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Curriculum Exchange: Teaching Energy Concepts using Chain Reaction Machines

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Division Curriculum Exchange

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.349.1 - 24.349.2



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Paper Authors


Shakira Renee Hobbs Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Shakira McCall is a graduating Master's of Science student in Engineering at Arizona State University. She is also a recent recipient of the IGERT-SUN Traineeship funded by the National Science Foundation. Her PhD work will be continued in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment beginning Fall 2014.

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Odesma Onika Dalrymple Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Dr. Odesma Dalrymple is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Engineering and Computing Systems at Arizona State University. She conducts research on tools and techniques that can be readily applied in real engineering learning environments to improve student learning and teaching. In this respect her two prominent research contributions are with: 1) artefact-inspired discovery–based pedagogy, i.e., learning activities where students’ exploration of STEM knowledge is self-directed and motivated by interactions or manipulations of artefacts; and 2) the development of faculty expertise in outcomes-based course design through the use of the Instructional Module Development (IMOD) system, a self-guided web-based training tool.

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Shawn S. Jordan Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus Orcid 16x16

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Shawn Jordan, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is the PI on three NSF-funded projects: CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society (EEC 1351728), Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future? (EEC 1329321), and Broadening the Reach of Engineering through Community Engagement (BRECE) (DUE 1259356). He is also Co-PI on one NSF-funded project: Should Makers be the Engineers of the Future? (EEC 1232772), and is senior personnel on an NSF-funded grant entitled Workshop: I-Corps for Learning (i-Corps-L). He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University, and as a qualitative researcher studies both STEM and informal engineering education. As an educator, he founded and led a team to two collegiate National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest championships, and has co-developed the STEAM Machines™ / “Rube Goldbergineering” program over the past 6 years to expose middle and high school students to the engineering design process.

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Curriculum  Exchange:  Teaching  Energy  Concepts  using  Chain  Reaction  Machines    K-­‐12  and  Pre-­‐College  Engineering  Division  |  Curriculum  Exchange  The  STEAM  Machines™  and  STEAM  Machines  and  Career  Exploration  ™  programs  challenge  teams  of  middle  and  high  school-­‐aged  students  to  learn  and  apply  the  engineering  design  process  to  build  Rube  Goldberg  style  chain  reaction  machines.  These  summer  camp  programs  teach  students  real-­‐world  engineering  skills,  provide  experience  with  systems  thinking  and  multi-­‐team  collaboration,  integrate  arts  and  STEM,  and  create  a  pathway  for  students  to  better  understand  careers  in  engineering  and  other  science,  technology  and  math  fields.    For  the  Summer  2013  implementations  of  these  summer  camp  programs,  new  content  modules  on  energy  and  anaerobic  digestion  were  integrated  into  the  curriculum  and  introduced  at  three  high  school  sites,  i.e.,  two  in  Arizona  and  one  in  Trinidad  and  Tobago.  A  total  of  65  students  ranging  from  ages  13  to  18  participated  in  the  experience.  With  the  addition  of  the  energy  content  and  related  activities  students  learned  to:   • Identify  the  different  states  and  forms  of  energy     • Describe  the  Law  of  Conservation  of  Energy     • Describe  the  difference  between  renewable  and  non-­‐renewable  sources  of    energy     • Describe  things  that  can  be  done  on  a  national  and  individual  level  to  use    energy   sustainably     • Design  chain  reaction  machines  with  constraints  related  to  forms  of  energy   • Describe  the  process  of  anaerobic  digestion   • Describe  how  biogas  is  created  and  its  applications   • Create  biogas  and  use  the  resulting  energy  to  power  a  step  in  a  chain  reaction   machine  Although  the  energy  and  anaerobic  digester  modules  were  designed  to  align  with  the  Next  Generation  Science  Standards  (NGSS),  the  presented  concepts  were  covered  in  greater  depth  than  what  is  specified  in  the  standards.  Using  a  combination  of  interactive  presentations  and  hands-­‐on  activities,  the  modules  appealed  to  visual,  auditory,  and  kinesthetic  learning  styles.  For  the  curriculum  exchange  the  following  resources  related  to  the  energy  and  anaerobic  digestion  module  will  be  shared:  a)  lesson  plans  with  instructor  notes;  b)  presentations  and  worksheets;  and  c)  assessments.    

Hobbs, S. R., & Dalrymple, O. O., & Jordan, S. S. (2014, June), Curriculum Exchange: Teaching Energy Concepts using Chain Reaction Machines Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20240

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