Exploring the overlap between engineering and science




Gateway 8th graders have been exploring the overlap between engineering and science as they worked on building circuits.

To prepare for a few of the conceptual pieces involved, students built basic circuits with small motors, AA batteries, bulky telegraph-like contact keys, insulated wires with alligator jaws, and plenty of little incandescent light bulbs. Despite the humble nature of the equipment, students were exposed to many important ideas about circuits, especially when they ran into problems.

Students and teachers together set small goals for everyone. Then, the students take steps towards those goals, having to adjust their thinking and fiddle with things to make it over the hurdles. Once students start to make sense of some of the science behind the components, they are able to tackle more complex goals.

The sophistication of the project increased when the class collaborated with Krissie from our Discovery Center. She brought her knowledge of Arduino to the room, giving kids a chance to apply their previous circuitry sessions in a new context.

Over the course of the week, the students tried their hands at a number of projects using the SparkFun Redboard. These challenges combined students’ knowledge of the hardware with exposure to software that they were able to manipulate to make changes to their circuits.

After a few days of orientation with the new gear, students were tasked with building an autonomous car.