The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate the importance of rocks, soils and minerals in engineering and how using the right material for the right job is important. The students build three different sand castles and test them for strength and resistance to weathering. Then, they discuss how the buildings are different and what engineers need to think about when using rocks, soils and minerals for construction.
Students randomly select jelly beans (or other candy) that represent genes for several human traits such as tongue-rolling ability and eye color. Then, working in pairs (preferably of mixed gender), students randomly choose new pairs of jelly beans from those corresponding to their own genotypes. The new pairs are placed on toothpicks to represent the chromosomes of the couple's offspring. Finally, students compare genotypes and phenotypes of parents and offspring for all the "couples" in the class. In particular, they look to see if there are cases where parents and offspring share the exact same genotype and/or phenotype, and consider how the results would differ if they repeated the simulation using more than four traits.
Students are introduced to our planet's structure and its dynamic system of natural forces through an examination of the natural hazards of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, tsunamis, floods and tornados, as well as avalanches, fires, hurricanes and thunderstorms. They see how these natural events become disasters when they impact people, and how engineers help to make people safe from them. Students begin by learning about the structure of the Earth; they create clay models showing the Earth's layers, see a continental drift demo, calculate drift over time, and make fault models. They learn how earthquakes happen; they investigate the integrity of structural designs using model seismographs. Using toothpicks and mini-marshmallows, they create and test structures in a simulated earthquake on a tray of Jell-O. Students learn about the causes, composition and types of volcanoes, and watch and measure a class mock eruption demo, observing the phases that change a mountain's shape. Students learn that the different types of landslides are all are the result of gravity, friction and the materials involved. Using a small-scale model of a debris chute, they explore how landslides start in response to variables in material, slope and water content. Students learn about tsunamis, discovering what causes them and makes them so dangerous. Using a table-top-sized tsunami generator, they test how model structures of different material types fare in devastating waves. Students learn about the causes of floods, their benefits and potential for disaster. Using riverbed models made of clay in baking pans, students simulate the impact of different river volumes, floodplain terrain and levee designs in experimental trials. They learn about the basic characteristics, damage and occurrence of tornadoes, examining them closely by creating water vortices in soda bottles. They complete mock engineering analyses of tornado damage, analyze and graph US tornado damage data, and draw and present structure designs intended to withstand high winds.