Good news! My newest book, The Green Engineer: Engineering Career to Save the Earth, is being used as a textbook in a seminar class at The Ohio State University! I’m thrilled that these students will see the connections between their careers, engineering, and making a healthier world. They’ll understand that “green” engineers are everywhere and in every discipline. Hurray!
Two weeks from today, I’ll have the opportunity to present a simultaneous teacher and high school girl summer camp that I have designed. Working with Lane Matheson at the Tulsa Engineering Academy at Memorial High School, we collaborated on designing a one-week camp that will train teachers on delivering specific activities (alternative energy, electronic clothing, furniture design, prosthetics, etc.) and then lead sections of the summer camp. For example, on Monday the teachers will learn to create a prosthetic hand. On Tuesday, they will teach the girls to create their own prosthetic hand. By using what they have learned in an informal education environment, we hope the teachers will retain, embrace and take back to their classrooms, more of what they have learned and experienced.
The response from the girls has been encouraging and exciting. We have 28 signed up so far and are looking forward to a great week!
I’m happy to announce that a few weeks ago, I won the contract to write and develop tutorials, reference and training materials for grade 1 through 12 Oregon teachers to use the Engineering Design Process to be more effective and successful teaching science.
Since 2009, the Oregon state standards have included “Engineering Design” as a core “Science Process Skill” in the curriculum. The term Engineering Design describes the concept of using the practical application of scientific principles to everyday problems as a method for teaching students about science. The documents that I am composing are intended to help teachers understand, and answer the following questions:
- What characterizes Engineering Design processes and how are they used?
- What are some good ways to teach students about the Engineering Design process?
- How can the Engineering Design process be used to:
- motivate students to learn science,
- increase the depth of their understanding, and
- build skills that allow them to use science to solve practical problems?
- What exercises might be used to familiarize students with the Engineering Design process at the same time they learn science content knowledge?
It’s very exciting to think that I will have a hand in helping all students in Oregon gain a foothold in STEM education. Although the term “busy” is an understatement about my life right now, opportunities like this don’t come around everyday. When the train pulled out of the station, I made sure I was on-board.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress….
Back when I just finished my biomedical engineering degree at Louisiana Tech University, I began an MBA in entrepreneurship and needed something to pay the bills. Fortunately for me, I got a job at a Science Teacher Training Center on campus called Project LIFE (Project LIFE is a multi-year professional development program for middle grades and high school teachers of life science and biology. The project focuses on ecology, environmental science, and organismal biology.) I came on as the Director of Integrated Technology of the NSF program and tried to find ways to help science teachers infuse more technology into the classroom. I maintained their website, helped with workshops, produced training CDs, and edited manuals.
In this center, I shared an office with Cathi Cox (now Cathi Cox-Boniol). Cathi had been a science teacher for the last seventeen years and was ready for a change. Sharing an office with her was an eye-opening experience. She was a powerhouse of a woman – always juggling several balls with one hand, the biggest Elvis fan I had ever met, and an amazing advocate for science education. I knew when we met that I had a lot to learn from her but I never expected she would change my life the way she did.
When I left Louisiana Tech to start the Engineering Education Service Center, Cathi and I were already plotting and planning to produce Teaching Engineering Made Easy. There were very few models to follow and we wanted to offer a fun and inexpensive introduction to engineering activities that would not only engage students but also enhance their learning experience. After nearly ten years of writing, refining, testing and evaluating, we are happy to be releasing this new and improved second edition.
Whether the activities are designed to teach engineering or enhance science education by using the engineering design process, each time we collaborate on a project, I’m amazed at how our individual strengths complement each other. Collaboration and teamwork is a key component to engineering success and in this case, a great example of how we are stronger because of it.
You may be wondering how engineering can enhance an Olympic event such as swimming, but perhaps a better question would be what couldn’t engineering do for swimming? To enhance the sport of swimming, engineers design everything from the swimming pool that reduces turbulence generated by the swimmers, to the swimsuit that reduces a swimmer’s resistance through the water, to the high-tech computerized racing systems used at Olympic events.
Engineers and scientists at Adidas found that the following variables enhanced a swimmer’s performance:
- Body temperature – Studies indicate that athletes have more power when they run a slight fever. The higher temperature induces chemical reactions that make muscles contract faster.
- Drag – When swimming, water sticks to your body and forms a boundary layer called surface drag. The bodysuits worn by competitive swimmers were specifically developed to reduce drag.
- Muscle oscillation – This is a problem in many sports that causes fatigue. Muscle oscillation is when an athletes muscles-in-motion look like Jell-O. Bodysuits help reduce oscillation because they aid in compressing the muscle.
- Tight suits – Wearing a tight suit enhances a swimmers performance and also improves the proprioception. Proprioception refers to the nervous system’s interpretation of its body position based on how the suit presses against the skin. Athletes that feel stronger and more in tune with their muscles will perform better. According to Adidas, “the suit creates compression that allows the nervous system to provide better feedback on where the body is positioned.”
Swimming Pool Design
Aside from suits, there is tremendous engineering that goes into designing a swimming pool for Olympic competitions. The governing body for Olympic swimming pool design is the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA). FINA specifies the depth, width, length, space between the lanes, and temperature of the pool. Engineers that design the heating systems for the Summer Olympic Games work tirelessly to maintain one million gallons of water at 78 degrees.
In the 1920’s, Olympic hopefuls vied for the gold medal by swimming in cold and dark water. Today, swimming pool engineers enable swimmers to swim faster in a cleaner, temperature regulated and generally more pleasant environment. However, a major problem in racing is surface turbulence. Each swimmer in every lane creates wave patterns that have the potential of increasing the turbulence for other swimmers. Engineers determined that the best way to decrease turbulence was to move the swimmer’s wakes to the bottom of the pool. If the waves were allowed to move from side to side they would only create more waves. By using pumps to increase the surface tension or pressure on the surface of the water, engineers were able to reduce wave action. Over one hundred inlets in a 360-degree pattern as well as extra gutters allowed swimmers from 24 countries to break more than 120 records during the Sydney Olympic games!
Other Amazing Technologies
There is no limit to the number of things that engineers can do to enhance swimming. Other technology in swimming that is quickly coming to the forefront includes using computer simulations to analyze and optimize strokes. By careful analysis, scientists and engineers have been able to gain solid evidence about how the body actually moves through the water and it may soon be possible to design the perfect stroke. Miniature computer displays indicating lap time, timers and the current time are being mounted inside goggles or on swim gear to act as a display while swimming. Fins are being designed with new tough and flexible materials to help divers kick easier and transfer more power with less effort.
To become an Olympic Games Engineer, check out High Tech Hot Shots: Careers in Sports Engineering.