Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set...Engineer! What is Engineering?

What is Engineering? (Ages 7-11)


Join Civil Engineer Carrie Feuer P.E. as we explore what things around us are engineered and brainstorm/prototype our own inventions!

As kids are arriving, display non-fiction, biography, picture book & fiction books on engineering & inventions – optional read one to the early arrivals. 609s, 620s, plus Dotty Inventions (and Some Real Ones Too) – Roger McGough (J609 MCG),  Rosie Revere, Engineer - Andrea Beaty (& her Iggy Peck, Architect), The Most Magnificent Thing – Ashley Spires, If I Built a Car / House – Chris Van Dusen, Hooray for Inventors – Marcia Williams (609.22 WIL) (graphic novel), So You Want to Be an Inventor – 608 St. George, Girls Think of Everything– Catherine Thimmesh (609.2 THI),  Imaginative Inventions 609 HAR, Incredible Inventions: Poems 811.008 INC,11 Experiments that Failed – Jenny Offill, You Choose (JFic You) series.

Biographies about: Elijah McCoy (The Real McCoy, All Aboard), Edison, Jacques Cousteau, Leonardo Da Vinci, Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein, It’s a Snap: George Eastman’s First Photograph, The Man Who Made Time Travel – Lasky (JB Harrison), Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs – Meghan McCarthy, Spic-and-Span: Lillian Gilbreath’s Wonder Kitchen – Monica Kulling,  Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World - Elizabeth Rusch,  In the Bag: Margaret Knight Wraps Its Up -- Monica Kulling, The (Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer, Ben Franklin’s Big Splash – Barb Rosenstock

Opened by asking: What is engineering?  What is an engineer?  What do engineers do? Do they know any engineers.

Carrie Feuer pulled out some manufactured objects and asked – is this engineered?     What do engineers look like? – share some non-stereotypical pictures (at bottom of this program plan).

“Scientists study the world as it is; engineers create the world that has never been.” --Theodore van Karman, physicist and NASA aerospace engineer


Explore the Engineering Design Process:




Group the kids into teams (<= 4 people) – challenge: “design and build a device that will slow the descent (define) of an object”  (The original SciGirls resources used the word “parachute” but the scigirls training suggested making it a more open-ended challenge – the directions below have been modified to reflect that.)   

Before they start designing -- Ask – why would you need something like this? (SciGirls research discovered that girls particularly like to think about reasons for tech) Possible answers: people jumping out of airplanes, humanitarian delivery of food or medicine to places that a plane can’t land, escape from a tall building…


Parachute Parade



  • Several items from this list: plastic wrap, tissues, paper towels, plastic bags, tissue paper, coffee filters, handkerchiefs, straws 
  • 1 toy minifigure (Lego, for example)
  • string or thread or yarn
  • scissors
  • tape
  • paper and pencil
  • optional: stopwatch


  1. Your challenge is to make something that will slow the descent of a toy minifigure  (You can work in groups of up to 4 people). 
  2. Take a few minutes to brainstorm designs before beginning.
  3. Then we’ll test them and see how they work.  We’ll see which design helps our Lego guy/gal to fall the slowest (has the most drag).
  4. We can make a prediction before testing. (Stand on a chair and use a stopwatch to time each descent and/or hold two at the same height and drop them at the same time – which has the most drag?)
  5. Look at your results. Was your prediction correct? Why did one minifigure descend slower than another?

See More Tips in the PDF

More info at

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more at: 

additional pictures of an unconventional mechanical engineer – Lyra Levin, Chief Mechanical Engineer at – building a 15ft high robot & hanging from one of its arms…


and at Burning Man 2015 building a musical Tesla coil:



More Pix at

7.2016 BWL

Next time: Water Water Everywhere & Not a Drop to Drink! (Ages 7-11)

Join Civil Engineer Carrie Feuer P.E.  as we do hands-on explorations of how water goes from dirty to clean.

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