What is the engineering design process? It is a set of steps that engineers take when designing a new or improved product. It includes:
- Finding a problem or need
- Coming up with creative ideas
- Selecting the most promising idea
- Communicating the idea
- Creating or building a model of the design, and
- Evaluating what you have built.
The following video provides more information on engineering.
Sample points for Introductory Class Discussion
What are environments and ecosystems and why do we need to understand them? An environmentis the surrounding area in which an organism lives, including the air, water, food and energy required for that organism to survive. An ecosystem includes all the living organisms and the nonliving things in an area that are linked together through the flow of nutrients and energy. On our planet, there are many different environments where organisms can live. There are mountains, valleys, trees, snow, and water environments, as well as hot and cold climate environments.
Let's imagine that we are traveling through different environments on a mission to collect information about the plants, animals, weather and climate. All of these things make up the Earth'sbiosphere, which contains both living and nonliving components, such as air, soil, water and sunlight. The biosphere is the portion of the Earth where life is found. It is made up of all the different environments and ecosystems. Some examples of environments found in the biosphere include tropical rain forests, deserts, other forest types (such as deciduous or coniferous), grassland prairie and arctic climates.
Do you know what a biodome is? It is something that people make to model a particular environment and the community of organisms that live there. A biodome is a controlled, human-made environment or biome, which canhelp scientists learn about the interactions between living and nonliving things. A biome is a major regional group of distinctive plant and animal communities best adapted to a region's natural environment, latitude, altitude and terrain. Biodomes can focus on one biome, or can attempt to bring many biomes together. Biomes are classified into categories, and a basic division would be terrestrial biomes and aquatic biomes. The major biomes of North America include: arctic and alpine tundra, coniferous forest, grasslands, deciduous forest, desert, and tropical rain forest.
Over the years, creating a successful biodome that achieves balanced plant and animal life has proven to be a major challenge for the scientific and engineering communities. In particular, it is a challenge for engineers to eliminate human influence from the model environment, because this human influence can alter the study of environmental interactions within the artificial habitat of the biodome.
Engineers and scientists use biodomes to study ecosystems and model how living and nonliving things interact in those natural environments. Can you think of other reasons why studying the environment, climates and ecosystems, might be important to an engineer? (Possible answers: To learn how to better design structures to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis, as well as snow loads, flood prevention,etc. To learn how population changes of certain organisms in a particular biome may affect other organisms in the same biome, or to observe and learn from natural cycles that might be difficult to study on a large scale. This could help engineers decide where to place projects geographically,as well as understand the impacts an engineering project might have on the environment.)
In this lesson, we are going to become engineers who create model ecosystems. We will design and create our own biodomes and watch what happens to the living and nonliving things we place in them. We will have to learn as much as possible about the environment, though, so we can design and build successful biodomes!