A recent competition challenging students to build a piston and cylinder system allowed eighth graders to use scientific notation to handle large numbers and work much as scientists and engineers do.
“During my first visit I showed each of the classes how a piston/ cylinder system operated in a variety of applications that they might be familiar with. I then deconstructed the entire system into individual components, and each team was responsible for their own component,” Meath said. “I explained how each component interacted and interfaced with other components in the system to create energy.”
The students formed teams of three and four each, and designed each part using scientific notation. During 30 minute presentations, they unveiled their designs in class.
“They had to present it like they were selling their design to Mr. Meath,” Wigden said. “The piston/cylinder was a real-life application of the math they had been using. The element of competition was to simulate what an engineering company goes through to acquire business from potential clients.”