The Curiosity Kit guide details how much adult guidance the design process requires, and it’s clear that kids will definitely need support from a parent, teacher, or other adult. Elementary teachers using projects in class will want to invite extra adults to work with small groups of kids. Keep in mind that parental consent is required for students under age 13 to create accounts on the site.
Feedback from a site mentor may take a few days; spread work time through core classes over a few weeks to allow for such delay. Middle school teams can try an ocean engineering challenge, like connecting biome study with transportation modes and speed calculations. High school teachers will (happily) find that kids need little support. Finished your Newton’s Laws unit? Turn your kids loose on the Mars Rover challenge and revel in the practical application. More broadly: Use the site to launch conversations about real-world problems and STEM careers.Continue reading Show less
Curiosity Machine offers more than 60 engineering projects grounded in the work of current scientists and powerfully supported by online mentors. Challenges are grouped into topics (such as aerospace and satellite systems). Users must create accounts to share work and receive feedback, but any site visitor can view all projects.
A horizontal Design Process bar organizes each challenge. The Inspiration step offers a short video clip highlighting the scientist and research behind the project. For the Plan phase, users view a materials list and upload text, a drawing/photo, or video of their ideas. In the Build/Test/Redesign phase, users continue to document and upload their progress. Online mentors provide personalized feedback (within a few days) and then send kids on to the final Reflection phase. At any time, users can access the Guide, which includes how-to steps, an instructional video, and a Learn More tab.
With a wide variety of projects (from building an octopus chromatophore to a cam mechanism), there are endless ways to connect the engineering design process to class activities. This terrific tool empowers kids to work directly with current, real-world research through hands-on engagement and personalized, professional feedback. The high-quality Curiosity Kit PDF is replete with info and templates, including a curriculum guide and a website walkthrough.
Curiosity Machine is currently designed more for after-school enrichment or community outreach than for classroom use. The scientific practices are easy to embed, but teachers will want more in terms of classroom-ready content and suggestions for structuring design activities over multiple school days. More background information (like links to explanatory sites and a subject search engine) would help educators plan lessons that include the high-quality challenges. Including info about age ranges for each challenge could also help teachers find suitable fits, and a teacher dashboard could provide oversight as well as increase peer communication among several kids interested in the same design challenges.
Key Standards Supported
Earth and Human Activity
Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
Earth’s Place in the Universe
Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.
Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.
Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.
Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.
Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.
Matter and Its Interactions
Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Make observations and/or measurements of an object’s motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion.
Support an argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down.
Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.
Apply scientific and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on a macroscopic object during a collision.
Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.
Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.
Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move.
Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.
Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.