Engineering Design: Water Wheels

The last quarter of science in Indiana is Science, Technology and Engineering. We start this quarter with a pretty simple engineering project:  creating a water wheel (we did the linked project in summer engineering camp but we modified it for the school year).  I begin the project by showing the students videos of water wheels (mill wheels) so that they have an idea of what they will be creating.

Next we start to go through the Engineering Design Plan.

Step one is stating the problem.  The students have to describe the problem that we want to solve.

Step two is the design criteria. What must the product be able to do? What limits do we have to wok within? (materials, size, time, etc) You can have some fun with this. You can give the students a budget and "charge" them for the materials. Budget = $1,000; 1 inch of tape = $50; 1 paper plate= $100

Step three is the brainstorming area.  What ideas do we have about ways to get the product to meet the Design Criteria?

This student had an unfair advantage with this project as she was in my 5/6 split last year and had already done the project one else's brainstorming ideas were as specific as these.
Step four is the designing. The students must draw their design and plan for building the prototype to scale.

Here are some pictures of the early stages of design.

Step five is testing, evaluating, and redesigning.  The students must test their design. What was tried? What was the result? Next the student evaluate their design. Does it meet one or more of the design criteria? Lastly, they need to redesign.  What changes could we make for a design that meets more of the criteria?

Step six is the design solution for the problem.

I don't have access to water outside, so we used rice instead. We also used sand when I did our training session with the other 6th grade teachers.  Here are some pictures of us testing the water wheels.

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