Helping Nevada’s Homeless – A 4th grade NGSS STEM Engineering Lesson – an introduction

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Last year I was part of a team funded by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology to provide the first Engineering Fellows Program for 5th grade teachers. The model learning sequence we started the program with was about the issue of plastic pollution, specifically how it effects the ocean. 5th grade students were challenged to design and engineer a way to remove plastic from the ocean.

This year the program is focused on 4th grade teachers and their students. The model NGSS aligned engineering lesson we’ll start them with is about helping the homeless by engineering a way for them to charge devices when they have little to no access to electricity. The teachers (and their students) will learn how homeless people face the issue of being contacted after they’ve interviewed for a job (or a doctor’s appointment and other issues). So being able to recharge a phone or other devices could aid them in solving their homeless situation.

I plan to post the whole lesson sequence later, but wanted to share the basic concept since I was working on it a bit today assembling this simple alternator.

Students, in small groups, will assemble the alternator, including wrapping the wire, which is no easy feat. Next, after researching the issues that the homeless deal with, students will design a way to spin their alternator to generate electricity. We will NOT share any ideas for this with students, but I would assume some might design a handle or perhaps some kind of wind turbine or who knows? That’s the messy learning part I love. I put one together today and had some issues getting the wire to wind without kinking. Teachers will do this themselves during our first meeting so that they gain worthwhile experience that helps facilitate their students later in class.

My alternator worked fine lighting the LED. You spin the green axle to generate electricity.

The grant pays for materials for the teacher sessions and the materials they’ll need for their students. In addition at the end of the program teachers will get a grant for $1,000 to purchase the materials required to teach lessons they and their colleagues develop during the program. I’ll share our progress along the way.

Learning is messy!

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