10 Engineering Projects Sure to Excite Students

Engineer This: 10 Amazing Projects for Young Mechanical Engineers
By Carol J. McBride and Francisco L. Gonzales
(Prufrock Press Inc., 2017 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Linda Biondi

Ready? Lights! Camera! Action! Get your video camera out. Engineer This: 10 Amazing Projects for Young Mechanical Engineers is a book that is written to excite and challenge young children.

You won’t hear complaints of “I’m bored” with these ideas. More like, “When can we do this again? Let me try!”

This beyond fabulous book by Carol J. McBride and Francisco L. Gonzales is absolutely perfect from start to finish. It can be used to supplement a STEM curriculum, be the foundation of a STEM curriculum, or serve as a perfect gift to give a budding young engineer (or oldish one).

It’s also a book that fits into most teachers’ budgets since many of the materials that are needed you can find around your house or in the recycle bin (such as paper towel rolls and egg cartons).

You will want to capture these lessons on videotape! You will be capturing the sounds of success, excitement, and exploration as students discuss what to do and how to do it, all within a science period.

What’s in it for the students

I like the way the book is written, giving the student or reader a sense of being in control of his/her learning. The student becomes the engineer as soon as they begin to read the book. They are given a mission …”to solve problems in creative ways … to experiment and change your perspective to see if you can help something work even better … to challenge you to hypothesize, learn from failure, explore alternative methods and materials for success, and – more than that – think like an engineer.”

The authors treat the reader of the book (the student) with professionalism and guidance. From the onset the authors explain how the book is set up: projects progressing in difficulty, safety guidelines, and extended engineering and science activities that enhance the concept being addressed. Color photos as well as an extended glossary aid the reader with following the directions.

Table of Contents
Projects
Bat Wings
Parachutes
Glider
Clown in the Box
Climbing Creatures
Bobbing Dog
Rubber Band-Propelled Car
Catapult
It Lay a Egg
Motorcar

What is notably impressive is in the beginning of the book. McBride and Gonzales provide a thorough explanation of the engineering process to the students with concrete examples.

  • Ask
  • Imagine
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Improve

Equally important is the message the authors give to the students that they will be learning from real-life engineers and working like real-life professionals such as materials engineers, mechanical engineers, civil engineers, structural engineers and renewable energy engineers. Just think about it! Students are being introduced to skills and occupations – careers that they might have never considered.

I love how they speak to the reader. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Gliders will crash. Parachutes may not open…You will likely have to tweak your designs in order to succeed – just like an engineering professional.”

As the students work on the projects, they will be introduced to creativity, innovative thinking, teamwork, resilience, and inner rewards. Mathematics, technology, and computational skills are seamlessly inherent within the experiences and experiments.

To be a teacher today is exciting. Worlds of wonder are so accessible. Throughout this book are opportunities for students, their teachers, and their parents to work together to question and experiment through the engineering process. The experiments in the book are well written, with the child’s thought process in mind, with clear and easy-to-follow directions using free/recycled or inexpensive items.

Students will learn that engineering is more than reading a text or viewing predicted results but rather involves observing, analyzing, and reflecting. They will learn that engineering processes offer a way to push their thinking, using what they observe to identify possible problems and try to create a solution.

A teacher, parent, student friendly book

Whether you are a teacher looking for STEM materials to enhance your teaching, working on a STEM curriculum for your district, or in charge of an after-school STEM program, or are a parent looking for some fantastic activities to share with your child, this book is for you!

Carol J. McBride and Francisco L. Gonzales have written the ultimate teacher, parent, student friendly book full of 10 “beyond amazing “ projects that will prompt you to contact them and ask, “When is the second volume of this book being published?”

Watch for it in April, 2018!

Linda Biondi recently retired as a fourth grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, NJ and long-time Morning Meeting practitioner. She is the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project, and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel and with ECET2 Celebrate Teaching.

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