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2002 Content Institute for science teachers: Applying the engineering design process

Massachusetts state science learning standards for middle and high school grades include the engineering design process. To enhance teachers' understanding of the process and their comfort in teaching it, the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, in collaboration with the Cambridge Schools Science Department, offered a week-long summer institute to twenty Massachusetts teachers. The program focused on the design challenge of building a motor for a hand-held vacuum.

Professor Steven Leeb led the group through a consideration of the design features of the dustbuster. Participants then experienced the engineering design process firsthand by designing and constructing their own motors to meet the power requirements of the appliance. Once built, the motors were tested and evaluated. The teachers were joined for the three-day lab portion of this program by a group of 27 high school students who were on campus for the Womenís Technology Program.

The hands-on portion of the program was augmented with presentations by MIT faculty and research staff on the properties and technology of different materials used in the dustbuster (polymers, magnets, batteries). The group brainstormed possible improvements to their motors and reflected on what the activity taught them about the design process. The final day of the program was devoted to planning modules for classroom use. Each teacher received a small allowance
for materials to implement his or her module.

This institute was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Education. Teachers earned professional development credit for their participation. CMSE is offering this program in July 2003 as its Science Teacher Enrichment Program (STEP), and plans to develop similar programs on other materials-related topics useful to science teachers for subsequent years.

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