Last year, we rolled out a new series of curriculum packages called 3-D Printing: Explorations in Innovation. Using uber-cool technology – 3-D printing – students design and complete projects using the Afinia H-Series 3D Printer. Engineering never looked like so much fun. Students fully engage in the engineering process with step-by-step procedures that require the problem to be identified, background research completed, testing completed, results analyzed, and results presented. In Vehicle Engineering, students design and create a battery-powered vehicle. In Design Solutions, they create two small designs. Students use technology to build and test something they've made. Students show the teacher what they’ve done and how they did it; we call this a performance assessment. Performance assessments are great ways of showing what you know. However, knowledge-based assessments are often the preferred method of testing.
That’s why we revisited the 3-D Printing: Explorations in Innovation packages this winter. Curriculum specialists added written pretests and posttests so students can not only engage in hands-on learning with performance assessments but also demonstrate gains in knowledge through traditional assessments.
With 3-D Printing, students can engage in experiential learning, performance assessments, and knowledge assessments – and they can create a really cool project to show to their friends. Gotta run. I think my project has almost finished printing! Related links: 3-D Printing: Design Solutions Curriculum 3-D Printing: Vehicle Engineering Class Pack 3-D Printing Packages (blog)


By Greg Reiva, High School Teacher, Streamwood High School, Streamwood, Illinois

This January, I plan to literally put things in motion while exploring the dynamics of velocity, acceleration, and force with my students in conceptual physics class. Engaging students, challenging their abilities, and creating value for what they learn is no easily achievable goal, but doing real science in the science classroom is achievable, relatable to students, and just plain exciting. It provides the rigor, relationships, and relevance essential to learning in the 21st century.

Everything we do this spring semester will fall under the umbrella of energy. It is one of the most challenging concepts in physics to grasp and to be able to truly relate to the world that surrounds us. For students this is the pinnacle of understanding when exploring ideas and concepts associated with the universe and its transformation over time.

The true essence of the concepts of energy play a pivotal role in describing 21st-century models of matter and its existence in the universe. It defines our human existence within it. At the center of any science curriculum should be the study of the production, use, and transformation of energy. This helps students understand the majestic structure of the universe and with that our human dependence on energy for life.

Implementing inquiry-based models of learning in the classroom, along with project-based learning opportunities, provide students with the means and the motivation to do real science. This study of energy provides an excellent opportunity for students to utilize their skills and abilities to discover relationships, define laws of physics, and understand interdependencies of multiple sources of energy that yield sustenance each and every day.

Solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, hand electric generators, electric motors, gear-driven systems, electric cars, and mousetrap cars provide an introduction to the wealth of resources available to teachers and students. It galvanizes creative minds, helping them to become engaged and motivated to become both innovative and inquisitive in nature.

Energy efficiencies and the transfer of energy from one source to another helps define a system’s viability and capability. To be competent in the determination of the flow of energies is to be able to manage a system’s productivity and maximize its outputs. The goal of any energy-producing system is to provide the means to create outcomes that produce work, transfer energies, and support networks of human endeavor.

A sustainable energy-producing system will minimize energy consumption while maximizing outputs. A sustainable energy-producing system will access sources of energy that are carbon free and completely self-sustaining. Nonrenewable energy resources are a relic of the 20th century. Energy awareness in the 21st century begins with students in primary and secondary grades embracing sustainability as a way of life and working to bring this belief into their homes and into their communities.

The Electric Car Project provides teachers with the resources and pedagogy to implement inquiry-based models of learning in the science classroom. This project builds student understanding of the physics of motion and transcends into learning opportunities that require problem solving and critical thinking. Students work on a wide spectrum of energy-driven vehicles utilizing many forms of energy (mechanical energy, electrical energy, solar energy, chemical energy, and associated sources of energy transfers) to produce motion.

This project is a model of learning that builds upon prior knowledge and abilities while offering engaging challenges directed at students’ intrinsic motivation to learn. The rigor of the project is embedded within the concepts and learned principles as part of the science curriculum. The development of relationships during the project is fostered within students’ increased sense of autonomy, developed self-efficacy, and a renewed openness to new ideas with collaborative efforts among peers. The relevance of doing inquiry-based research, as part of a science project methodology, contributes to an ecological conservatism; this is rooted in the belief of restoring a sense of community’s self-sufficiency, developing a commitment to raising the quality of life for all members of society, and creating a deepened sense of engagement to lifetime goals.

Related links: Electric Energy Prop Racer An Engineer Looks at Solar Water Heating Eco-Wind Gen Video (DVD)


There are many ways to learn math. You can pick up a math book and start working through the problems with your kids, which is important and has to be done, or you can give them practical opportunities to learn math. Recently my two boys decided that they wanted to have a hot chocolate stand. They thought that it would be a great idea to earn some extra spending money. So, after a little bit of persistent pleading on their part, I took them to the store to buy hot chocolate, cups, marshmallows, and so on. They then asked how much I thought that they should charge per cup. This was our first math opportunity. We sat down and figured out how much all of the ingredients cost, how many servings they could get, how much they wanted to make from each cup they sold, and how many cups they needed to sell in order to at least break even on their costs. It was a great practical lesson in business math. For a second math opportunity, they decided that they would give a 10-percent discount to senior citizens. I helped my older son learn the concept of a percentage off of a price and be able to figure that out in his head. In addition to that, they both got practice in making change, dealing with the customer, and marketing by making signs that stretched across our whole yard. The best thing about this experience was that it was fun. They learned several valuable lessons, all while having a great time and selling about $20 worth of hot chocolate. They didn’t even mind sitting out in the freezing weather. Practical math is all around us; we just have to be willing to look around and give our kids the opportunities to find it. Whether it be a visit to the store to help with the shopping, figuring out the gas mileage on a long trip, or learning fractions while baking in the kitchen, math is everywhere.