Engineering for Educators – Draft Curriculum Plan

Unit 4: The Engineering Design Cycle

The goal of this unit will be to provide an overview of the engineering design cycle that will allow teachers to facilitate  authentic engineering design activities  in their classrooms, and to relate these activities to the role of engineers in society.

Context: This unit will follow introductory units focused on perceptions and misconceptions of engineers,  motivation for inclusion of engineering in the K12 classroom, real world problem solving skills, and model-eliciting activities. The audience will be in-service K-12 teachers pursuing a Master’s Degree in STEM Education, but may also include pre-service teachers.  The course will be delivered online through BlackBoard Collaborate, and supported by a course blog.   Students will have some level of math and science proficiency, but it will be highly varied.

Learning Objective 1. Identify and understand the components of the engineering design cycle (EDC)

Learning Activities and Assessments:

    1. Students will learn about the EDC components by watching a narrated PowerPoint lecture on the EDC (content similar to )
    2. Students will post reflections to the blog about the components of the EDC, comparing them to other processes (such as composing an essay, solving ethical problems, developing a hypothesis). Feedback will be provided by peers and instructors.
    3. Synchronous Collaborate session (2 hours): Tower of Straws. Background content on basic tower design will be provided by the instructor, followed by a hands-on tower building challenge. Students will use their tower building kits (previously mailed to each student) to construct a tower with an equation given to calculate their scores. Students will have 30 minutes to build their towers, and will document the towers by photographs. At the end of the time, students will post pictures on their towers during the Collaborate session. Then, students will be instructed to load the towers with marbles, and document this by video. Towers should be loaded until failure, with students documenting the type of failure. Group discussion about implications of the scoring equation.
    4. Students will post photos and videos of their towers to the blog, and will document their score, failure mode of the tower, and what they would do differently next time. Feedback provided by peers and instructor.

Learning Objective 2: Apply the engineering design cycle to create active learning opportunities in their classrooms that are age-appropriate, engaging, linked to content knowledge, and that address state and national standards

Learning Activities and Assessments:

  1. Students will review available resources for K12 engineering curriculum (,, etc.) , along with recent literature on a framework for evaluating engineering projects in the classroom (Guzey, S., Tank, K., Hui-Hui, W., Roehrig, G., & Moore, T. (2014). A High-Quality Professional Development for Teachers of Grades 3-6 for Implementing Engineering into Classrooms. School Science & Mathematics, 114(3), 139-149.)
  2.  Students will identify two EDC activities that would be age and content-appropriate for their classrooms, describe each on the course blog, and reflect on:
    • how they would adapt the activities for their classrooms
    • what challenges they would anticipate (are materials easy to come by? would the activities work in the timeframe they have available?)
    • what benefits they anticipate, and
    • what standards the activity would address.
  3. Students will choose one of the activities to implement in their classroom. Students will document the successes and challenges on the course blog, and describe how they might prepare for or implement the activity differently in the future.

Learning Objective 3: Understand the engineer’s role in society, and inspire a desire in students to use engineering to solve problems that matter to people.

Learning Activities and Assessments

    1. Students will review the Grand Challenges for Engineering website ( and selected link and videos related to engineering and society such as and
    2. Students will take (or find on the web) three pictures that depict problems or challenges for society (at least one must be a local issue), post them to the blog, and describe both the engineer’s and society’s role in developing and implementing a solution to each problem.    
    3. A synchronous Collaborate session (1-2 hours) will be held to facilitate discussion of this unit. Students will each  discuss  how (and if) they envision using engineering in their classrooms in the future.

2 thoughts on “Engineering for Educators – Draft Curriculum Plan

  1. Owen

    Hey Lori,

    I like this.

    I like your tower exercise particularly. How do you know students will use only 30 minutes to build their tower? Does it matter if they use more time?

    Under “Apply” – will they actually be teaching this unit? Would be interesting to discuss “after action reports” – possible some great learning moments there. I believe this is what you’re suggesting under #3?

    I’d be curious to see some discussion framework for #3 on your third objective.

    I’m looking forward to seeing this in an online presence.


  2. Bob

    First, I really liked the straw tower project. I have seen this project used in leadership training to build teamwork and communication the goal is to build the tallest self-supporting tower. The facilitators will often change variables during the build time, some groups get more resources or better and some groups have resources taken away.

    However, this version of it is to a different purpose. Building a tower able to bear weight. Document the construction, the load testing and the ultimate failure. I am guessing that the synchronous session is online rather than f2f? Speaking for myself that is along time particularly when the task is more than chat, text, … conversation. That said I really like the photo/video documentation component. I might even give the students time to really polish these. The learning and the fun possible with good storytelling could make this really rewarding.

    The second section: I really liked the linked learning resources. In particular I like the Teach Engineering site. The other one is very snazzy and I can see young people resonating with it… this Geezer struggled with how to use it to find what I needed. The final assignment was one I particularly resonated with — go do one of these with real students in a real classroom and report back here on what worked and what failed. I have built this kind of work into a final section of my course — one not detailed in my blog posting. While I resonate with this assignment I just wonder how well it will work with?

    The final unit seemed thinner, less robust then the first two. That said, I liked aspects of it too. I liked the picking images and discuss the problem, the fix, and the role of engineers embedded in societies in grappling with the problem. I suspect that social embeddedness will depending on the society create blindness to certain solutions and open up possible solutions that a different culture is blind too — very interesting in light of the potential for world wide enrollment in an online course.


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