Saturday, June 7, 2008

Engineering Shorts
Through the course of the school year I like to do what I call "engineering shorts." These are short (1/2 to 1 period long) problem solving/engineering exercises similar to training exercises done in industry for team-building, efficiency, and problem solving sessions. I like to do these with both my physics and engineering classes for these same reasons. The engineering shorts can be used to help teach certain concepts or they can be very integrated allowing for many ideas to be touched on by the activity, such as: problem solving, communicating, leadership, time budgeting, financial budgeting and more. There are a few really good engineering shorts that I have come across, one of which is the the Kaizen Bridge activitiy. Kaizen means "continuous improvement," and businesses use these activities to improve and streamline production. I had the husband of one of my colleagues come and present this activity to my engineering class, and they loved it. He had a modified version of one I had seen before, but it was just as good. You can see a similar activities online at the URL:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Writing in Science and Engineering
Writing in the content area is extremely important, but often writing in the technical areas is overlooked. I have been requiring students to write out lab reports and keep logbooks for years, but this year I wanted to take it up a notch after talking with a number of professors from Cleveland State Univ., Ohio State Univ., and Akron Univ. All told me to get the students writing technical papers, so that they have experience before they get to college. I settled on the APA style format because they will be using that style in undergraduate and particularly graduate school, and it is a technical style of writing. I also found that my students were not even exposed to the APA writing style in their English classes, which predominantly use MLA. I saw a great opportunity to expose them to technical writing and a more technical writing style. They students had a rough time at the beginning because they wanted to add a lot of fluff to their papers, rather than getting to the point, and they had to learn a new paper format and citation format, but they caught on quickly and actually liked the APA style after a few papers. The best thing about the writing though is that I started the online Student Journal of Science and Engineering (SJSE) ( which enables my students to be formally published. Teachers, parents, administrators and members of the community have all read their papers, and the SJSE has been a huge success. One major benefit that I did not foresee, but came about as the year progressed was the fact that my students were referring to their published papers in college interviews. When admissions officers asked for samples of my students' writings, they guided them to the SJSE and there they were published technical writing samples that have undergone a review process. I was very pleased to hear this. I realized then how important writing in the content area really is. Students need to be exposed to different writing styles and purposes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cross-Content Projects
I will be putting on a STEM/engineering workshop in a few weeks with teachers from grades K-12. I will be disseminating design project idea from my own courses. A number of teachers attending the workshop are in the elementary grade levels. Although I have modified a number of my own high school projects for elementary and middle school grades, I am interested in more projects that may incorporate, not only science and math, but also other content areas such as social studies, language, art and music. I would like to have a number of cross-content projects that will enable teachers to hit many subjects in one activity.
Project Physics and Engineering
Shaker Hts. High will be starting a new course next year entitled Project Physics and Engineering. We will be incorporating physics topics and engineering topics together. We were already adding a lot of design projects to our Project Physics course and decided to make the course a 50/50 physics and engineering. Our thoughts were to give the students more engineering without losing a physics class, so we will be teaching the physic through engineering projects. Students will maintain research logbooks, write technical papers and give presentations for the design projects.

I would like to know your thoughts and any interesting projects with a physics/engineering twist.