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3rd Grade STEM Design Challenge: Engineer Weather Shelters

3rd Grade STEM Design Challenge: Engineer Weather Shelters
To conclude their study of weather, the third graders completed a real-world engineering design challenge. The students were tasked with the challenge of building a wind and water-resistant structure in response to the driving question, "How can engineering help us build homes and buildings that withstand severe weather?" Each structure had to meet the following criteria: it had to have a minimum height of 15 cm., a minimum base of 100 square cm., and at least two stories. It also had to last 20 seconds in the wind (a fan) and rain (a spray bottle).
To complete the challenge, the students learned about structural engineers and followed the engineering design process. They worked collaboratively in small groups to conduct research, brainstorm ideas, draw a detailed plan, build and test a prototype, and share their work. Like real engineers, they learned that the design process is iterative; the students had the opportunity to test their prototypes, prior to the final presentation, and identify/solve problems. This project was rooted in a real-world scenario, and it gave the students the opportunity to work on all of the 21st-century learning skills. It was both meaningful and FUN, which is what learning should be!