best.
  2. Give each student another dime and let them discover what kind of changes will need to be made with two dimes attached to the glider.
  3. Try flying the gliders first on a calm day and then on a day with a mild wind. Discuss what type of adjustments need to be made to the glider.

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MATH RESOURCES FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE