Weston Middle School

Massachusetts Grade 8

Technology/Engineering MCAS Review

Weston, Massachusetts
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What is Technology and Engineering?

  • Technology means knowledge of techniques- specific methods of how to make things.
  • Technological design involves a cycle of brainstorming ideas, choosing a best design, building, testing, and modifying.
  • Technological design is improved through careful analysis of failure; therefore failure should be embraced rather than feared.

Knowldge of how to prepare a perfect cup of hot chocolate is an example of a food preparation technology.

  • Engineering involves the use of mathematical models to create designs that will meet specified criteria.
  • Engineering always involves trade-offs of strength or performance versus expense.
  • A design which meets the required criteria with a bare minumum of materials is said to be elegant.
  • Engineers solve complex problems by breaking them down into their component parts.
Ordering pizza for a party is an example of engineering- you need to know the total number of guests, the average amount consumed by each guest, the number of pizza slices per pie, plus the required safety factor to have enough pizza for all guests without having too much left over.
Massachusetts Science and Technology Frameworks Strand 4 : Technology/ Engineering
Engineering design is a cycle of designing, building, testing, and modification in which failure- analyzed and reflected upon- is embraced as the primary means of improvement.


The Guillotine

Three men are sentenced to death for various crimes against a mythical and oppressive state. One is a priest, another is a drunkard and the third is an engineer.

The first to face the executioner is the priest. When asked if he wanted to lie face down or face up on the guillotine, he said, "I'll lie face up! I have nothing to fear. The Lord is on my side!" So he lay on his back and faced the razor-sharp blade. When it was released, the blade fell half way and stopped. The executioner exclaimed, "This must be divine intervention. You are pardoned, and you may leave."

The next was the drunkard. When asked the same question, he chose to lie face up like the priest, saying, "I'm a drunk, not an idiot!" So he lay on his back too, facing the sharp blade as the sun glinted off its keen edge. Again, the blade fell only half way and stopped. The executioner exclaimed, "The Lord is generous today. You are pardoned, and you may also leave."

Finally, it was time for the engineer. He also chose to lie on his back. After all, it seemed that was the lucky thing to do that day. He lay on his back looking up at the heavy blade tensing against the rope. Just before the blade was let loose, he shouted, "Wait! I think I see the problem!"


Author(s): Ioannis Miaoulis

Date: August 25, 2005

THE UNITED STATES and our own region in particular is losing its status as the world's technological innovator, and we will face major consequences if we do not take action.
Our economy will suffer as we move from independent innovators to dependent consumers. Our security will be in question if we outsource development of technologies designed to keep our country safe. And our lives will be altered by people in other countries and cultures who are creating technologies that do not fit our unique needs and desires. We must teach our children to be technologically literate, to understand how things work. Our children's future is at stake. According to the US Department of Education, in 2003 only 17 percent of degrees from American colleges and universities were in science or engineering. Our children are not learning the engineering skills they need. Studies tell us that we can maintain our reputation as a technological superpower if we "produce" more scientists and engineers.

Massachusetts has led the way by becoming first in the nation in 2001 to develop curriculum frameworks for engineering at all levels, from kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition, science and engineering/technology will be an MCAS requirement starting with students graduating in 2010. But before we can graduate scientists and engineers, we must first engage children in science, technology, and engineering, igniting and then fostering their natural curiosity about how things work.

I was shocked when I arrived in the United States from Greece in 1980 to discover how misunderstood and undervalued engineering was among Americans and how little people knew about it. In the United States the engineering profession has suffered from an image problem. People who drive trains, collect trash, and fix VCRs are all called "engineers." But the engineers I refer to are the people who build things from bicycles to bridges and make them work. Engineering, the process that creates technology, involves identifying a problem, designing a solution, testing and improving the design, and building the technology.
Engineers are responsible for 80 to 90 percent of the things we deal with every day, from the cars we drive to the cellphones we use. To address this image problem, we need to help people in our country, starting with children, to appreciate the role engineers play in the world.

The good news is that children are born engineers. A child exhibits an instinct to design and build when constructing a fort out of blankets and pillows or a castle out of sand. We need to harness this natural ability and make technology and engineering exciting in a way that is equally inspiring to boys and girls.

At the Museum of Science we have worked to develop curriculums that meet both state and national standards while fostering children's innate engineering skills. One program engages elementary school students in building their own water filters, windmills, walls, and bridges. More than 70 teachers and some 1,400 pupils across Massachusetts benefit from this program. This fall the curriculum will be field-tested in California, Minnesota, Colorado, and Florida.
To advance technological literacy among our children, it is essential that we remain vigilant about updating our schools' science curriculums so that students learn lessons about the human-made world as well as the natural world, while also experiencing the relevance of technology in their daily lives. Isn't it as important to teach our children about how a car or a computer works as how a volcano erupts? I believe we need both.

The growing awareness of our children's lack of interest in science has prompted the Museum of Science to reexamine how best to fulfill its responsibility to engage children in science and engineering. I challenge parents, public officials, and business and industry leaders to give our kids the opportunity to explore the human-made world to discover how a solar collector works, why popcorn pops, or who creates their iPod. By inspiring the children of today in such explorations, we will help build the innovators and thinkers of tomorrow.

Revised December 2005 by Jonathan Dietz, dietzj@mail.weston.org