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During the egg packaging and bridge to school, they will be more invested and
building units, I incorporate math by keep- successful.
ing a tally of the survival or success rate Students also have the opportunity to
for each class (each class works as a team). build small wooden projects and work
After all the testing is done, I figure out with both hand tools and power tools such
the percentage of successful projects alge- as the band saw, drill press, and the sta-
braically on the board: tionary belt sander. Most of the students
have never had the opportunity to work
example: 13 out of 22 survived with these tools and are often intimidated

and a little nervous. I work with them
22 100
individually. Once they get past their fear,
self-confidence grows and a great sense of
cross multiply pride develops with their accomplishment
22 x = 1,300
when a project is successfully completed.
They leave with a tangible product that
divide both sides by 22
represents their effort.
Seventh graders build a miniature solar
x =
car during the spring of the year in IAT.
The structure
This has proven to be a great culminating
must support the
x = 59.09% success
project for the students’ IAT experience.
weight of a motor,
There are several dynamic learning oppor-
the miniature
It’s a little disturbing that almost every
tunities that encompass basic engineering
time I do this “old math” formula in front
principles using science and mathematical
solar panel, and
of the class, usually a student will say,
concepts while creatively solving prob-
“Why don’t you just use a calculator?”
(Argh!) This is an example of how things
have culturally evolved in modern society
with technology. My grandparents would
Solar racers and the larger
have added a column of numbers with a
paper and pencil and maybe checked it
using the same tools. My parents’ and my
own generation would perhaps figure the
First, the students have the challenge to
problem with pencil on paper but then
build a structure that will be structurally
check it with a calculator. Now, there
sound, yet light. The structure must sup-
seems to be a “why bother” attitude that
port the weight of a motor, the miniature
jumps to “just use a calculator!” The basic
solar panel, and a cargo of an empty soda
skills are still taught, but our emphasis on
can (as an added challenge). They must
thinking skills to decipher problems may
address wheel align-
be lagging. I think we are becoming overly
ment to reduce fric-
dependent on these electronic devices, or
tion. They explore the
at the very least, we have reached a thresh-
concept of gear ratios
old. But, enough of the soapbox talk.
and how this will
affect the transfer of
power from the motor
to the drive axle. Basic
Team challenges
electrical theory is
discussed as we learn
Friendly competition between the classes
about how the direc-
promotes the students’ enthusiasm. If they
tion of the current will
don’t devote their full effort to the project,
effect the direction in
they handicap their class’s ability to have
which the motor turns,
a higher success rate. The various layers
as well as how the sili-
of these challenges keeps the projects fun.
con cells in the solar
If the students are having fun, they will
panel turns sunlight
like going to school! If they like going
into electricity. Most
© synergy learning • 800-769-6199 • January/February 2010 Connect • Page 11
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