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Earth Day Resources

Earth in Our HandsKids love exploring the world around them, and Earth Day offers a great way to introduce them to environmental science and engineering. The following sampler includes activities, lessons, and resources that promote green engineering and science learning.

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Trash Sliders

Trash sliders at 2015 ASEE K12 workshopIn this activity, teams of middle school students express their creativity while learning the fundamentals of engineering design, sustainability, and the basic physics of forces and motion by building a vehicle out of recycled trash that is capable of transporting liquid over rough terrain with as little spillage as possible.

Note: This activity can be scaled for high school or upper elementary students.

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Hidden Wealth in Food Waste?

Union Market composting garbageThe world wastes 1.4 billion tons of food annually, with the average American chucking out 250 pounds’ worth. Designers, engineers, and even restaurants are shrinking that global garbage heap with innovations ranging from “smart” food packaging to urban composting.

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What a Dump!

landfillIn this activity, teams of students in grades 5 to 7 learn about environmental, civil, and sanitation engineering by designing and building model landfills that hold the most garbage, minimize costs, and prevent trash and contaminated “rainwater” from polluting the nearby “city.” Teams test their landfills, and graph and compare designs for capacity, cost, and performance.

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Competition: Trash Design Challenge, San Jose, CA. From Sept. 25, 2010

test rigTech Challenge 2011, sponsored by The Tech Museum, in San Jose, CA, this is an annual team design challenge for youth in grades 5 through 12 that introduces and reinforces the scientific process with a hands-on project geared to solve a real-world problem. This year’s challenge has students devise ways to rid the oceans of trash. Information Clinics begin Sept. 25, 2010, through Feb. 2011.

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Lesson: Life After Trash

Student teams use the engineering design process to create a useful product of their choice out of recyclable items and “trash.” The class is given a “landfill” of reusable items and allowed a limited amount of bonding materials. The activity addresses the importance of reuse and encourages students to look at ways they can reuse items they would normally throw away. Students are further prompted to consider the problems with growing landfills, and efforts by engineers and others to reduce pollution, emissions, and trash production.

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Feature: Warrior Against Poverty

From helping impoverished trash workers in Argentina to transforming the way Canadian engineering students learn, Caroline Baillie has been a tireless champion of fostering social justice through engineering, challenging her colleagues and students to make ethics a core concern in their work.

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