model program: BRITISH SCHOOLS OF america • engine design and construction in the classroom
The Voice of Technology Education
Volume 67 • Number 2
Exploring an AP ® Course of Study in Engineering
It pays to be early.
ITEA members who preregister for the 2008 Salt Lake Conference
before January 18, 2008 will save nearly 15% over the onsite registration rate.
Names of those who preregister will be entered into a drawing for a
$100 Visa Gift Card.
Book your hotel before January 18 using the ITEA Room Block
to save over 30% on a hotel room!*
Remember, the conference is EARLY this year!
Mark your calendar for February 21-23, 2008.
You won’t want to miss:
• Keynote address by educator astronaut Barbara R. Morgan
• Keynote address by Robert Ballard of the JASON Project
• Over 100 Professional Development Learning Sessions
• Dozens of cutting-edge vendors, bringing the latest in materials, equipment, and services
• Seven specialized workshop topics, including Robotics, Flash Animation, and Engineering
• Educational/Industry Tours covering Communications, Medical, Mining, Aviation and
Be the early bird. Catch the worm. Register today!
*Based on Internet rates for a February 20-24, 2008 stay at the SLC Marriott Downtown, retrieved August 29, 2007.
october • VOL. 67 • NO. 2
Engine Design and Construction
in the Classroom
A brief history of engines, as well as the
concept of engine construction as a viable
activity in the technology education classroom.
18 Exploring an Advanced Placement® (AP ® ) Course of Study in
Describes and summarizes the motivations, results, and next steps from a Pre-AP ® in
engineering research project.
Model Program: The British Schools of America
Publisher, Kendall N. Starkweather, DTE
Editor-In-Chief, Kathleen B. de la Paz
Editor, Kathie F. Cluff
ITEA Board of Directors
Andy Stephenson, DTE, President
Ken Starkman, Past President
Len Litowitz, DTE, President-Elect
Doug Miller, Director, ITEA-CS
Scott Warner, Director, Region I
Lauren Withers Olson, Director, Region II
Steve Meyer, Director, Region III
Richard (Rick) Rios, Director, Region IV
Michael DeMiranda, Director, CTTE
Peter Wright, Director, TECA
Vincent Childress, Director, TECC
Kendall N. Starkweather, DTE, CAE,
ITEA is an affiliate of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science.
The Technology Teacher, ISSN: 0746-3537,
is published eight times a year (September
through June with combined December/January
and May/June issues) by the International
Technology Education Association, 1914
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The Space Shuttle Endeavour may be back on earth,
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and Barbara Morgan.
Salt Lake in 2008
How do I register? Where do I stay? Who will I see there?
Register before January 18 and save. Go to www.iteaconnect.org/
conferenceguide.htm for all the latest information on ITEA’s 70th Annual
Conference in Salt Lake City on February 21-23, 2008.
Te c h nology
T h e Vo i c e o f Te c h n o l o g y E d u c a t i o n
Editorial Review Board
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California University of PA
Nikolay Middle School, WI
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VA Department of Education
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Mike Fitzgerald, DTE
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Mary Annette Rose
Ball State University
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Nat’l Center for Tech Literacy
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Greg Vander Weil
Wayne State College
North Carolina State Univ.
As the only national and international association dedicated
solely to the development and improvement of technology
education, ITEA seeks to provide an open forum for the free
exchange of relevant ideas relating to technology education.
Materials appearing in the journal, including
advertising, are expressions of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the official policy or the opinion of the
association, its officers, or the ITEA Headquarters staff.
Grants, Scholarships, and Awards: The Time is NOW!
Who is eligible? How do I apply? When is the deadline?
Apply for ITEA’s Grants, Scholarships, and Awards. Go to www.iteaconnect.
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All professional articles in The Technology Teacher are
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activities and reports, and invited articles. Refereed articles
are reviewed and approved by the Editorial Board before
publication in The Technology Teacher. Articles with bylines
will be identified as either refereed or invited unless written
by ITEA officers on association activities or policies.
To Submit Articles
All articles should be sent directly to the Editor-in-Chief,
International Technology Education Association, 1914
Association Drive, Suite 201, Reston, VA 20191-1539.
Please submit articles and photographs via email
to email@example.com. Maximum length for
manuscripts is eight pages. Manuscripts should be prepared
following the style specified in the Publications Manual of
the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition.
Editorial guidelines and review policies are available by
writing directly to ITEA or by visiting www.iteaconnect.org/
Publications/Submissionguidelines.htm. Contents copyright
© 2007 by the International Technology Education
Association, Inc., 703-860-2100.
1 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Need Financial Assistance to Attend the ITEA Conference?
Try These Tips
Before you apply for financial assistance:
• Compile facts on the ITEA conference.
• Create talking points as to how this conference
program could improve education for your students.
• Stress to the administration that you will be attending
as a representative of the school and district.
• Print the preliminary program and share it with your
potential funding source.
• Apply to be part of the program, e.g., the Technology
• Have a small budget put together based upon the costs
• Apply to be a Teacher or Program Excellence winner.
ITEA Conference Planning is Under Way
Mark your calendar now to attend ITEA’s 70 th Annual
Conference, Teaching TIDE with Pride, in Salt Lake
City February 21-23, 2008. For three days, you’ll attend
information-packed sessions to learn key strategies that will
help you to remain at the top of your teaching profession.
Leading-edge keynote presentations are planned, with
invited speakers Barbara Morgan and Dr. Raymond Ballard.
ITEA member Morgan is NASA’s first educator mission
specialist. She was selected to train as a mission specialist
in 1998 and was named to the STS 118 crew in 2002.
Dr. Ballard founded The JASON Project in 1989, a nonprofit
subsidiary of the National Geographic Society. The
JASON Project delivers middle-grade curricula, developed
in conjunction with research explorations currently underway
at NOAA, NASA, and National Geographic. Through
Jason’s standards-based curricula and advanced technology,
students learn by “joining” scientists on their missions.
In addition to these high-caliber keynote presentations,
we’ve carved out plenty of time to allow you to network
with your colleagues and share ideas in over 100 professional
development learning sessions. There are also seven
specialized workshops scheduled as well as traditional
meal events like the Yearbook Dinner and ITEA Awards
On Thursday and Friday, you will meet top corporate leaders
at the ITEA Exhibits and also hear about the latest offerings
during the special Action Labs, presented by cutting-edge
The ITEA Conference provides the perfect combination of
top-notch educational sessions, networking activities, and
plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy all that Salt Lake
City has to offer.
Where to look for funding sources:
• Talk to your immediate supervisor about using
professional development monies.
• Ask your local PTA for assistance.
• Become friends with local civic groups that support
• Contact your district or state supervisor who deals
with technology education.
• Do a search of local educational foundations.
• Check with your local teachers’ union.
For more detailed information about funding, go to
The ITEA Salt Lake City conference is almost a full
month earlier this year, so please note that the preregistration
deadline is earlier than usual too. To stretch your
budget money, be sure to take advantage of the special
preregistration pricing. Register prior to January 18, 2008
and you can save nearly 15% on conference registration
fees. ITEA Professional Members will pay $269 for a full
conference registration prior to January 18, 2008 ($309
on-site), nonmembers will pay $349 prior to January 18,
2008 ($389 on-site) and Student Members will pay $59
prior to January 18, 2008 ($69 on-site). Encourage your
colleagues to register early to take advantage of these special
prices, and remember that nonmembers can also take
advantage of ITEA’s half-price membership special (for new
members only—contact Lari Price at lprice@iteaconnect.
org for membership details). Check www.iteaconnect.org/
Conference/ conferenceguide.htm for complete conference
and registration information.
ITEA Members Pass Bylaws Change
ITEA’s professional and life members have approved a
measure, via ballot, to change the organization’s bylaws.
2 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
The change includes expanding leadership initiatives in
the teaching of and learning about technological literacy
to include technology, innovation, design, and engineering
(TIDE) education. ITEA has been using the TIDE acronym
for the past few years to accurately describe the curriculum
area being served by the profession. Ninety-four percent of
respondents approved the change.
Other changes included the adjustment of membership
categories to include “advocate” and “museum”
memberships to be promoted in the coming years.
Part of ITEA’s mission is to reach out to individuals or
organizations that, while not directly involved in classroom
teaching, do have an interest in promoting technological
literacy. Finally, adjustments were approved that simplify the
descriptions of duties of ITEA Board of Directors positions.
The updated ITEA Bylaws may be accessed by entering
“Members Only” from the ITEA website at
October 11-13, 2007 The state of New Hampshire will
host the New England Association of Technology Teachers
(NEATT) conference, “A NEATT Foundation to Build
Upon,” in Worcester, MA. For immediate updates, check the
NEATT website at www.neatt.org/.
October 18-20, 2007 The Florida Technology Education
Association will hold its 78 th annual professional development
conference, “Inspiring today, applying tomorrow,”
at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Harbourside in Indian
Rocks Beach. Information is available at www.ftea.com/
October 19, 2007 The Technology Education Association
of Maryland will present its Seventh Annual Technology
Education TECH EXPO 2007 at the Baltimore Museum of
Industry in Baltimore, MD. The theme this year is “TEAM’s
All Star Line-Up: CATTS, PLTW, STEM and VSC.” This is
TEAM’s Annual Conference for all technology education
teachers and supervisors in the State of Maryland. To
help or participate, contact Will Johnson, EXPO 2007
Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information
can be found at www.techedmd.org/conference.htm.
October 19-20, 2007 The 14 th Annual Illinois Technology
Education Conference (ITEC) will be held at the Peoria
Holiday Inn Centre inPeoria, IL. ITEC has secured an
award-winning teacher, Joseph Fatheree, Illinois Teacher
of the Year 2006-07, as keynote speaker. Joe, a technology
educator at Effingham High School, is best known for his
work in the field of technology integration and curriculum
development. For more information visit www.teai.net.
October 25-26, 2007 The Department of Technology,
State University of New York at Oswego, presents its 68 th fall
conference for technology teachers and other professionals:
“Technology Education: Inspiring Outstanding Performance,”
on the Oswego campus in Wilber, Park, and Sheldon halls.
New this year are sessions on technology education for
science and mathematics elementary classes to encourage
integrative learning. For more information, visit www.
fallconference.com or contact Judith Belt, Conference Chair
October 25-27, 2007 The Society of Women Engineers
will present its 2007 National Conference, “Women IN
TUNE with TECHNOLOGY,” at the Nashville Convention
Center in Nashville, TN. Conference tracks are Professional
Development, Technology, Career Transition, Academic
Diversity, and Leadership Coaching. The conference will
include presentations, workshops and sessions, panel
discussions, Career Enhancement Series (CES), poster
presentations, tours, and local community outreach in
addition to its 2007 Career Fair. For complete conference
information, visit www.swe.org/2007.
October 27, 2007 The Ohio Technology Education
Association (OTEA) Fall Conference will focus on the
role of technology education as a STEM partner. Contact
Timothy Tryon at Timothy878@zoominternet.net for
November 1-2, 2007 The 22nd Annual Colorado
Technology Education Conference, “Reaching New Heights,”
will take place at the Copper Conference Center in Copper
Mountain, CO. Complete information about the conference
is available at www.cteaonline.org/.
November 8-9, 2007 The Technology Education
Association of Pennsylvania (TEAP) will hold its 55 th
Annual Conference at the Radisson Penn Harris Conference
Center in Camp Hill, PA. Visit the TEAP website at
www.teap-online.org/index2.htm and click on “conference”
for complete information.
November 9-11, 2007 The Institute of Electrical and
Electronic Engineers (IEEE) will present a special conference
in Munich, Germany: “Meeting the Growing Demand
for Engineers and Their Educators 2010-2020 Summit.”
Complete information can be accessed at www.ieee.org/
3 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
January 18, 2008 Preregistration deadline for money saving
discounts on registration fees for ITEA’s Salt Lake City
Conference, February 21-23, 2008. Register early and save!
February 17-23, 2008 Engineers Week 2008, cochaired
by IBM and the Chinese Institute of Engineers-USA (CIE-
USA) will aim to make engineering a stronger, more diverse
profession by unveiling a broad program of outreach and
education efforts to encourage more women and other
diverse groups to consider engineering careers. Information
on all Engineers Week programs and events can be found at
UT. The latest information and details are available
on the ITEA website at www.iteaconnect.org/Conference/
March 28-29, 2008 The Ohio Technology Education
Association (OTEA) Annual Spring Conference will be held
at Worthington Kilbourne High School in Worthington,
OH. The conference will be an extension of the 2007 OTEA
Fall Conference, with topics of discussion focusing around
STEM and other educational topics. Visit www.otea.info for
the latest details.
February 21-23, 2008 The 70 th Annual ITEA Conference,
“Teaching TIDE With Pride” will be held in Salt Lake City,
List your State/Province Association Conference in TTT
and Inside TIDE (ITEA’s electronic newsletter). Submit
conference title, date(s), location, and contact information (at
least two months prior to journal publication date) to kcluff@
visit our website at www.carvewright.com/itea or call us at 713-473-6572
4 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Engine Design and Construction
in the Classroom
By Brad Christensen
Credit: IIHR Archive, IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
Assessment of student work with
traditional engine curriculum
can be quite simple; does it run?
Hero engine original sketch.
There is something about an engine that attracts attention.
Perhaps it is the rumbling noise of the Harley
Davidson 1200 twin, the power of a supercharged V-8
under the hood of a muscle car, or the synchronized
roar of a couple of Cat 3208s in a race boat. Maybe it is the
mechanical beauty of the cam, crank, pistons, and valves, all
moving in unison, or perhaps it’s the intoxicating smell of
fuel, oil, and exhaust. Whatever “it” is, engines have fascinated
“gear-heads” for centuries.
Hero of Alexandria is credited with demonstrating that
engines are possible. His work was completed sometime
between 100 BC and 100 AD (Figure 1). At the time,
this device was viewed rather suspiciously, and no applications
of this engine have been found. A simple Hero Engine
can be built using a soda can, a string, and a few candles
(Figure 2). A search of the Internet will provide many
John Newcomen invented the first practical application
of an engine in the early 1700s. His engine used a chain
attached to one end of a lever to lift the piston out of the
cylinder. Steam was injected into the cavity and immediately
condensed with a spray of cold water. The condensing
steam created a partial vacuum, drawing the piston down.
The reciprocating motion of the piston was used primarily
to pump water from mines.
The principle of the force of condensing steam can be demonstrated
by pouring a small amount of boiling water into a
plastic bottle. Once steam rises from the neck, screw on the
lid. As the steam condenses, the bottle will be crushed by
Students can calculate the force exerted by vacuum. Air
pressure at sea level is about 14.7 pounds per square inch.
If Newcomen’s engine produced a vacuum of only half of
5 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
the potential (7 psi), and he used a 24-inch diameter piston
(about 452 square inches), the piston would be pulled
(pushed) down with a force of about 3165 pounds (7 x 452).
No wonder he used a chain instead of a rope! These calculations
can be enhanced by including the mechanical advantage
of the first-class lever Newcomen used on the engine.
In the late 1700s, James Watt realized the inefficiency of first
heating, then cooling the steam inside the engine. He must
have also realized that the very best a vacuum engine could
achieve would be limited by atmospheric pressure. He redesigned
the Newcomen engine to use steam pressure to push
the piston, rather than vacuum caused by condensing steam
to “pull” it. By using steam at 50 psi, the 3165 pounds of
force calculated in the previous example of the Newcomen
engine would become 22,600 pounds in Watt’s engine. Also,
Watt’s engine used less fuel.
Following the lead of Newcomen and Watt, inventors such
as Richard Trevithick, William Hedley, George Stephenson,
Peter Cooper, Oliver Evans, John Fitch, Robert Stirling, and
others contributed greatly to engine technology during the
early- to mid-1800s. All of these men worked with external
External combustion engines had a serious problem, however.
They all operated on high-pressure steam produced in
a boiler (except the Stirling engine, which operated on hot
air). These boilers were prone to catastrophic explosions. A
solution was to place the “explosion” inside the engine where
it could be better controlled. Samuel Morey, Nickolas Otto,
Gottlieb Daimler, Rudolf Diesel, and Karl Benz are some of
the more recognizable individuals involved with the development
of the internal combustion engine. Most of this
work was completed during the mid- to late-1800s.
In the 1900s, development of engines continued, with
extensive efforts to increase power and decrease weight.
The Wright Brothers designed and built their own engine
because a suitable engine simply was not available. The two
World Wars greatly motivated inventors to improve engine
designs. In the mid 1900s the jet engine was developed. This
engine design has many forms, including: the ram jet (no
moving parts), the pulse jet (used in Nazi buzz bombs), the
turbo jet (fighter jets and unlimited power boat racing), the
turbo fan (jet airliners), and the turbo-prop (propellerdriven
aircraft). By the late 1900s, fuel costs and environmental
concerns had prompted additional research and
development of engine technology.
Figure 2. Simple Hero engine using a soda can and candles.
The development of engine technology can serve as an
excellent context for addressing Standards for Technological
Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (ITEA,
2000/2002). The Characteristics and Scope of Technology
(STL 1) is clearly evident in the development of engine
technology. The Core Concepts of technology (STL 2) can
be addressed by an analysis of the engine and its many systems.
Engine development is also an excellent example of
the application of the design process as found in the standards
dealing with attributes of design, design engineering,
and troubleshooting (STL 8, 9, and 10).
Engines, in their many forms and functions, have had a tremendous
impact on society and the environment. It is hard
for the contemporary student to fathom a world without
trains, cars, trucks, powerboats, and airplanes. It must also
be noted that engines generate electricity and drive factories.
The industrial revolution would not have been possible
without engines. Educational standards addressing the
interface between technology, society, the environment, and
Photo by Alan Mills, Berea College.
6 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
history (STL 4, 5, 6, and 7) must be covered for the
student to have a full understanding of engines and
With the many advantages of engine technology, however,
also come problems. Engines are loud, smelly, require
nonrenewable toxic fuel, and pollute the atmosphere with
hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide, and other harmful chemicals.
Recently, connections have been made between the extensive
use of fossil fuels powering engines and global climate
changes. It would be difficult to address these aspects of
engine use without discussing the effects of technology on
the environment (STL 5).
With the fascination, history, impacts, and importance of
engines to modern society, it is only natural that engine
technology should be included in technology education curriculum.
The traditional way to teach engines is to tear down
and rebuild a small gasoline engine. These engines are inexpensive,
readily available, and easy to work with. They contain
all of the major parts (crankshaft, piston, cam, valves,
etc), and the operations can be clearly seen.
Traditional lawnmower engine curriculum, however, has
a couple of weaknesses. One is that, in order to complete
the engine lab, little time is left for the history of engine
development or discussion of the impacts, both social and
environmental. The other weakness is that students see a
complex, precise, complicated engine. It works only if it is
reassembled exactly right. There is no room for experimentation
or imagination. This could inadvertently be teaching
the students that engine technology has been fully developed,
with no room for further advancement. Perhaps this
perception has contributed to the fact that the vast majority
of the engines used today were invented in the mid 1800s.
to the ball. A crankshaft can be formed from a paperclip,
and CDs make great flywheels. The engine operates by blowing
into the drinking straw inserted above the piston. This
engine is simple and inexpensive. Middle school students
can cut the pieces with scissors, and it can be assembled
quickly with hot glue and/or tape. It clearly demonstrates
the reciprocating action of the piston and the rotary movement
of the crankshaft and flywheels. It will probably
require some experimentation with stroke length to get it
to run properly. It will also require proper timing of power
(blowing into the straw) and exhaust (sucking) to run at high
speeds. Be mindful of hyperventilating!
Dimensions for the cardboard engine can be determined by
the students. If the students create precise drawings, they
will be able to determine stroke length and the distance
between the cylinder and the crankshaft. Students will discover
that, besides moving to the left and the right, the end
of the connecting rod must also be able to move up and
down with the throw of the crankshaft. The connecting rod
must be the proper length so that it does not strike the sides
of the cylinder.
The cardboard engine is similar in construction to some
of the earliest stationary power units. If students only suck
on the straw, they can demonstrate Newcomen’s engine
(although he did not convert the reciprocating motion to
rotary motion). If they only blow into it, they demonstrate
Watt’s early engine design. If they suck and blow, they get
some idea of a double-acting engine, although this is not
conceptually accurate. Students should be encouraged to
Technology education has always included student projects.
In most classes, objects are designed and built. In the
case of the engine, however, what has already been designed
and built by someone else is rebuilt. Building an engine
from scratch is too costly and requires too much equipment
and far too much specific training in metal casting and
machining to be viable in most classrooms. Because of these
requirements, are we teaching our students that they cannot
build and improve engines?
A possible means to introduce young students to engines is
through the construction of a cardboard engine (Figure 3).
A ping-pong ball fits perfectly inside most toilet-paper or
paper-towel tubes. Because the ball is round, no wrist pin is
necessary. A wooden connecting rod can be glued directly
Figure 3. Cardboard engine.
Photo by Alan Mills.
7 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
they can calculate theoretical horsepower. They can also rig
up a winch system to raise a known weight a certain distance.
This data will allow them to determine actual horsepower.
Armed with actual and theoretical horsepower, they
can determine efficiency.
Photo by Alan Mills.
Figure 4. PVC engine.
experiment and modify their engines. They may even design
automatic valves and engines with multiple cylinders.
Although this engine project is valuable, students may form
some misconceptions. This is not a model of a car engine.
The flywheels are not wheels, and pistons are round, not
spheres. Also keep in mind that the external combustion
engine has only two strokes: the power stroke where
high-pressure steam or air pushes the piston down, and the
exhaust stroke where the piston pushes the spent steam or
low-pressure air out. The internal combustion engine found
in the automobile precedes these two strokes with an intake
stroke and compression stroke.
Three-dimensional software presents another opportunity
to teach students about engine design. They can create the
various parts and assemble them into a virtual engine. Constraints
can be placed so that “collisions” between parts will
be identified. Most programs allow the animation of the
assembly so that the engine will “run.” One of the best things
about the virtual engine is that it can be instantly modified.
Multiple cylinders, for example, are literally “a click away.”
A logical step beyond the virtual engine is the “printed”
engine. Three-dimensional printers are capable of fairly precise
work, and some use relatively durable materials. Care
should be taken to select a fairly large, simple design that
does not rely on precision. Printed engine parts may require
some sanding to achieve a better fit. With the proper design
and some experimentation, the parts may move smoothly
enough to run on compressed air. (Figure 6.)
Obviously, the best way to build an engine is to cast and
machine metal. There are a number of books and Internet
It won’t take long for students to realize the limitations of
using cardboard for engine construction. The next step is
the use of PVC and plywood (Figure 4). Because steam and
compressed air are basically the same thing (without the
heat), operating model steam engines do not have to be
made of metal. Once students understand the operation of
slide valves and double-acting cylinders, they can design
their own engine. Dimensions are not all that critical. The
timing of the valves, however, may cause them some trouble.
The PVC engine allows even more opportunity for experimentation
and modification. Cylinder arrangements, valve
mechanisms, cylinder head gaskets, piston rings, etc., can
all be tried. These engines also allow more calculations.
Students can now measure the diameter of the piston and
determine surface area. They already know the stroke length
and can set the air pressure. With this data, they can determine
the theoretical force on the piston and the torque on
the crankshaft. If they devise a method to measure rpm,
Figure 5. Screen capture of a virtual engine.
By Jayde Bohannon, drawn by Amy Fauber and Sedrick Young.
8 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Photo by Alan Mills.
Photo by Alan Mills.
Figure 6. An engine generated by a three-dimensional
Figure 7: Parts for a cast aluminum steam engine built by
Gary Mahoney, Berea College.
sites that provide detailed plans for a variety of internal and
external combustion engines. External combustion engines
can be quite simple. Internal combustion engines can be
considerably more complex due to the fuel and ignition systems.
All of them, however, are fascinating. The drawings
from the three-dimensional software can be converted to
CNC code for machining. Also, the parts from the threedimensional
printer can be used as casting patterns.
One more option for teaching engines is the use of kits. A
variety of kits are available. A familiar plastic kit that has
been available for decades contains all the parts of a V-8
engine in a clear plastic block. This is operated by an electric
motor so that the movement of the parts can be seen. Other
manufacturers offer various kits for compressed air or steam
engines. Some require very few tools; others require wellequipped
machine shops (Figure 8).
Assessment of student work with traditional engine curriculum
can be quite simple; does it run? (STL 10.) This evaluation
is also valid to some extent with engine design. With
design activities, however, several additional educational
standards can be assessed. Is the student using the proper
Figure 8: The V-8 engine kit by Revell model company.
design methodology? (STL 8 and 9.) Does the engine have
a chance of working, or is it unreasonable? (STL 2.) Is the
project constructed to the necessary precision? (STL 13 and
19.) Are the calculations correct? (STL 3.) Is the student
able to explain the development of engines? (STL 6 and 7.)
To what extent does the student understand the social and
environmental impacts of engines? (STL 4, 5 and 18.) Given
a fictional engine and application, can the student evaluate
the performance and likelihood of success? (STL 13 and 16.)
Engines have literally changed the world. They are also very
interesting and fun. Engines provide an excellent context for
lessons on the history of technology, including social and
environmental impacts. They also provide an application
for all sorts of data gathering and numerical manipulations.
Engine design is also a critical element in finding solutions
to current issues. And, with the proper designs and some
“out of the box” thinking, engine construction is a viable
activity in the technology education classroom.
ITEA. (2000/2002). Standards for technological literacy:
Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.
Brad Christensen is an associate professor
of technology education at Berea College,
Berea, KY. He taught middle and high
school technology courses in Nebraska and
Iowa for eleven years before pursuing his
doctorate at Illinois State University. Brad is
interested in exploring ways technology teachers can enhance
instruction through the application of mathematics, science,
and engineering concepts. Brad can be reached via email at
This is a refereed article.
9 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
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Resources in Technology
A Radio-Controlled Robot
Walter F. Deal, III and Steve C. Hsiung
This article introduces the concept
of telerobotics—that is to control a
robotic system remotely using lowcost,
off-the-shelf radio transmitter
and receiver electronics.
It has been about ten years since the launch of the NASA
Pathfinder Mission. The Pathfinder mission began
December 4, 1996 and took about seven months to travel
to Mars and place a “lander” on the Martian surface. The
landing took place on July 4, 1997. Pathfinder’s small rover,
Sojourner, transmitted data for seven weeks. Sojourner is
one of the most popular and well-known robot rovers that
have been developed through NASA’s Mars exploration
Pathfinder’s Sojourner missions demonstrated how low-cost
technologies could be used for space exploration. The mission
was directed toward technology, science, and mission
objectives. The technology focused on a small micro-rover
design, morphology and geological sampling, navigation,
imaging, sensors, spectrometry, UHF communication link,
and other experiments. A key part of the mission and technology
was the communication in collecting and transmitting
data back to the lander and subsequently back to earth
Figure 1. The Mars Exploration Rover, Sojourner, is one of the most
widely recognized remote-controlled robotic rovers. Sojourner
had its own solar-powered rechargeable power supply, microcontroller,
drive system (with a bogie suspension and drive system)
and special all-terrain wheels. Sojourner communicated with the
lander using a radio link to transmit data back to scientists on
In April of 2004, two mobile rovers named Spirit (Mars
Exploration Rover A) and Opportunity (Mars Exploration
Rover B) successfully completed their primary threemonth
missions on opposite sides of Mars. The primary
mission’s scientific goals were to search for and characterize
a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues about past
water activity on Mars. Initially, the Mars Exploration Rover
11 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
mission was to last about 90 days and, as of this writing
three years later, Spirit and Opportunity are still collecting
data and transmitting it back to earth. Unlike the Sojourner
rover, Spirit and Opportunity have enhanced communications
systems that enable them to communicate with earth
stations directly and with spacecraft orbiting Mars. However,
Spirit and Opportunity communicated with the orbiter
Odyssey to transmit scientific and image data back to earth
stations as opposed to a relay link from the rovers to the
lander. (MER). As a result of the media coverage of the Mars
missions of the Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers,
there has been a significant increase in interest in robotics
and control technology.
Today there are a number of entertaining, educational,
and consumer robotic products and devices available. For
example, there are robotic lawn mowers, such as the Lawnbot
Evolution that will cut up to three-fourths of an acre,
robotic vacuum cleaners (Roomba), action robots such as
Robosapien and Roboraptor (Figure 2), and the familiar
LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO NXT and VEX robot construction
sets. While these devices may serve some useful
purposes, offer learning experiences, or provide entertainment,
they all share some common elements with industry
and scientific robots.
Figure 2. The level of sophistication in entertainment robotic
devices is impressive. Here a team of students is identifying and
analyzing Roboraptor’s sensors, mechanical systems, and actions
as part of an introductory robot-technology activity. Roboraptor
incorporates tactile, sonic, and light sensors where given stimuli
will cause some programmed response. An infrared controller can
be used to control Roboraptor remotely.
Most robots used in industry and manufacturing, space
exploration and research, and entertainment share many
common elements. Robotic devices and systems typically
have a mechanical system that provides the form and structure,
a motion and drive system, electronics that include
sensors and output devices, and programmable control systems.
While robots will vary significantly in size, complexity,
and intelligence, they all share these common elements.
Some robotic devices have very complex instruction sets to
provide very precise repetitive control of a robot, and some
may even learn new processes and responses to external
stimuli using artificial intelligence techniques, while others
may be programmed to perform simple operations.
We generally think of robots as being autonomous and selfcontained,
where they have their own energy source, motion
or transport system, instructions, etc. However, we will find
that robots may be tethered to a control console via a multiwire
cable, like the deep Sea Explorer robots, where one or
more persons may operate and control the robot. We also
see wireless links that use infrared light energy as a communication
channel or radio frequency (RF) waves to control
robotic systems and transmit data from sensor devices.
Robotics is a rich and exciting multidisciplinary area to
study and learn about electronics and control technology.
The interest in robotic devices and systems provides the
technology teacher with an excellent opportunity to make
many concrete connections between electronics, control
technology, and computers and science, engineering, and
technology. This article introduces the concept of telerobotics—that
is to control a robotic system remotely using lowcost,
off-the-shelf radio transmitter and receiver electronics.
Telerobotics and teleoperation, two terms that we commonly
see regarding the operation of robotic systems, may
be defined as the control and operation of robots at a distance
(NASA). We see these kinds of control technologies
used in fast-action robot games on television (Battlebots),
surgical procedures (telemedicine) both local and remote,
and in space exploration. Additionally, there are many competitive
robotic contests and events, such as FIRST Robotics
Competitions (FRC), that combine problem solving, team
skills, and insights into engineering and technology at all
Our objective is to build a mobile robot platform that can be
teleoperated at a distance using radio waves (RF) to navigate
an obstacle course. The robot platform includes a motor
drive system and electronic motor controller, and incorporates
a miniature UHF transmitter and receiver pair to serve
12 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
as a communication link. The robot platform is designed
around two 8-1/2” diameter PVC disks that are cut from
1/8” PVC sheet, with appropriate spacers, and a dual DC
motor gear box (shown in Figure 3.) The PVC material is
easily shaped and fabricated into a design of the builder’s
Constructing the Teleoperated Robot
The robot chassis is constructed of 1/8” low-density sheet
PVC, which is available in small quantities from educational
and hobby suppliers or plastics suppliers in 4’ X 8’ sheets.
Since it is a low-density material, it is easily cut, drilled with
hand tools, or machined as necessary. A scroll saw may be
used to make all external and internal cuts on the base material.
Holes are easily drilled with a cordless drill. Be sure to
observe all appropriate safety precautions when performing
cutting and drilling operations. Layout lines should be used
for accurate placement of holes and cutouts. Pencil layout
lines are easily removed with a damp cloth. Rough edges left
from the cutting operations can be removed with abrasive
paper. Our telerobot uses a Tamiya dual motor drive gear
box and two-inch diameter “off-road” wheels that are easily
mounted to the platform base. However, if other types
of gear motors are used, then appropriate motor mounting
techniques must be addressed. The battery holders and
solderless breadboards are attached with double-sided tape.
Platform spacers may be made from PVC structural shapes
or just plain wood dowels. Small machine screws and selftapping
screws are used as fasteners.
Direct current (DC) motors can be controlled by several
different methods. They can be controlled with switches,
relays, transistors, and silicon-controlled rectifiers, and
special integrated circuits called H-Bridges. It is a common
practice to use a special circuit design called an H-bridge to
control a DC motor’s current in order to determine speed
and direction of rotation. The two Tamiya motors mounted
on a robot platform are controlled by an L293D integrated
circuit H-bridge. A 74HC04 hex inverter is added to manipulate
the motor’s start, stop, and direction remotely and
allow only two legs of the bridge to be used at any time.
A radio link is established by using a pair of low-cost transmitter
and receiver modules manufactured by Laipac Tech
Incorporated. The TLP434A transmitter and RLP434A
receiver communicate with each other on a 432.9 MHz
frequency. The modules are easy to use because they can
be used directly, with no software or microcontroller
required in applications such as described here. A pair of
Holtek encoder and decoder integrated circuits (HT12E
and HT12D are used to manage the address encoding and
Figure 3. This robot platform works well as an experimental design
because the electronics and control systems can be easily modified
by using a solderless breadboard. The receiver module can be seen
on the right side of the socket. Additionally, you can see the dual
H-Bridge driver that is used to control the operational status of the
motors. Logic states can be used to turn the motors ON or OFF as
well as change direction.
decoding and checking of the validity of the transmitted and
Figures 4 and 5 show the schematic of transmitter and
receiver used in this activity. The technical data sheets for
the transmitter and receiver are available at Laipak Tech’s
website (www.laipak.com) and provide sample circuit applications.
The HT12E encoder and the HT12D encoder (U1 &
U2) are used to encode and decode the recognized addresses
in the RF communications. The 8-Bit DIP switches on both
the transmitter and receiver are used to set the address of
the RF signals in order to set up proper recognition of the
controlled pair. All the address lines are pulled up high to
eliminate any possible noise signal using the “resistor packs.”
However, individual resistors can be used.
The control data is selectable through four push-button
switches (D0, D1, D2, and D3) to control the robot’s two
wheels: start, stop, forward, and reverse. Figure 6 (pg. 18)
shows the transmitter with the push-button switches. The
Transmission Trigger switch has to be pressed to start the
RF transmission. The operation procedure is to first select/
press the switch of D0, D1, D2, and/or D3 for the control
function you desire, then press the Transmission Trigger
switch to send the signal through the RF transmitter and
receiver. A “truth table” is shown in Table 1 that describes
the state and action of each of the drive motors. An “X”
means “does not care,” and the pressing of any of these
switches will send a high signal out.
13 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Circuit Operation and Explanation
The encoder is used to send an address (set by user on an 8-
Bit DIP switch) along with 4-bits of data, which is done by
the user pressing the push buttons D0, D1, D2, and D3. The
TLP434A transmitter module transmits an RF signal continuously
as long as the transmission trigger push button is
pressed. The HT12D decoder will receive address bits and
data bits via the RLP434A receiver module. It will compare
its received address along with its own address setup three
times continuously and check for any error or unmatched
bit. If there is no discrepancy, then the 4 data bits received
will be transferred to its output pins that are connected to
the push buttons to control the motors’ functions. Using offthe-shelf
components, such as these encoder and decoder
integrated circuits and the Laipak Tech transmitter-receiver
pair, simplifies the design of the wireless communication
electronics, software, and integrity of the radio signal.
From an engineering and design point of view, there are a
number of advantages in using off-the-shelf modules like
the transmitter and receiver pair. Two major advantages
are the cost and the simplicity of prototyping and production
of a product design based on the transmitter and
receiver modules rather than in-house design and discrete
part construction. These kinds of component modules can
sat isfy a variety of basic needs in RF wireless communication
applications, such as garage-door openers and other
remote-control applications, and in recognizing that wireless
communication is an open-ended media signal that
anyone can gain access to. Additionally, such signals are
prone to noise interference. Where these issues are of a
concern, they must be addressed carefully. The addition of a
microcontroller with customized software and appropriate
communication protocols can reduce security and interference
concerns. Integrating a microcontroller to handle the
address recognition and validity of the data checking will
Motor Control Functions
Lo Lo X X Motor 1 & 2 Stopped
Hi Lo Lo X Motor 1 Going Forward
Hi Lo Hi X Motor 1 Going Backward
Lo Hi X Lo Motor 2 Going Forward
Lo Hi X Hi Motor 2 Going Backward
Hi Hi Lo Lo Motor 1 & 2 Going Forward
Hi Hi Hi Hi Motor 1 & 2 Going Backward
14 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
make the RF communication more secure. A comprehensive
protocol design in the microcontroller software can make
the RF signal difficult to decode and less prone to noise
Making Classroom Connections
As we look at the goals of the Mars Exploration Rover missions,
we can see the emphasis on science and technology.
The challenges that the scientists, researchers, and engineers
faced required knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines
and focused on critical thinking, problem solving, and
team skills. These same kinds of skills are an integral part of
our programs in classrooms and technology laboratories.
Interdisciplinary learning activities that make connections
between real-world jobs and careers in science, mathematics,
and technology can provide a meaningful context for
learning that can build interest and enthusiasm.
There are a number of mathematical skills that relate to the
theory and operation of the telerobot. As we look at the
motor-control system, we can see that a combination of buttons
must be pressed to enable the robot to travel forward,
backward, or make turns. The button sequence is based on
Boolean logic that can be expressed in a “truth table” such
as the one described earlier. Also included in the motorcontrol
circuit is a Hex Inverter. This logic circuit has its
own truth table where it basically inverts any signal input
on its output. What would an inverter truth table look like?
Understanding the purpose and value of truth tables reinforces
knowledge and skills gained in math classes and adds
to a greater understanding of why the sequence of buttons
pressed causes certain robot actions to occur. What determines
the speed or velocity of the robot? What factors
affect the robot speed? Here we can apply ratios, time, force,
Basic Parts List
# Part Name Quantity
1 TLP434A 1
2 RLP434A 1
3 HT12E-18DIP 1
4 HT12D-18DIP 1
5 8 Bit DIP Switch 2
6 Push Button Switch 5
7 10K Resistor 23
8 1K Resistor 1
9 33K Resistor 1
10 730K Resistor 1
11 74HC04 Hex Inverter 1
12 L293DNE H-Bridge 1
13 Tamiya 70097 DC Dual Motor & Gear Box 1
14 Tamiya 70096 Wheel set 1
15 3-cell Battery Holder 1
16 Experimenter Socket 3.3” X 2.125” Jameco 1
17 Experimenter Socket 6.5” X 2.125” Jameco 1
18 9-Volt Battery Snap 1
15 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Figure 6. A solderless breadboard is used to construct a prototype
of the transmitter unit. The address DIP switches and the push buttons
can be seen on the left side of the board. The Laipak transmitter
module can be seen on the right side of the board and is about
the size of a postage stamp.
weight, and distance calculations to apply and expand on
basic math skills.
The radio transmitter and receiver modules have range
limitations. How can the range limitations be determined?
What relationships can be developed in comparison to the
radio capabilities of Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity? The
transmitter and receiver modules have antennas to radiate
the radio signals. How long should these antennas be? How
long does it take for a radio signal to travel to Mars? Would
the time it took a radio signal command to travel from Earth
to Mars be a critical factor in controlling a rover? Why?
Team Challenge Activity
The team challenge is to construct a teleoperated robot,
such as the one described here, that can be controlled
using a radio communication system. The robot must be
capable of moving forward, backward, turning left or right,
and stopping on command. Individual teams will compete
against each other in navigating a predetermined course as
established by the teacher. It is recommended that a 4-foot
by 8-foot platform be constructed and include obstacles
and dead-end paths. Teams will control their telerobots via
a closed-circuit television link from a remote location. The
competition evaluation criteria should be based on navigating
a prescribed path with the fewest navigation errors in a
defined period of time, and the design and construction of
the team’s telerobot. Each team should maintain an engineer’s
log that reflects the planning, design, construction,
and testing of the team’s telerobot. The teams should
make a technical presentation to the class based on their
Similar to the Pathfinder mission with the Sojourner rover,
our telerobot uses some off-the-shelf components and
modules. The key modules are the receiver and transmitter
that can be purchased at very low cost, providing minimal
time constraints to build the control transmitter and robot
radio receiver. NASA engineers faced similar challenges in
planning and designing a communication system for the
Sojourner rover in 1993. The same decision options face our
technology team when the motor and gear box selection is
made. Should the telerobot team use a commercial dualmotor
gear box or build one using individual components?
Some of the highlights of the radio design and planning
issues that the (JPL-NASA) engineers faced were:
• Should NASA engineers design and make the communication
electronics and antenna at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory?
Alternatively should JPL purchase them from an
outside vendor according to their requirements?
• If off-the-shelf communication equipment is available,
should JPL purchase commercial- or military-grade
equipment? If we buy the commercial grade, can we reliably
fly them to Mars?
• If we buy a military grade, can we carry the heavier weight
and provide the larger power-supply needs?
• What kinds of modifications and tests do we need to perform
on the hardware to prove their reliability?
• If we make the communication equipment, will we have
enough time and enough money?
• What communication frequency should we choose?
As students plan and design their telerobots, they will
be faced with issues and concerns similar to the ones
that NASA engineers and technologists faced in designing
rovers for the Mars Explorations. Problem solving and
critical thinking are important dimensions in technological
literacy as well as careers as engineers, technologists, and
It has been about ten years since the Sojourner rover and
Pathfinder lander landed on Mars. Since that time, additional
rovers and robot explorers (Spirit and Opportunity)
have been sent to Mars for scientific explorations. Increasingly
we are seeing many applications of robotic devices
used in industrial, consumer, entertainment, and research
applications. Today there are literally hundreds of robot-like
toys that have surprising capabilities, such as the Roboraptor
The telerobotics rover described here incorporates many of
the basic systems that we would expect a robot to include.
Robots typically have mechanical systems, the chassis that
forms the structure, a motion-and-drive system, sensors
16 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
and output devices such as a manipulator
or arm, and a control system that may
be programmable or remotely operated. In
addition to these basic systems, telerobotic
devices have some means to enable remote
operation either by a tethered cable or
The telerobot uses off-the-shelf components
as part of a radio-controlled robot
system. The radio transmitter and receiver
pair uses encoder and decoder integrated
circuits to manage an addressing-andcontrol
scheme that allows the user to
simply press control buttons to remotely
control driver motors that can be used to
navigate the robot.
There are opportunities for problem solving,
critical thinking, and the application of
logic and math in the design and construction
of the telerobot.
NASA Sojourner. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
Mars Exploration Rovers (MER). Retrieved
July 15, 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/
NASA Telerobotics. Retrieved July 10,
JPL-NASA Sojourner Communication.
Retrieved July 10, 2007. http://mars.jpl.
Walter F. Deal, III, Ph.D.
is an associate professor
and Program Leader
of Technology Education
and Industrial Technology
Programs at Old Dominion
University in Norfolk,
VA. He can be reached via email at wdeal@
Steve C. Hsiung, Ph.D.
is an associate professor
of Engineering Technology
at Old Dominion University,
Norfolk, VA. He can
be reached via email at
17 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Exploring an Advanced Placement® (AP®)
Course of Study in Engineering
Interview with Leigh Abts
The objective of the threeyear
effort would be to develop
a framework for secondary
and higher education to
work together to improve the
preparation of students entering
Leigh Abts is a research associate professor of the
College of Education and an affiliate research professor
of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the
University of Maryland at College Park. Dr. Abts has
been the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator
on several National Science Foundation (NSF) awards
that have provided funding to explore the feasibility and
the potential for an Advanced Placement® (AP®) course of
study in engineering. The research into the possibility of an
AP in engineering that involved individuals and institutions
(including ITEA) from across the United States began in
February of 2004. The team referred to by Dr. Abts in this
interview is the group that assembled at NAE under the
organizational name of Strategies for Engineering Education
K–16 (SEEK–16). Dr. Abts recently described and
summarized the motivations, results, and next steps from a
research Pre-AP® in engineering project.
Most educators are aware of AP® in such courses of study
as biology, physics, and mathematics. However yours
pertains to “Pre-AP®” engineering courses. How does this
differ from, say, the physics AP®; and what will it mean
for the “technology and engineering” strands in STEM
More secondary schools and cocurricular programs should
encourage activities that engage students in the processes and
practices of engineering.
Ms. Jan Morrison, Mr. Buzz Bartlett, and I led a team that,
over an eighteen-month research cycle sponsored by NSF,
documented and recommended that an AP® in engineering
was not feasible or even desirable at this time, primarily
due to the lack of trained teachers and the lack of classroom
18 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
esources required to offer an engineering course of study
within most secondary schools. Additionally, most of the
higher education institutions involved in, or acting as respondents
to, the research surveys, cited that preparation,
and not placement, should become the highest priority for
the precollege education of incoming engineering undergraduates.
Based on a consensus of the team, the recommendation
was made to NSF and the College Board that the emphasis
be placed on the development of an accredited preparation
pathway for students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary
to succeed and remain in entry-level undergraduate engineering
courses. The response of the College Board was to
offer the team the use of their copyrighted Pre-AP® name for
a period of three years, during which time we would develop
a framework for engineering. The team is now developing an
arrangement with the College Board to do just that.
The objective of the three-year effort would be to develop
a framework for secondary and higher education to work
together to improve the preparation of students entering
undergraduate engineering programs. The intent
of the framework would be to encourage programs like
ITEA’s Center to Advance the Teaching of Technology and
Science’s Engineering byDesign Program, Project Lead
the Way®, and the Infinity Project® to align aspects of their
programs to a College Board-authorized Pre-AP® course of
study. We feel that such an authorization would facilitate
more secondary schools and cocurricular (after-school)
programs to encourage activities that engage students in the
processes and practices of engineering—e.g., design and the
application of technology.
So is the nature of the project and the expected outcome
to produce more engineers—to make every student an
While the intent sounds like we will track all students into
engineering, in my opinion that is a secondary outcome.
My interpretation of the team’s goal is to encourage all
students to become engaged in activities that allow them
to apply their math and science knowledge through such
engineering practices as design. The design process is essential
to not only engineering, but also to our everyday life
experiences and to making informed decisions. If we can get
students at the middle to high school level to learn to “play
and tinker” with science and mathematics concepts using
engineering concepts and technology, we might grab their
attention to continue to take that “one more” mathematics
or science course.
One goal of the Pre-AP® pathway would be to
include those currently underrepresented in
Therefore, the Pre-AP® Engineering pathway, if properly
aligned to local, state, and national standards, might offer
an opportunity to engage and retain students in more advanced
STEM studies. We hope that the students electing to
pursue the Pre-AP® Engineering and advanced studies might
include those underrepresented, not only in engineering,
but also the other STEM disciplines—e.g. women, African
Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. If we are
successful in increasing these numbers, more than likely a
higher number of women and minorities will enter engineering
as a profession.
It seems there are a number of significant barriers to
accomplishing these goals and objectives. Could you
As with any early-stage launch of a pilot program, a number
of barriers exist, or at least should be anticipated, that will
need to be addressed or overcome. In my opinion, these
barriers could include: (1) the reluctance of institutions to
accept an untested new course of study; (2) the alignment of
the new course of study to existing standards, such as ITEA’s
Standards for Technological Literacy; (3) the inclusion of
under-resourced schools; (4) the involvement and utilization
of tested materials from programs such as Engineering
byDesign, Project Lead the Way®, and the Infinity Project ®;
and last, but certainly not the least, (5) the engagement and
authorization of the College Board to continue the efforts.
19 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
In addition, a pilot program was run to test the concept
of an AP® Engineering course based on the Johns Hopkins
Whiting School of Engineering’s “What is Engineering?”
course. This pilot involved nine sites and approximately 155
students. Demographically, a majority of the students were
women, and a majority were from under-resourced high
schools in Baltimore, Washington, DC, and California. An
independent evaluator, Dr. Denise Bell from the Educational
Alliance at Brown University, summarized the findings at
The design process is essential to not only engineering,
but also to our everyday life.
I hope to continue to build a broad-based consensus for
an “action plan” that will address these challenges as an
opportunity to create an adaptive framework that includes
existing programs, under-resourced schools, secondary and
higher education, and the greater research community. An
evidence-based research approach will be used to direct
the development of the framework and as a mechanism
to establish evaluation baselines and protocols for the
We expect that new approaches to evaluation will need to be
developed and tested for the Pre-AP® Engineering course of
study, since many of the activities will require constructive
assessments of a student’s performance. We’re considering
using an “Electronic Portfolio” that will progressively “travel”
with the Grade 6-16 student.
What groundwork has been established, and what is the
current status of the project?
Initial focus groups were conducted during December of
2005 at California State University at Los Angeles and also
at the ITEA Annual Conference in Baltimore in March of
2006. A total of eight focus groups were conducted across
the United States involving nearly 104 participants. Questions
were formulated for the focus groups through interviews
conducted with over 30 educational and engineering
experts. An independent evaluator, Dr. Karen Falkenberg
from Emory University, summarized the taped or handwritten
transcripts from the focus groups at the retreat held at
Carnegie Mellon University in November of 2006 that was
hosted by Dr. Indira Nair and Ms. Judith Hallinen.
Based on the summary findings and the discussions held
at the retreat, the recommendation was made to NSF and
the College Board that a “preparation versus placement”
framework first be established for engineering education at
the precollege level before consideration be made for an AP®
in engineering. It was also recommended that the framework
consider academic year, summer, and cocurricular
At the request of the College Board, two additional workshops
were held, one at the National Academy of Engineering,
the other at the University of Maryland at College
Park. These workshops considered the reasons, needs, and
possible plans for a Pre-AP® in engineering. Based on these
workshops and the previous focus groups, expert interviews,
and the Carnegie Mellon retreat, a report was issued to NSF
and the College Board in late April of this year.
These prior recommendations and Pre-AP® report were
considered by the College Board staff and trustees. The
final result was that the research effort be continued under
a license agreement that would formally allow us to use the
Will you create new standards through the process?
Over a decade ago, the American Association for the
Advancement of Science developed a roadmap currently
known as Project 2061. Teachers, educators, and curriculum
developers have used the Project 2061 Atlas and roadmaps
to reform science education in the United States. Currently
there exists no equivalent roadmap that can be used by
existing, planned, or for future precollege engineering programs.
However, there do exist many outstanding programs,
such as those mentioned above, that provide students and
teachers the opportunity to learn and practice engineering
and technological concepts.
20 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
The intent of the continued research into a Pre-AP® Engineering
framework is not to reform precollege engineering
and/or technology education or even to recreate
accepted standards. It is to organize and test a framework
of commonly accepted benchmarks that would provide
precollege engineering programs a series of roadmaps,
similar to Project 2061. Such a framework has the potential
to provide a precollege engineering activity or program the
opportunity to be aligned to a pathway authorized to use the
How have you and how will you organize the effort to
develop and test the Pre-AP® Engineering project?
Once we obtain the license to use the Pre-AP® trademark,
we will reconvene the team. We will most likely host a
meeting in the fall of 2007 at the University of Maryland
at College Park. We would bring together the organizers
of the NSF-sponsored AP® research project and other
key individuals representing ongoing programs impacted
by a precollege engineering framework. This initial meeting
would begin the three-year process to develop and vet
possible benchmarks and learning strands to construct a
practical framework that can cover academic, summer, and
I anticipate that the team will work closely with ITEA, as we
have done to this point in time, to not only develop but also
test the framework in ITEA members’ classrooms, summer
programs, and cocurricular activities. I would be remiss if I
did not stress at the end of this interview, the important role
ITEA has played and will continue to play in the development
of the Pre-AP® Engineering framework. Thank you!
International Technology Education Association. (ITEA)
(2000/2002). Standards for technological literacy: Content
for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.
International Technology Education Association. (ITEA)
(2006). Technological literacy for all: A rational and structure
for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.
Leigh Abts, Ph.D., is a research associate
professor of the College of Education and an
affiliate research professor of the A. James
Clark School of Engineering at the University
of Maryland at College Park. He can be
reached via email at LeighAbts@aol.com.
Are you at a stage of development where you have an example
of the framework that might be used for these Pre-
AP® courses? What are they and what is the importance
of breaking down those barriers? Are courses already in
existence? What directions have been established?
We are not at the stage where we can actually suggest a
framework. The goal of the post-license agreement meeting
would be to start the process. I do think, however, that some
of the groundwork has been laid by ITEA’s Technological
Literacy for All. In fact, I firmly believe that we would not
be at this point if not for the foresight of ITEA in creating
Standards for Technological Literacy.
What does this mean for current technology and engineering
teachers as we look to the near future of the
ITEA’s membership of technology and engineering teachers
will continue to play an active role in the development
of the Pre-AP® framework. The success of the team’s efforts
will depend, in no short measure, on the teachers that adapt
and utilize the programs that align with a formalized and
authorized Pre-AP® framework.
21 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Designing a Firefighting Robot
By Harry T. Roman
Students will learn about mobile
robots and attempt to design a
In this challenge, students will learn about mobile robots
and attempt to design a firefighting robot. This activity
should demonstrate the complexity and interdisciplinary
nature of this technology.
First, the students will need to understand how mobile robots
differ from traditional industrial robots that are used in
factories and assembly lines, so a little research is in order as
the students discover:
• The basic subsystems of a mobile robot:
n Propulsion system
n Communications interface (radio control or tether)
n Sensors on board
n Manipulators and end-effectors
• How mobile robots developed, and their lineage.
• The difference between mobile robots and industrial
• The design concerns with mobile robots.
• How mobile robots are communicated with.
• What industries currently use mobile robots and in what
• How mobile robots might be used in the future.
Students should think about how their firefighting robot will be
Have the students take a look at the impacts that robots
could have on human work forces that might be displaced.
In places where mobile robots have been used, have there
been problems with human workers being displaced? What
kinds of training did those workers receive in how to use the
robots? Also evaluate the types of skills necessary to design
mobile robots, and the different disciplines that must be
Armed with this basic knowledge about the mobile robot
world, your students are now ready to begin thinking about
how their firefighting robot will be designed and deployed.
22 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
The most important aspect of this challenge is to understand
the problem and what conditions the mobile robot
must face and withstand; and that means we must start by
listing the key aspects of this design. First we will start with
rather obvious concerns:
• What kinds of fires will be fought?
• How far into the fire will the robot go?
n Must it be totally fireproof?
n Will it stay around the perimeter of the fire?
• Must it be waterproof?
• Its delicate electronics should be able to withstand high
• Key circuitry onboard the robot should be redundant.
• The robot must be able to withstand the discharge of its
fire hose without losing its balance.
• How much hose will it be necessary to drag behind it?
• If the robot becomes disabled, it must be easily retrieved.
Students are free to determine what they want their robot to
be able to do, but must understand that those choices drive
the design. Are there firefighting robots now in service that
might provide some design clues and insights?
fire site? As probable future users of a mobile firefighting
robot, might they have some important concerns that
should be taken into account? Why not invite some local
firemen to discuss how they fight fires, and how a mobile
robot might be useful to them. Their experience would be
most valuable in helping students understand how to deploy
the robot. They could also provide information about the
type of training firefighters would need to become proficient
with maintaining, deploying, and using the robot.
Are there other firefighting situations where mobile robots
could be used, outside of traditional structure fires? Could
these robots find application in refineries, the military,
aboard aircraft carriers and other vessels, in coal mines, oil
storage depots, oil rigs, or other places? Have there been
previous attempts or past applications?
Now the students should make an attempt to design their
robots. This kind of challenge lends itself well to team efforts
where, once the central design parameters are decided upon,
students may take different aspects of the project and design
their portion—all of which will be integrated together later
by the team.
Expand the question-asking to prompt even more creativity
and speculation about how the
robot might be used:
• How would the robot be
brought to the fire site?
• How would it be cleaned
after a fire?
• What temperatures is the
robot likely to experience?
• What materials would it be
• How would the operator
communicate with the
• How would the robot see
through the fire?
• Are there special concerns if
robots have to deal with:
n Hazardous substance fires
n Corrosive spills and
n Handling explosive
What do you think firemen
would think of a mobile robot
they could deploy at a serious
Use of computer graphics design software is encouraged in designing a robot.
23 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Encourage lots of pictures and diagrams explaining how
the robot will be designed and operated. Cut-away pictures
of the robot in action and its various anatomical structures
should be prominently displayed. The use of computer
graphics design software is certainly encouraged. A formal
design report should be compiled by each team.
Students should attempt to develop cost information about
building the robots. And certainly, the design teams can
develop marketing information about their new products. In
fact, the robot design teams each should give oral presentations
about each robot, its special features, and selling
This challenge should be loads of fun. Robots are a wonderful
venue in which to team interdisciplinary and multidimensional
thinking and critical analysis. Let the creativity
and futuristic thinking soar.
Harry T. Roman recently retired from his
engineering job and is the author of a variety
of new technology education books. He can
be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Could these robots find applications in other places?
Invite a Colleague to Experience
Through Colleague Connection, current members may
invite their colleagues to experience the benefits of ITEA
membership for a limited time at no charge.
free resources for technology teachers
CarveWright Woodworking System..............4
Goodheart-Willcox Publisher...................... 21
Kelvin Electronics........................................... 17
24 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
STS-118 Engineering Design Challenges
ITEA and NASA Partner Again to Promote STEM
In conjunction with the August 8, 2007 launch of STS-118, ITEA and NASA recently debuted
STS-118 Design Challenges. Available on a single CD that combines elementary, middle, and high
school, these challenges revolve around a lunar plant growth chamber to help supplement the diet
of astronauts while living and working on the moon, as well as provide as sense of “home.”
These interactive, electronic Design Challenges are now available on CD from ITEA for an introductory
cost of $9.50. The Design Challenges include lessons, student and teacher resources,
assessments, and materials lists. Moreover, the units integrate with the ITEA model program for
technological literacy known as Engineering byDesign. These units are the first of the Human
Exploration Project curricula for space exploration to be introduced – coming Soon: Units on Space
and Transportation and Space and Energy and Power!
To order CDs, contact ITEA at 703-860-2100. Shipping charges of $2 per CD apply.
The British Schools of America
Submitted by Gareth Hall
In helping pupils/students to
become more autonomous
learners, we have moved away
from mere knowledge acquisition
to knowledge application, where
pupils/students are encouraged
to be flexible and seek their own
solutions to a range of problems
using a variety of activities,
techniques, and appropriate
The British Schools of America were founded in 1998
when the first school opened in Washington, DC. The
British Schools of Boston and Houston both opened
in September 2000, the British School of Chicago
opened in September 2001 and the British American School
of Charlotte, our most recent school, opened in September
2004. The British Schools of America are a division of World
Class Learning Schools and Systems (WCLS), based in
The British School of Washington provides British primary
and secondary school education for children of all nationalities.
The school’s enrollment comprises approximately
300 pupils of whom the majority are British and American.
Some twenty further nationalities are, however, represented
amongst the pupil body.
A BSA workshop.
The British Schools of America offer a broad curriculum
based on the International Primary Curriculum, the
National Curriculum (England) and the International
Baccalaureate, and focus on the whole development of the
child, aiming to equip every pupil and student with the
essential skills for lifelong learning.
26 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Design and Technology, or D&T as it is called in the UK,
is taught from the age of five through fourteen (Key Stages
1–3) as a compulsory core subject, after which it becomes
optional and an elective (Key Stages 4 and 5). As an elective,
a variety of D&T courses can be offered: product
design (including textiles technology, resistant materials,
and graphic products) or manufacturing, food technology,
systems and control, electronic products, electronics, and
communication technology, and industrial technology or
To gain the “big picture” overview of where D&T sits in the
National Curriculum, you need look no further than the
subject’s statement of importance, which defines its unique
contribution within the national curriculum and describes a
vision for it:
“In design and technology, pupils combine practical
and technological skills with creative thinking to design
and make products and systems to meet human needs.
They learn to use current technologies and consider the
impact of future technological development. They learn
to think creatively and intervene to improve quality of
life, solving problems as individuals and members of
Working in stimulating contexts that provide a range of
opportunities and draw on the local ethos, community
and wider world, pupils identify needs and opportunities.
They respond with ideas,
products and systems, challenging
appropriate. They combine
practical and intellectual
skills with an understanding
of aesthetic, technical,
cultural, health, social, emotional,
and environmental issues.
As they do so, they evaluate
present and past design and
technology, and its uses and
effects. Through design and
technology, pupils develop
confidence in using practical
skills and become discriminating
users of products. They
A student presents ideas to the team.
apply their creative thinking and learn to innovate.”
The national curriculum (England) is currently undergoing
revision; the new statement of importance above is part
of that process and ensures that the curriculum remains
relevant to our pupils/students. The curriculum highlights
key concepts that underpin the study of design and technology.
Pupils need to understand these concepts in order
to deepen and broaden their knowledge, skills, and understanding.
These concepts include: designing and making,
cultural understanding, creativity, and critical evaluation.
The curriculum also highlights those essential skills and
key processes in design and technology that pupils need to
learn in order to make progress as well as a range of curriculum
opportunities that outline the breadth of the subject on
which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts
and key processes. Fifteen year ago England and Wales
were the first countries in the world to introduce Design and
Technology as a compulsory subject for all pupils from 5-16.
Each key stage builds upon the previous, adding a greater
level of sophistication in knowledge skills and understanding.
The current curriculum programme of study states that:
“…teaching should ensure that knowledge and understanding
are applied when developing ideas, planning, making
products and evaluating them.” Each key stage programme
of study sets out what pupils should be taught when: developing,
planning, and communicating ideas; working with
tools equipment, materials, and components to make quality
products; evaluating products and processes; knowledge
and understanding of materials and components, knowledge
and understanding of systems and control (from Key Stage
3); knowledge and understanding of structures (from Key
Stage 3). Breadth is provided through D&T being taught via
three main types of activity that provide opportunities to
develop a pupil’s/student’s design/make and technological
capability. These are:
27 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
• Product analysis (investigate, disassembly, and evaluation
activities related to familiar products and
• Focused practical tasks that develop a range of techniques,
skills, processes, and knowledge.
• Design and make assignments in different contexts. The
assignments can include control systems, and work using
a range of contrasting materials, including resistant materials,
compliant materials, and/or food.
At BSW the secondary department covers three key stages:
11-14 Key Stage 3, 14-16 Key Stage 4 (a two year programme
in which, if completed successfully, students receive
the General Certificate of Secondary Education), 16-18 Key
Stage 5 (IB diploma program). Due to the nature of my own
specialism, the main focus of the design and technology
program followed is product design, which includes, at Key
Stage 3, resistant materials (wood, metal, plastic), structures,
packaging, graphic design, simple electrical products, and
mechanical systems. Key Stage 4 students follow the AQA
Resistant Materials syllabus, and Key Stage 5 pupils undertake
the IB’s standard level Design Technology program. A
“design”-led philosophy drives the subject; no matter what
medium you may be working in, it is the design thinking
that is of most importance to a successful outcome. In helping
pupils/students to become more autonomous learners,
we have moved away from mere knowledge acquisition to
knowledge application, where pupils/students are encouraged
to be flexible and seek their own solutions to a range
of problems using a variety of activities, techniques, and
appropriate resource materials.
At Key Stage 4 (freshman and sophomore years) students
undertake a two-year GCSE course in Resistant Materials
Technology, with a product design emphasis. The course
challenges students to: demonstrate their design and technology
capability, requiring them to combine skills with
knowledge and understanding in order to design and make
quality products in quantity; acquire and apply knowledge,
skills, and understanding through analysing and evaluating
products and processes; engage in strategies for developing
ideas, plan and produce products, and undertake focused
tasks to develop and demonstrate techniques; consider how
past and present design and technology affects society; and
recognise the moral, cultural, and environmental issues
inherent in design and technology.
During the first year of the course, students undertake a
range of minor projects, using product themes of seating,
lighting, and storage. These product themes demand active
During the first year
of Resistant Materials
undertake a range of
minor projects, using
product themes of
seating, lighting, and
28 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
and experimental learning through the use and application
of knowledge and skills in using resistant materials.
Dependant upon the desired learning focus and the students
involved, these projects may last anywhere from half a term/
semester to an entire term. Projects such as these provide a
context within which to focus on the teaching of a range of
key design strategies, practical skills (such as modeling—see
samples on previous page), and knowledge that are appropriate
and applicable to the specific task/project at hand.
This also provides the flexibility to deliver instruction at
appropriate teachable moments and contextualise the learning
for students, making the realistic application of theory
more apparent. This is not students learning by rote, but the
introduction of knowledge and skills when they are needed
by the student, and places the teacher in the role of being a
manager of the educational process.
This minor project work allows students to begin to explore
the set of Designing Skills, (research, analysis of problem/
task and research, specification, generation of ideas, development
of solution, planning of making, evaluation, testing
and modification, use of communication, graphical and use
of ICT skills, social issues, industrial practices and systems
and control, including the use of CAD) and Making Skills,
(correction of working errors including modifications; use
of appropriate equipment and processes, including the use
of CAM; production and effectiveness of outcome; level of
accuracy and finish; use of quality assurance (QA) and quality
control (QC)) that they are to be assessed in. Their competency
in these areas is assessed through the production
of a final project portfolio, including a high-quality practical
outcome (60% of their final mark) and a terminal two-hour
exam (40% of their final mark). The assessment scheme is
also iterative, allowing students to reflect and revise their
work as it is undertaken.
A student’s journey through a design and technology task,
whether it is a focused practical/theory task that imparts
specific knowledge or skills or a holistic design-and-make
project, is as individual as the pupil. Each situation is driven
by different needs and has different demands, but the one
constant that provides the compass for that journey is the
design process. Throughout the two-year course, students
learn to use, and modify when required, a stylised product
design process. This process idealistically mirrors those used
by industry in defining, designing, and developing products
and systems and helps students to organise, clarify, and
direct tasks and projects, though it is clearly understood
that this process is there for guidance and is not intended to
be a straightjacket.
BSW Resistant Material Product
(DATA stylised process showing its
• Project time plan/schedule
• Initial research (user questionnaire,
product analysis, user trip,
• Design specification
• Initial ideas, chosen idea
• Development of ideas, secondary
• Manufacturing specification,
working drawings, plan of
• Testing and evaluation
The assessment scheme is structured to allow each student
to work at his or her own ability level and provides a basis to
explore strengths and weaknesses as the course progresses
and set individualised targets for improvement. Students
need to be very clear on what is being assessed and how it
is being assessed. The physical evidence that is required for
assessment, produced through the application of the design
process, is often represented as a design folder or sketchbook.
Though each section of evidence is important, they
are not graded as individual pieces of work; each part relies
on what has gone before. For example, poor initial research
can lead to a poorly defined specification.
Simplistically, the design process
can be described as a linear
progression from identifying a
need and design brief through
to the evaluation of the product,
as you can see in the diagram
above (from www.DATA.org.
uk); although it is displayed as
linear stages, each step is iterative.
Students may find it necessary
to repeat several steps as
they analyse and evaluate the
material they generate, coming
to conclusions and making
decisions that help them to justify
their design decisions and
direct and clarify the task ahead
29 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Wine storage and display.
Artist’s paintbrush holder.
In the second year, students are encouraged to relate their
work to their personal interests and abilities. Personalising
work in this way builds a sense of ownership and allows
them to clearly direct their own learning. The exciting thing
about this is that work is not limited to what the teacher
knows. Students do not get free rein; they have to take into
account the level of facilities and materials available to them.
This often leads to considerable modification and compromises
throughout their project, not unlike the real world.
Having defined a situation, design students write a design
brief and undertake initial research aimed at understanding
the needs of the stakeholders. These include the client, the
designer, the manufacturer/maker, the retailer, and last but
by no means least, the user/consumer. The initial research
that follows leads to the creation of a detailed design specification,
and students can begin to generate initial ideas.
These ideas are then assessed and evaluated against their
specification, often by presenting to their peers. They then
take their best idea/solution and develop their two-dimensional
ideas into a three-dimensional product. A more indepth
stage of practical research through modeling and
testing begins and is crucial as students test out a variety
of possible solutions to answer questions of: function, size,
ergonomics, aesthetics, environment, material properties,
industrial processes, structure, construction, and finish.
Once these questions have been answered, a final manufacturing
specification using CAD can be produced, with
detailed working drawings and a plan of manufacture that
describes each task in building the product, tools needed,
health and safety requirements, quality control checks, and
time needed for the task. They can then go forward with
actual production, at the end of which they test and evaluate
their final product.
Why do I feel that D&T should be at the centre of school
curricula today? The subject insists on being neither a specialist
art discipline nor a specialist science discipline precisely
because it is inspired to harmonise both positions.
Design is also restless—it constantly challenges and reworks
established ideas and models. It is innovative, anticipating
the need for an application as well as refining and adapting
emerging technologies to develop sustainable solutions. Yet
it aims to achieve these diverse and essentially creative ends
through rigorous and rational processes. In the context of
our modern and complex society, young people are confronted
by an employment market that demands flexibility,
adaptability, and breadth of discipline and rewards teamwork,
communication, and problem-solving skills. These are
the foundation stones of design competence.
“Science, engineering, and technology are vitally important
to the future of the country and the world. Look
at the things that are changing the world today and
you will see manufactured products with new technology,
engineering and design. We need to challenge the
assumption that careers in industry and manufacturing
are dull. D&T in schools and universities goes
a long way to doing this. Our young people use their
hands and brains to solve problems: an enormous creative
challenge.” James Dyson
Gareth Hall received a degree in Product
(industrial) Design from Manchester
Polytechnic, Manchester, England in 1992.
He followed this with a Post-Graduate
Certificate in Education from De Montfort
University, Leicester, where he specialised
in design & technology. He taught for seven
years in three different institutions covering the eleven to
eighteen age ranges and was Head of Design and Technology
in his last school prior to joining the British Schools of
America in 2002, as Subject Leader at their Washington DC
30 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Barbara Morgan Takes Teaching
NASA will send educators to space
so that they can use their skills and
experiences as classroom teachers
to connect space exploration to the
The space shuttle Endeavour launched August 8,
carrying seven astronauts to orbit on a complex flight
to continue the assembly of the International Space
Station and fulfill a long-standing human spaceflight
legacy. The 119th flight in space shuttle history and the 22nd
to the station is unique to ITEA, because one of its crew is
one of our own, ITEA member Barbara R. Morgan.
Morgan is the first educator mission specialist in NASA’s
Educator Astronaut Program, having served as the backup
to payload specialist Christa McAuliffe in the Teacher in
Space Project. McAuliffe and six fellow astronauts lost
their lives in the Challenger accident on January 28, 1986.
Morgan, who was an elementary school teacher in McCall,
Idaho, before being selected as McAuliffe’s backup, returned
to teaching after the accident. She was selected to train as
a mission specialist in 1998 and was named to the STS-118
crew in 2002.
ITEA member Barbara R. Morgan
This was Barbara Morgan’s first spaceflight. She rode middeck
for the launch of Endeavour and was seated in the
flight deck for entry and landing. As the “loadmaster,” Morgan
was the crew member responsible for the 5,000 pounds
of supplies and equipment transferred between the shuttle
and the space station. She also operated the shuttle and station
robotic arms during the delicate spacewalk and installation
tasks. Additionally, as an Educator Astronaut, Morgan
31 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
was involved in three live, interactive educational in-flight
events with students gathered in Boise, Idaho, Alexandria,
Virginia, and Lynn, Massachusetts to discuss her mission
and the educational aspects of human spaceflight.
The prime objective of the mission was to install the Starboard
5 (S5) truss on the right side of the station’s expanding
truss structure. The two-ton S5 was robotically attached
and bolted to the S4 truss, which was delivered to the station
on the STS-117 mission in June. The S5 truss is 11 feet
long, and serves as a “spacer” to provide structural support
for the outboard solar arrays that will be installed on the S6
truss next year and to provide sufficient space for clearance
between those arrays and the S4 truss solar blankets.
Another high priority task for Endeavour’s astronauts was
the replacement of the failed Control Moment Gyroscope-3
(CMG-3), which experienced high electrical currents and
erratic spin rates in October 2006 and was taken off line.
After arriving on orbit, crewmembers Caldwell and
Williams captured video and digital stills of Endeavour’s
jettisoned external fuel tank for imagery analysis on
the ground, the first in a series of iterative steps to clear
Endeavour’s heat shield for a safe landing. Endeavour’s
astronauts then set up their tools and computers and
opened the ship’s cargo bay doors. Later in the flight,
Morgan and Caldwell were at the controls of the shuttle’s
robotic arm as they lifted the third External Stowage
Platform out of Endeavour’s cargo bay and handed it over
to crewmembers Hobaugh and Anderson, who operated
the station’s Canadarm2. Hobaugh and Anderson installed
the ESP-3 onto a cargo attachment device on the P3 truss,
where capture bolts locked it down.
Later in the day, Morgan conducted the first in-flight
educational event with students gathered at the Discovery
Center of Idaho in Boise, a 20-minute interactive event to
discuss the progress of the flight. Several days later, Morgan
conducted educational in-flight events with students at the
Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria,
Virginia and the Robert L. Ford NASA Explorer School
in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Educator Astronaut Program
NASA’s Office of Education aims to strengthen NASA and
the nation’s future workforce by attracting and retaining
students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,
or STEM, disciplines. The Educator Astronaut
Program (EAP) is part of NASA’s Elementary and Secondary
Official patch of NASA’s STS-118 mission
Education Program. NASA believes that, by increasing the
number of students involved in NASA-related activities
at the elementary and secondary education levels, more
students will be inspired and motivated to pursue higher
levels of STEM courses—NASA has selected educators with
expertise in kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms to
train to become fully qualified astronauts. NASA will send
educators to space so that they can use their skills and experiences
as classroom teachers to connect space exploration
to the classroom. By utilizing their talents as educators and
the unique platform of spaceflight, these astronauts can offer
a new avenue for imagination and ingenuity for teachers
and their classrooms. In addition to Barbara Morgan, there
are three other educators in the astronaut corps. Another
of the educator astronauts, Joe Acaba, was a memorable
keynote speaker at the 2007 ITEA Conference in San
Antonio. Barbara Morgan will be a keynote speaker at the
February 2008 ITEA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The assignments of educator astronauts are no different
than those given other astronauts. The EAP collaborates
with its Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers (NEAT) to
develop additional ways to provide teachers unique professional
development opportunities, which will strengthen
the overall teaching of STEM disciplines. NEAT is currently
comprised of approximately 190 teachers from around
the country, excellent educators who applied in 2003 but
were not selected for educator astronaut positions. NASA
provides NEAT with professional development through
32 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
national conferences and workshops at NASA’s field centers.
They receive NASA education resources and special training,
and are offered unique NASA experiences. NASA Education
and the EAP planned a variety of education activities
to give students, educators, and families the opportunity to
engage in the STS-118 mission, before, during, and after the
flight. Educator resources are available online.
Education Payload Operations (EPO)
Education Payload Operations (EPO) are education payloads
or activities designed to support NASA’s mission to inspire
the next generation of explorers. Generally, these payloads
and activities focus on demonstrating science, mathematics,
technology, engineering, or geography principles on orbit.
The overall goal for every mission is to facilitate education
opportunities that use the unique environment of spaceflight.
In support of STS-118, NASA Education put together
a comprehensive education plan designed to engage students
in the mission. The gemstones of this plan are the
engineering design challenges in which students will design,
build, and evaluate their own lunar plant growth chambers.
The challenges tie directly to the two education payloads
used on STS-118.
EPO-Kit C was an education payload consisting of two
small collapsible plant growth chambers and the associated
Pictured from left are astronauts Rick Mastracchio, mission specialist; Barbara R. Morgan, mission specialist; Charlie Hobaugh, pilot;
Scott Kelly, commander; and Tracy Caldwell, Canadian Space Agency’s Dave Williams, and Alvin Drew, all mission specialists.
33 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
hardware to conduct a 20-day plant germination investigation
(figures below). During the investigation, crew members
maintained the plants and captured still images of plant
growth. Meanwhile, EPO-Educator was an education payload
consisting of approximately 10 million basil seeds. The
seeds launched and returned with STS-118. Now that the
mission is complete, the seeds will be distributed to students
and educators as part of a comprehensive education plan for
STS-118. On-orbit operations included capturing still images
of the seeds in a microgravity environment.
Both EPO-Kit C and EPO-Educator align with groundbased
education activities that were planned in conjunction
with STS-118. As part of these activities, students in
kindergarten through 12th grade will validate the performance
of their plant growth chamber design (using flown
and control seeds) by conducting scientific investigations of
“EPO Educator” was manifested for launch and return on
flight STS-118, while “EPO Kit C” was manifested for launch
on STS-118 and return on STS-120, targeted for October.
The investigations and related activities have strong ties to
the U.S.’s Vision for Space Exploration, encouraging students
to pursue studies and careers in science, technology,
Barbara Morgan on what inspired her to
become a teacher:
EPO Kit C Hardware and Plant-Growth Chamber
“Well I have a wonderful career as a teacher, and I
do look forward to going back in the future. It was
something I wanted to do when I was little because I
loved learning, and I had great teachers growing up.
I think they had a lot of influence on me. At the age I
was through high school and college years, basically
the only thing that seemed like girls did was either
become teachers or nurses. And I really, I really didn’t
like those limitations. But in my studies in college in
human biology, one of my classes that really fascinated
me a lot was on the brain. It was the structure
and function of the brain. At the same time I was also
taking a psychology class on learning and learning
theories and memory. All of that stuff kind of put
together was something that really captured my interest.
At some point, I was walking around the bookstore
and I don’t know why this happened, but I just
got drawn to the education section and happened to
pick up a book about somebody that I knew nothing
about. It was Maria Montessori, who, it turned out,
obviously, was a very…well-known educator. In kind
of putting all those things together, I thought, ‘If these
are the things I’m interested in … ,’ and it reawakened
that desire when I was a little kid of wanting to be a
teacher. And I always knew I wanted to do something
in the service area. And I thought, ‘Boy, if these are
the things I’m interested in, what a better place to
learn more about this and be in the profession than
going into teaching.’ It was the right decision. I taught
for 24 years before taking this lateral move to do this
job. And I loved every minute of it.”
34 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and applying
these disciplines to future exploration goals.
Engineering Design Challenges
To mark Morgan’s first flight, NASA’s Exploration Systems
Mission Directorate (ESMD) and Office of Education cosponsored
standards-based Engineering Design Challenges
for students in elementary, middle, and high school. This
was the primary focus for ground-based education activities
aligned with the STS-118 mission. In this challenge,
students were charged with designing a plant growth
chamber for the moon that could be either delivered to the
moon as a complete unit or assembled on the lunar surface.
Given a basic set of requirements and constraints, students
designed, built, and evaluated the system. All elements of
the design challenge map to standards for technological
literacy (which includes engineering design), science, and
mathematics. Additionally, the elementary challenges map
to standards for language arts and social studies. The challenges
were developed by ITEA in partnership with NASA.
In addition to a design/build/evaluate track, a design/evaluate
track is being offered in order to make the challenge
attractive to both teachers with experience in engineering
ITEA’s Role in the Design Challenges
The STS-118 Design Challenges reflect leadingedge
content that is consistent with the challenges
faced by NASA, and they also correlate with ITEA’s
Model Program for Technological Literacy, Engineering
byDesign (EbD) (www.engineeringbydesign.
org). ITEA partnered with NASA to develop the
engineering design challenges that correspond with
the STS-118 mission and the first flight of an Educator
Astronaut, ITEA member Barbara Morgan. The
STS-118 Design Challenges are part of ITEA’s Human
Exploration Project (HEP) and reflect a unique
partnership between NASA engineers and scientists
and educators. The author/educators visited various
NASA Centers prior to curricular development and
talked one-on-one with the engineers and scientists
who work every day to find answers to the challenges
that NASA faces. Author/educators toured the laboratories
and were able to ask questions. During curricular
development and revision, author/educators were
able to correspond with NASA to obtain answers to
additional questions. The resulting units went through
a vigorous NASA educational review prior to being
posted on the NASA Portal. Simultaneous with this
review, ITEA conducted summer workshops on the
design challenges around the United States. For information
about scheduling a professional development
workshop on the design challenges or about EbD,
contact Barry Burke at 301-482-1929 or via email at
The Design Challenges are available as a printable
pdf on the NASA Portal: www.nasa.gov/sts118. From
that Web page, click on “Education.” There, educators
can register for the challenge and become eligible to
receive the space-flown and control seed packets. The
design challenges are also available through ITEA
on CD in both interactive, electronic format as well
as printable pdfs. All three versions—elementary,
middle, and high school—are packaged on one CD
along with additional resources. To order a CD, call
703-860-2100. For more information about the design
challenges or additional HEP space exploration units,
contact Shelli Meade at 540-382-4804 or via email at
Barbara Morgan speaks to an audience of students and media
during a demonstration at Space Center Houston.
35 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
and technology education and those who may not have as
much comfort and/or classroom time to build a chamber
prototype. The engineering design challenges offer lesson
guides, extensions, assessments, and resource background
materials. Teaching tips and strategies, advice from NASA
plant researchers, and recommendations from NASA design
engineers are incorporated into the challenge website. A
career corner on the website highlights the different areas of
study that are related to plant growth research and engineering
design. Once a system is built or obtained (and the
design evaluated), registered teachers are eligible to receive
a set of cinnamon basil seeds, flown on STS-118 with
Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan, with which to validate
the performance of the system and run additional experiments.
Approximately 100,000 packets of STS-118 seeds will
be made available. Control (non-space flown) basil seeds
will also be provided. Educators may obtain from NASA a
certificate of participation by completing a final evaluation
of the engineering design challenge.
Depicts the location of STS-118 payload hardware.
Barbara Morgan talks about the education
payloads on the STS-118 mission.
“That puts a big smile on my face! First, our education
goals for this mission: We want to engage as
many students and teachers as we can in actively
participating in the Vision for Space Exploration,
actively participating in moon, Mars, and beyond. So
our education payloads…are in support of that. It’s
really all about what kids and their teachers and their
scout leaders and museum directors are doing on the
ground and what we do on orbit. We call it kind of
the icing on the cake, too, to support what they’re doing
on the ground. We’re taking up a couple of small
growth chambers, and we’re taking up…I like to say a
kazillion—many, many, many, many plant seeds. And,
the seeds we’re going to take up and most all of them
we’re going to bring back down. The growth chambers
we’re going to transfer over to the International
Space Station where Clay Anderson, once we leave,
will get those growing. The idea is that all of this is
ongoing. Nothing really starts and stops. We want
our young people to have a sense of that, too—that
the education payload that we have will be up on
station and continue long past when we come back.
All of this is just a small part of what we see happening
in the future. What we’re taking up, these plant
growth chambers, are to get them thinking about one
of many, many questions that need to be answered,
which is: How do you sustain life for long duration on
the moon or on Mars and beyond? So, we would like
them to think about what kinds of plants are the best
to grow. How are you going to grow them? What are
the things that you need to consider to grow them,
whether you’re in the environment of the moon or the
environment of Mars or on a spacecraft that’s going
to take you there or on the International Space Station?
And, we’re going to have an engineering design
challenge for them where we would like for them to
design and build a model or a working prototype of
a plant growth chamber. We would love to see their
designs. And the seeds that we’re taking up, we’re
bringing back down for them. It’s both real and metaphorical
to get something literally physical into their
hands that says, ‘Go do the stuff that we get to do.’ You
know, ‘Go do exploring, experimenting, and discovering.
We’re not going to tell you what to do and how to
do it. They’re yours to do just like we do.’”
36 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
For More Information
For more information on the STS-118 mission, please visit
www.nasa.gov/STS118. Click on “Education” to find out
more about the ITEA-NASA STS-118 Design Challenges as
well as other educational initiatives connected to the
mission. For additional information about the ITEA-NASA
STS-118 Design Challenges, as well as similar educational
initiatives, contact Shelli Meade at email@example.com
or via phone at 540-382-4804.
Launchpad: Space Shuttle Endeavour on Launchpad 39-A, prior to launch.
37 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
Astronaut Barbara R. Morgan, mission specialist,
is surrounded by supplies in SPACEHAB, located
in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Supply transfer was one of the main activities on
the agenda August 17 for the STS-118 crewmembers,
who learned their anticipated departure from
the International Space Station would come a day
earlier due to weather issues back home.
Astronaut Barbara R. Morgan,
STS-118 mission specialist, pauses
for a photo while holding a still
camera on the middeck of
Space Shuttle Endeavour.
38 • The Technology Teacher • October 2007
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