Engineering for Educators – Final 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 use authentic engineering problems in their classrooms, and to be able to adapt the methods to their particular age group and setting.

Context: This unit will follow introductory units focused on perceptions and misconceptions of engineers, academic 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 (with “hidden’, mathematical criteria) 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 (which variables were most important in getting the highest score? How would their process change if they were trying to achieve the lowest score?). This demonstrates one technique for embedding arithmetic and algebra content (order of operations, fractions, exponents, formulas) into the activity.
    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

  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: (a) how they would adapt the activities for their classrooms, (b) what challenges they would anticipate (are materials easy to come by? would the activities work in the timeframe they have available?), (c) what benefits they anticipate, and (d) what standards the activity would address.  Students will receive feedback from peers and instructor.
  3. Students will choose one of the activities to implement in their classroom. Students will document the successes and challenges of their experience in a 10 minute presentation to be shared during a synchronous session.
  4. On the course blog, the teachers will reflect on their collective experience — outlining best practices for implementing future engineering projects in their classrooms.

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.

    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 create a Thinglink using an image that depicts a problem or challenge facing society. Ideally, the problem will have a local connection and will be appealing to students in K12. The Thinglink image should have embedded video, text, website, and/or audio content that describes the problem, defines both the engineer’s and society’s role in developing and implementing a solution to the problem, and very clearly poses a specific engineering challenge.
    3. A synchronous Collaborate session (1 hour) will be held to facilitate discussion of this unit.


43 thoughts on “Engineering for Educators – Final Curriculum Plan

  1. Owen

    Hi Lori,

    For objective 1. I’m glad you have students post things to the blog at the end. That kind of asynchronous opportunity affords deeper analysis than during the confines of a collaborate session. Might be interesting to conduct these loading sessions online via Google Hangout On Air – seems exciting and the tension, waiting for the design to fail, seems well suited to synchronous video. Something to think about.

    Objective 2. Very substantive. I like the reflection activity at the end of a lot of design and implementation work. Nice.

    Objective 3. Is this the final subunit? I’m not clear from your description. I like the ThingLink activity. If this is the final subunit, some larger closing activity/reflection may be appropriate. I like your “unsolved problem” approach to inspiring students.

    Overall, a substantive learning unit driving towards appropriate objectives. On the critical side, a bit brief and I would have liked to have seen a bit more inclusion of previous work from the term.

    On to your justification. Well done, Lori.


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