Inquiry and Design – Two Peas in a Pod

Back in July, I wrote about using the Engineering Design Process as a tool to learn science. In the midst of writing the tutorials, reference and training materials for Oregon teachers to use the Engineering Design Process to be more effective and successful teaching science, I’ve made a few startling observations that I’d love to share with you.

Students Designing a Robotic Hand

Maybe you already know this but all science teachers teach scientific inquiry as part of their science curriculum. This is a national standard. You can teach science inquiry without ever referring to engineering design but you can’t teach engineering design without scientific inquiry. Engineering design supports inquiry and inquiry supports design. The two are peas in a pod.

In the book, “Teaching Engineering Made Easy: A Friendly Introduction to Engineering Activities for Middle School Teachers” you will notice in many challenge activities, students first use scientific inquiry to figure out what materials or combination of materials will make the best tower, cantilever, bridge, crane, hovercraft, roller coaster, rocket or whatever they are building. When they determine the proper building materials, they continue using other steps in the engineering design process to design the prefect entity, mechanism or creation to win the challenge. Without inquiry, the bridge would fail, the rocket wouldn’t leave the launch pad and the hovercraft wouldn’t hover.

Stay tuned, more startling observations are coming soon….

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