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Archives: February, 2014

Test Your Cable Car  February 28th, 2014

The mechanical engineering team wants to help you with some of your cable car requirements. First, you must have requirements that are testable.  You also need to find the best test for the requirements you want to meet.  The guys show you how their cable car testing was done and signed off by their professor. Just a reminder your cable car must: cross the 5-foot span of string without falling off, balance on the span without any assistance, have no more than two strings may be used for the cable car, have no human assistance can be used during the operation of the cable car, be able to move in both directions, be reliable and safe, and travel quickly. Good luck!

More Help From the Engineering Team  February 24th, 2014

The group wants to show you how their project is coming along.  Alex, Erik, and Jared are excited to show you how they incorporated their materials into their own cable car reality.

Alex shows you how the team incorporated scale into their design.  A scale is the size you determine your cable car to be.  The group shows us how they used a computer to decide their scale and then put it into practice. Remember the group is making a larger scale project, but these tips can still be applied to you.

Jared and the SMILE Team strongly encourage you to use safety while creating your project.  Jared also tells us about manufacturing and how laying out your project is an important first step.  Remember mistakes happen and it is important to stay positive while working with your group. We encourage you to ask questions on the blog and keep checking back!

Earth Science  February 21st, 2014

As an addition to the schoolyard geology activities that were shared in Matt Nyman’s session during the Winter 2014 SMILE Teacher’s Workshop, here is a 4-lesson unit on Earth Science that can be done in the classroom.

Lesson 1 – Earth Layers

This lesson explores Earth, and it’s layers.  Students will be able to construct their own mini Earths according to different layers.


Lesson 2 – Plate Tectonics

Students will be able to explore the plates and their boundaries of the Earth. This lesson serves to explain how earthquakes and volcanoes come to be.



Lesson 3 – Earthquakes

This lesson explores earthquakes, how they happen, and how to stay safe.



Lesson 4 – Volcanoes

Students will explore the different Pacific Northwest volcanoes and get the opportunity to construct their own volcanoes.


Bottle Biology and Garbage Eating Worms  February 19th, 2014

At the SMILE Teacher’s Workshop Spring 2013, Brad Agenbroad and Ian Niktab presented similar activities to those below.  Other activities can be found on their blog.


Bottle Biology

This activity helps students explore the connection between land and water by allowing them to build a TerraAqua Column and change different variables of the system and observing their effects. These TerraAqua Columns are made from an empty two-liter bottle and other easily recycled items that can be acquired at little to no cost.



2-Liter Bottle Worm Bin: Garbage Eating Worms

In this activity students will learn about the importance that earthworms and microorganisms play in creating soil.  Students will make their own worm farm and will be able to watch the worms turn organic garbage into soil. This hands on activity can also be made easily with found materials.


The links below have really clear instructions that should be easy to follow. The last link is for a larger container that the worms can live in for a longer period of time. Brad suggests the small red wigglers, rather than night crawlers (they tend to get out at night.) If you use the liter bottles, they can live in there for a couple weeks, but you will need to watch the moisture and feed.

Here are the exact lessons that Brad and Ian presented in the Workshop:

The Mechanical Engineering Team is Back!  February 3rd, 2014

Alex, Erik, and Jared are back again to give you more helpful hints on this year’s Middle School Challenge.  To recap the last time we heard from them, they helped define the customer for our upcoming cable car project.  Today the group wants to share with you what type of materials they are using to please the customer, which may look a little different than the materials you may end up using.  They also encourage you to be more efficient by planning your materials and budget ahead of time.  The team is here to break it all down for you.

Alex is here to talk to you about a budget and schedule.  Both are an important part of the engineering process.  The video even shows you the team’s timeline for their own cable car.  We may not have the same timeline the group does but time management is an important factor in this project.  What do you think will be the first item on your schedule? How long should it take you?

Jared is helpful in breaking down what materials you may come across in your project.  He elaborates on where you can get these various supplies.  Don’t worry we do have most of the supplies for you, but what supplies do you think you will need? Where do you think is the best place to purchase those supplies?  Feel free to share your answers in our comment section.

Growing Bioenergy  February 3rd, 2014

GreenWood Resources, home to the largest drip irrigation farm in the world, was nice enough to provide our workshop attendees with several varieties of poplar saplings.  With these saplings we ask that you and your students plant them and conduct your own growth experiment.  Here we have provided for you a lesson plan as well as planting instructions for your trees.  We would like to see data about your sapling’s progress and we will provide a way to share that data in the near future. Enjoy!

Cable Car Curriculum  February 3rd, 2014

Our cable car curriculum keeps expanding and we are happy to share with you more lessons in this PowerPoint from the SMILE Teacher’s Workshop.  Included in the slides are customer requirements and design elements that will help with the Middle School Challenge.  This would be a great lesson plan to show middle school students to get them motivated and inspired!

Fueling Our Future  February 3rd, 2014

At the SMILE Teacher’s Workshop we showcased a plethora of great lessons plans, one of which was presented by Danica Hendrickson from Facing The Future.  She was gracious enough to share with us a PowerPoint for high school students that focuses on how we use energy everyday and where that energy comes from. Danica also recommended checking out these websites in conjunction with her lesson plan to see how much waste and energy recycling saves us.  These are great bioenergy ideas to share with your students.