Let’s Build a City – Fradin + Derras

Name of Unit

Let’s Build a City! (An Introduction to Engineering)


Laura Fradin, Amel Derras





Brief Description

This unit is an introduction to various types of engineering. As a way to connect all of the mini units, we will be “designing a city” which requires the work of electrical, mechanical, civil, environmental engineers.




civil, mechanical, electrical, jqs, 5th grade, engineering, non-NXT

Number of Weeks


Week 1

Egg Drop: This activity was used to reintroduce the students to the Engineering Design Process.http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2013/06/24/egg-helmet/

Week 2

Intro to Chemical Engineering: This activity is the one that fails to fit into the idea of “building a city”. However, because this class took place on Chinese New Year, the class was reduced to 7 students and we figured it was still a fun way to so science without starting a bigger unit that missing students would be confused by upon returning. Flubber, Ooblek, Vinegar+Salt clean pennies.http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2014/01/28/flubber/

Week 3

Intro to Electrical Engineering: Static Electricity and Lightning. Students will use household materials to create and electric current similar to lightning. Students will also learn about protons an electrons.http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2013/07/16/super-sparker-static-electricity/

Week 4

Electrical Engineering: How does electricity work?After explaining the basic vocabulary and design of a circuit, we did the Human Circuit. We divided the class into groups of 5 and each member of the group was one of the following: battery, wire/electron flow, lightbulb, switch, and resistor. They discussed with their groups how they would act out a circuit and then performed their short skit to the class. I think it gave them a much better understanding of how circuits worked compared to the beginning talk/lecture section.http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2013/11/01/act-out-electricity/After the students have learned the basics of a circuit, they made their own using snap circuits. This allowed students to experiment with resistors, open/closed circuits, and distributing the power source to allow two things to be “turned on” at once.http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2014/01/22/snap-circuits/

Week 5

Electrical Engineering- Build a Lamp Post or Traffic Light http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2014/01/15/flashlight/Using wire, batteries, and light bulbs, students will create a working circuit. To take this activity one step further, they have to design a lamppost/casing structure that will support the wire, battery and light bulb, just like lamp posts and traffic lights do. It must be able to stand up on its own. Since our “city” that we will be building needs an electrical component, we thought this would be a good way to show the practical uses of electrical engineering in a city.

Week 6

Intro to Civil Engineering-Building the Structures of a Cityhttp://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/2014/03/05/city-buildings/

This activity is meant to introduce the kids to civil engineering. We discuss what civil engineers do, some things they build, and materials they use to build. After brainstorming buildings that go in a city, each partner group picks one building to build using a variety of different provided materials. A big part of this activity is planning (EDP) to keep the kids focused.

Week 7

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