Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialist
“Do we need to change the angle of the wing?” “It nose‐dived…there is too much weight on the nose.” “ That’s it‐it worked perfectly!” Conversations in Mrs.Lukavsky’s 8th grade science class, Seymour Community School District, revolve around asking questions, planning and testing designs, analyzing data to look for patterns and brainstorming solutions. The students are building and testing gliders with specific constraints and group goals, as part of the A World In Motion (AWIM) STEM Scale‐Up program, Mrs. Lukavsky received for the 2014‐15 school year.
To launch the unit, each group built and tested a standard glider to test variables and further their understandings of the science concepts involved. Students explored the relationship between force and motion and the effects of weight and lift on a glider. In the next phase of the unit, students learned the relationships between data analysis and variable manipulations, and the importance of understanding consumer demands. The class was presented with survey results concerning what criteria would be most desirable in marketing the gliders. Based on the data in the survey, each group chose a goal and had certain constraints and criteria for their new glider design. That’s when the real challenges began.
Taylor, Casey and Hannah’s team liked the hands‐on approach of the unit but were still perfecting the design that will allow their glider to have the longest flight time in the class. Brittany, Wyatt, Riley and Dugan prefer the unit’s project based approach. They had to persevere through several iterations but were successful in completing a trick in mid‐flight (360 degree loop) and landing safely. The experience of seeing their glider reach the goal and criteria made the challenge of many redesigns worth it. Dillon, Nadia and Acey have contributed ideas to their design and were still in the testing and evaluating phase to build a glider that will fly the longest distance. Morgan, Colton, Sloan and Jacinda were using the survey suggestion of crafting a glider that will successfully fly but looks like a living thing.They have redesigned the wings and tail multiple times to meet the criteria and goals. They explained that this is similar to a project in an actual company, as designs have to meet customer wants and needs. Franchesca, Cheyanne, Caleb and Ty liked the creativity involved in the design process. They have enjoyed brainstorming and designing their wings striving to meet the criteria and goal of having the straightest flight pattern.
During the AWIM units teachers are encouraged to create community partnerships to make real world connections during the units. Mrs. Lukavsky arranged to have a guest speaker, John Houser, Senior Construction Specialist for Alliant Energy, talk about his engineering job during the introduction of the unit. In an upcoming component of the AWIM curriculum, The Fuel Cell Challenge, the community partnerships will continue to be built as volunteer, Tom Rembe, a retired science teacher, will lend expertise as the student teams design, build, and test prototype vehicles using a PEM Fuel Cell as the primary power source. The AWIM Fuel Cells Challenge requires students to explore physical science concepts such as force, friction and energy transformations as well as environmental concepts such as green design, and incorporates mathematics concepts as student teams collect, analyze and display data.
The culmination of the Glider project will involve the student groups communicating their results by creating a display boards that will present their design process, data analysis, discussion of the effect of the data on design iterations as well as displaying their final prototype glider complete with a company name and logo. The students will then be part of a spring student fair and open house showcasing science, industrial arts and fine art projects.
Mrs. Lukavsky finds, “the AWIM curriculum exciting to work with and has been truly inspirational to all of my students. They are developing team working skills while learning in a hands on atmosphere. The kids are excited everyday they walk into the classroom and are problem solving with science and loving every minute of it. The glider challenge is only one of the three pieces to the AWIM curriculum. It will be neat to see the success of all three components. The STEM grants have definitely contributed to the heightened interest in engineering and I do believe will result in my youth choosing that profession.”