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Archives: January, 2014

Wind Energy Impacts/Turbine Design  January 29th, 2014

Jon Roschke, a KidWind Pacific NW WindSenator from Oregon Renewables, shared a great presentation and his expertise on Wind Energy. Using prebuilt turbine towers, teachers explored the science of wind turbine blade design. Take a look at the presentation that Jon included in his workshop!

A great resource that Jon recommends is the KidWind Project website:

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Investigating Cell Biology  January 27th, 2014

Renee Greer, a Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, worked closely with the SMILE program to develop lessons that would share her expertise in cellular biology at an elementary school level.  There are 7 lessons in total and they can be taught as a unit or individually.

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Schoolyard Geology  January 27th, 2014

During our 2014 Winter SMILE Teacher’s Workshop, Matt Nyman, a Professor in the College of Education at Oregon State University, shared his expertise during a session on Schoolyard Geology.  Take a look at the great resources that were shared!

Professor Nyman also recommends the website “Exploring the World of Science”:

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Tsunami in a Box  January 27th, 2014

Alicia Lyman-Holt, a staff member at the Hinsdale Wave Research Lab, led a session at the 2014 “Step up your STEM” Teacher’s Workshop and shared her expertise on Tsunamis, Civil Engineering, and the Engineering Design Cycle. Take a look at the materials that Alicia shared!


Cable Car Research Ideas  January 21st, 2014

As our team member Alex had said last week research is an important part of the engineering process. We wanted to help you out with this process.  Cable cars can be seen in a variety of shapes and sizes but also in plenty of places around the world.  We wanted to show you an example of some of the varieties of cable cars to help inspire you.

  • San Francisco is one of the few places in the United States to still have a cable car with an underground wire.  The cable car museum shows you the many components that are used to make this possible.


  • New York has a long history of various types of cable cars.  Their Transit Museum website breaks down the differences between their various types of transportation.  Keep track of the differences because there will be important for your design.


  • Most of these cars are fixed onto the cable and the cables move.  However, there are cars that move on a fixed cable.  The differences can be confusing but look out for them in this video of a cable can on the West Cost Trail in Canada.


Hopefully these websites allowed you to answer some important questions.  After looking at our research and doing some on your own you should be able to understand the difference between the different cable cars, how people go from concept to reality while making a cable car, and how various cable cars work. We encourage you to expand on this research and try to figure out what your customer may be as a cable car company.  Earlier this week Erik talked about design being not only important to customers but to the function of your cable car.  What design factors might make your car most efficient?  Happy researching!




2012-2013 ME Rube Goldberg Challenge  January 21st, 2014

Last year (2013-14) at our Middle School Challenge we had our students make a Rube Goldberg project.  A Rube Goldberg machine is one where coordinated parts work together to accomplish a task (such as wiping your mouth) without human intervention during any part except the start.  Our team from last year made their machine take a picture with a camera.  Their weekly videos are posted here on the blog. By watching these videos you should be able to apply them to your cable car.  We encourage you to check it out!

Your Super, Awesome Engineering Team!  January 17th, 2014

Welcome middle school students and teachers! Here at SMILE we hope your are excited about this year’s mechanical engineering challenge.  For the last three months the team here at SMILE has been working with a group of mechanical engineering students to create your challenge.  We want you to design a cable car!  Sounds fun right?  To help you complete the project, each week here on the blog our team of mechanical engineering students will be posting videos of their own cable car project along with helpful hints on how to make your own cable car. Next week’s post will give you more details about your cable car challenge, but first we want you to meet your team of mechanical engineer students who will help you through this process.  Keep checking the blog weekly for more updates and videos!

Meet Alex:

Alex is one of our mechanical engineering students who cannot wait to post videos every week! He tells us why mechanical engineering is an awesome field with many career options.  Alex also explains doing research and planning before getting started on your project may help be more successful.  Here are some videos we recommend to get the brain juices flowing:

Meet Jared: 

Jared knows how to crack some jokes, but he is also skillful at decoding some important engineering terms. Who is your customer for your cable car? That is an excellent question! Jared breaks down some of the requirements for the project you will be working on.

Meet Erik: 

Erik loves design and build things with his hands and you can tell by his amazing wood working projects he shows off in his video. Design incorporates research and the customer as well as safety. These will all play important factors in how your final project performs.

A final word from the team:

Your mechanical engineering team is excited to work with you!  They give some great tips on how to work as a team, which will be important when you work with your team on your new project. Listen carefully because they can help your project run more efficiently!