2nd Grade Engineering Structures

Posted by Laurie Sullivan at 2/14/2009 7:00:00 AM

Barrett second graders are using the Engineering Design Process as they rotate through three different stations related to engineering structures. The students have 50 minutes to complete each challenge. VazquezPosters

Challenge #1 – Build a tower to display the endangered Virginia Big-Eared bat

The second grade classes are taking on the engineering challenge of building a tower with wooden blocks to display a model of the endangered Virginia Big-Eared bat. Constraints: The display tower must be exactly two feet tall, be able to display the bat for at least 5 seconds, and be constructed of only one tub of 4”x1”x ¼” KEVA wooden blocks. Using the steps of the Engineering Design Process, the students first ASK by specifying the problem and constraints. Second, they IMAGINE by brainstorming ideas and trying various building techniques with a handful of blocks. Third, they PLAN with a partner, drawing a basic diagram and specifying their materials and supplies (ruler, timer, blocks). Fourth, they CREATE, building their towers with on-going modifications after towers fall, blocks run out, and inspirations arise. Next, it is time to think of ways to IMPROVE their designs to be sturdier or less costly by using fewer blocks. Finally, they visit each other’s towers and SHARE their experiences and ideas, ready for the next challenge. DSC05502 DSC05825


Challenge #2 – Design a moon base to withstand a meteoroid impact “moon quake”

This design challenge was modified from a lesson created by the Challenger Learning Center. The students began this station by looking at photos of the craters on the moon. Next they dropped meteoroids on our pretend moon surface to make craters. Before building a structure to withstand a “moon quake” made by a meteoroid, the students discussed the constraints of the challenge:

  • 10 – 15 popsicle sticks
  • Weigh no more than 200 grams (combined weight clay and sticks)
  • A plastic astronaut must be able to fit inside the structure
  • Time constraint – 1 class period

Students built and tested a variety of structures (see photos on Flickr and below). The students dropped their structures from increments of 10 cm, up to 100 cm. They recorded the result of each incremental 10cm fall on a data sheet. Many students modified their structures based on their experiences and observing other students’ structures. The engineering design process of ASK IMAGINE PLAN CREATE IMPROVE SHARE assisted the students in completing this challenge. Note – The design challenge was modified to include more constraints after the first two groups of students worked at the station. DSC06055 Flores DSC05523

DSC05784 DSC05785 DSC06033 Challenge #3 – Building Shelters for Different Environments and Climates Second graders used what they learned in social studies about the different kinds of Native American dwellings to design and build shelters for a variety of environments and climates. Each student chose an environment, drew a model of the shelter, and made a list of possible building materials prior to visiting the Discovery Lab. During building, students followed the Engineering Design Process to improve their shelters. Students shared how their homes met the needs of the people living in their chosen environments. Click here to listen to Mrs. Flores and a student discuss one of structures.


DSC06040 DSC06061 DSC06042 Click here to view a music slideshow of the 3 engineering structures stations – I was having trouble posting the complete music slideshow to FLICKR, so I posted it to YouTube. To view all the photos taken so far, go to Flickr . Note: We will be rotating through the stations for the rest of the month.