Engineering is changing and adapting. The idea that a single company or individual will solve today’s engineering challenges is becoming less true. To innovate in this environment requires interdisciplinary, community-based solutions developed and shared by everyone. This 3-module workshop introduces students and teachers to three grand challenges of engineering while reinforcing Next Generation Science Standard practices and core content in circuits, energy transformation and engineering:

  • Light, Living Systems and Solar Solutions: Exploring Photosynthesis and Solar Energy
    The capture and conversion of energy in a plant cell is startlingly efficient, extremely fast, and happens at the nano-scale. Researchers are working to understand the process of photosynthesis at the atomic level, and by experimenting with new methods and materials, they can apply this knowledge to create the next generation of solar cells. In this module, participants will learn about photosynthesis at the nano-scale, the fundamentals of energy transformation, and the principles that make solar panels work. The improvements we are making in this field can lead to everything from superconductors, flexible solar panels, and potentially the biomimetic light harvesting systems of the future!
  • Clean Water Challenge: Starting at the Nanoscale
    Chemical, civil, and environmental engineers must understand the science and chemistry of water, its contaminants, and filtration processes in order to create systems capable of providing water to the modern world. In this module, we explore the nano side of water filters, then use this knowledge to create and test a filter of our own. How can we filter contaminants that no microscope can see? How do we scale this process to work for millions? Where will the water come from? These are the questions faced by the scientists and engineers tackling the grand challenge of providing clean water to everyone. We will take the first steps in rising to the challenge.
  • Powering the Modern World: Generating, Storing and Using Energy
    As the world generates more energy that can only be collected when the sun is out or the wind is blowing, we need new ways of storing this energy to be used when it is needed. Seeing new solutions to old problems through hands-on experiences, teams of learners will explore the principles and applications of energy use and transformation in a series of stations. With opportunities to create circuits, generate and measure electricity, and experiment with turbines and the generators they use, this module reinforces core content in circuits and electromagnetism while sharing cutting-edge science and engineering.


The goals of this Teacher + Student Workshop include:

  1. Increasing student interest in and understanding of opportunities within STEM fields and exposing participants to an eclectic mix of scientists and engaging projects.
  2. Helping teachers and students gain an understanding of what engineering is, including its changing role in society and its importance at the macro and micro levels. 
  3. Demonstrating science and engineering inquiry techniques, processes and practices in hands-on experiences based on Next Generation Science Standards.
  4. Equipping teachers with activities, content, resources and examples of pedagogy that can be used to help address Next Generation Science Standards. 

Next Generation Science Standards Content and Practices Addressed 

Science and Engineering Practices for the K-12 Classroom:

  1. Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  2. ​Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  3. Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  4. Developing and Using Models                                            

Crosscutting Concepts:

  1. Cause and Effect
  2. Energy and Matter
  3. Systems and System Models
  4. Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  5. Patterns                                                                

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

  1. Core Idea: Energy
    1. PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
    2. PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
  2. Core Idea: Earth’s Systems
    1. ESS3.A: Natural Resources
    2. ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  3. Core Idea: Engineering Design
    1. ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
    2. ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
    3. ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
  4. Core Idea: Structure, Function, and Information Processing
    1. LS1.A: Structure and Function
  5. Core Idea: Structure and Properties of Matter
    1. PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
    2. PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
  6. Core Idea: Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems
    1. LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
    2. PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
  7. Core Idea: Human Impacts
    1. ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems