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Carving Out the Landscape

Car on roadElementary students investigate major landforms (e.g., mountains, rivers) in groups of two. They build a 3D model of a landscape depicting several of these landforms. Once they have built their model, they act as civil and transportation engineers to build a road through the landscape they have created.

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Building Bridges to Literature

Concord Hymn rude bridge poemDesigning, building, and testing bridges can help students develop teamwork and problem-solving skills along with inspiring their interest in engineering. Such hands-on projects also can fuel an interest in reading about bridges. Here are some notable titles that might strike a chord with your budding civil and structural engineers.

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Happy Birthday, Golden Gate Bridge

golden gate bridge at sunsteWhen California’s Golden Gate Bridge opened on May 27, 1937, more than 200,000 people strolled or roller-skated across its 4,200-foot causeway. The graceful span quickly became one of America’s most iconic landmarks – including for its safety features and other engineering feats.

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Paper Penny Bridge

stacks of penniesIn this activity, student teams in grades 8 and up learn about the engineering design process and physical forces by building a bridge from a single sheet of paper and up to five paper clips that will span 20 cm and support the weight of 100 pennies. Like real engineers, teams also have limited budgets and must make trade-offs in materials.

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The Eiffel Tower Turns 125

eiffel towerThe world’s most visited man-made monument turned 125 this year. Built for the Paris World’s Fair of 1889, French engineer Gustave Eiffel’s famous tower attracted scorn before it opened. But its role as a research lab for weather, aviation, and telecommunications helped ensure its longevity.

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‘Vertical’ Engineers Get Capital View

washington monument engineer1Structural engineer Emma Cardini has inspected some pretty impressive facades, including the Chicago Tribune Tower’s ornate spires and the Bridge of the Americas in Panama. Still, nothing compares with the capital bird’s eye view she literally enjoys on her latest job: rappelling down the marble sides of the Washington Monument to assess the damage from late August’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake.

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Pipe-Cleaner Towers

pipe cleanersIn this short, fun activity for students in grades 2 to 12, teams learn about the engineering design process, including constraints on time and materials, by building the tallest free-standing tower out of pipe-cleaners.

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Live Like an Animal

prairie dogMiddle school students learn about the engineering design process by building a model of an innovative human shelter inspired and informed by an animal habitat. They then present their work, explaining what attribute of the animal structure influenced their design.

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Engineering for the Three Little Pigs

Three Little Pigs laying bricksStudents learn about the importance of using the right materials for the job by building three different sand castles and testing them for strength and resistance to weathering. They then discuss how the buildings are different and what engineers need to think about when using rocks, soils, and minerals for construction.

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