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Engineering Skills through Problem Based Learning


This is an interdisciplinary project that involves Introduction to Engineering Design classes and Physics classes in designing, building and critiquing roller coasters.

This unit uses roller coaster design as a method of teaching students about energy types, energy conservation, and the design process. At the end of this Unit, students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills should be strengthened.

This is a project-based learning unit which uses roller coaster design as its focal point. On the first day of the unit, students are assigned the task of designing a roller coaster for Carowinds theme-park in Charlotte, NC. They will work in teams of 3-5 to complete the task. As they go through the design process, they will use their own experience and research to creatively draw conclusions about how to achieve a memorable roller coaster ride. A variety of scaffolding assignments (labs, research, 3D modeling exercises, etc) will help enforce the design process.

As a way of authenticating the task, the SSOE (Southern School of Engineering) engineering firm will partner with NCSSM (North Carolina School of Science and Math) design firms. During the project, these two firms will collaborate with one another to produce a set of technical drawings to communicate the ideas for the roller coaster design.

The physics class will research the safety standards and the components of a ride that make it “fun” via web sites and blogging. These students will create their designs and give presentations to the engineering firms. The engineering firms will research ride designs on the internet and then design their own based on the safety and fun criteria set up by the physics class.