“Problem-Solvers” use Engineering to Solve Real-World Challenges

By January 5, 2021January 11th, 2021Articles

Introducing young students to fun and engaging problem-solving quests can turn an ordinary school project into an extraordinary engineering experience. In Grace Lower School, our students learn to think like engineers by completing real-world challenges that are exciting and engaging.

“Children are born as engineers,” said Lesli Higginbotham, Lower School STEM teacher. “They are fascinated with building, taking things apart, and studying how things work. As an educator, it’s my job to help them connect those dots; and to develop those natural instincts in a way that will promote a love of learning and discovery.”

Operation Aid Drop

Lower School students were challenged to engineer “aid drop packages” as part of their most recent STEM unit.

Guided by the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum, students were immersed in a fictional tale of monsoon rains causing severe flooding in Thailand. They then had to use each step of the Engineering Design Process to design their aid drop package.

“I really enjoy teaching STEM using elements of the EiE curriculum,” said Higginbotham. “Each unit centers on meaningful, open-ended problems with a global context allowing our students to discover more about the role engineering plays in their lives and the world around them.”

To the Rescue

The goal was simple. Work together to design an aid drop package that focused on three major functions – protect, display and communicate. They had to make sure the package would protect the supplies, was easy to see, and communicated what was inside.

First, the student had to create two different model aid drop packages. They had to figure out how to keep ten pieces of pasta and two flat marbles safe in a sandwich bag dropped at five feet. Second, they had to add hard casing and soft padding to see how well that could protect the package when they dropped it. Finally, after reviewing the results, students were challenged to attach wings, a parachute, and a canopy to help the package slow down during landfall.

As the final piece of the puzzle, the students were asked to reflect on their findings – to explain what worked, what needed to be improved, and how they could make their packages work better.

About Grace School

Grace School is a private school in Houston, Texas serving students from ages 20 months through Grade 8. Uniquely combining a faith-based, STEM curriculum, Grace School fosters an environment where children develop the skills and mindsets to become compassionate innovators, problem solvers, creators, and changemakers.