Engineering Week. It’s a lot like Shark Week, but with the kind of interaction where you learn to make the Miura fold instead of losing an arm.
Before going much further, watch the video at the top of my earlier blog post on this topic: AIMS Scholars Engineer Festively! From June 23, 2017. In it, you will see a rocket cart with no “recovery apparatus” attached. Note how far it travels.
During the week of June 19, 2017, a good portion of the present AIMS Scholars attended FPU’s Engineering in the Classroom Festival. It is a required course for those working on a MA in STEM Education and an option for a few other degrees. This year’s focus was on Mechanical Engineering. The participants, all of whom are teachers in the Central or Southern San Joaquin Valley of California, were provided instruction in several areas related to this theme. They passed through a rotation of classes with Mr. Daniel Loewen, Dr. Steve Pauls, and Ms. Aileen Rizo.
Dan’s section focused on the mechanics of slowing a rocket sled, and the mathematics needed to calculate precisely how much slowing could be accomplished with various apparatus. Of course, it’s easy to make a sled stop, just strap a big brick to the back of it that has too much mass for it to go anywhere. This was not the goal though. Instead, these teachers were to model, using mathematics, a few designs that met some very specific mass and volume limits and maximize slowing within those parameters.
Steve’s section focused upon the use of what are known as “Simple Machines” (internet hunt quiz time: what are those five machines, and are there examples of each of them within your muscular-skeletal system?). The teachers performed numerous physics experiments upon each of these machines to understand and communicate that understanding to students the properties at work.
Aileen’s section was the most eclectic. For this session, the teachers were investigating the physics and mechanics of paper-folding, its applications, and methods to model it within a virtual medium like a computer program. They folded paper to create rigid-structures that could withstand compression (a topic from last year’s Engineering Festival) in order to increase reference area for deployment in rocket systems. Then, they examined some very interesting fold patterns that occur in sudden compression. For example, what happens when a piece of paper is wrapped around two cylinders that are separated by a ¾” gap, then the two cylinders are twisted in opposite directions and pushed together to close the gap? Try it for yourself and see.
Now watch this video. In it, you will see AIMS Scholars who have mathematically modeled a particular paper fold and parachute volume that is designed to slow the rocket sled within a predicted distance. The fold came from the lessons learned within Aileen’s class, the use of machines was analyzed in Steve’s, and the modeling and application was accomplished in Dan’s. What do you suppose could come from this experience in the classrooms of these teachers? We are AIMSing (pun intended) for great things.