Engineering Inspired By Nature

Once Upon a Time in the Woods
Program Overview

The A World In Motion Primary Challenges consist of four different activities. Each of these challenges can be taught over a one to two week period. The challenges give young students many opportunities to explore a toy they have constructed and to develop an understanding of what it means to conduct a fair test.

In the Engineering Inspired By Nature challenge, students investigate seeds that are dispersed by the wind. They apply what they have learned to make paper helicopters and parachutes. They test different variables (lengths, width, weight, etc.) to see how these factors affect performance. Concepts covered in this unit include gravity, drag, friction, velocity and acceleration.

A unique feature of this program is the use of portions of a problem-solving process employed by engineers working in teams. The "Engineering Design Experience" for Primary students consists of: Set Goals, Build Knowledge, Design, Build and Test and Present.

SAE International offers three levels of kits: Basic, Complete Classroom and Deluxe Classroom for a class size of 28 students.
Kit Materials

ItemsBasicCompleteDeluxe
Acorn Seeds 10 20 60
Cocklebur Seeds 10 20 60
Dandelion Seeds 10 20 60
Silver Maple Seeds 10 20 60
Sugar Maple Seeds 10 20 60
Magnifying glasses 6 12 36
Ball of String 1 2 3
Sticky Circle Dots 288 576 1728
Cardstock Paper (sheets) assorted colors 12 24 36
Feathers (bags) assorted colors 1 2 3
Small Paper Clip Boxes 2 4 12
Pipe Cleaner Bags 1 2 3
Dental Floss 1 2 3
Spool of Thread 1 2 6
Tissue Paper (sheets) assorted colors 24 48 144
Pre-cut squares of tissue paper
25cm X25 cm
24 48 144
Pre-cut squares of tissue paper
30cm X 30 cm
24 48 144
Pre-cut squares of tissue paper
35cm X35cm
24 48 144
Plastic Trash Bags 2 4 8
Student Reader 1 2 6
Teacher Manual On CD 1 1 1
Kit Components

Lesson Plan Overview

Lesson 1 - Seed Travelers
Students are introduced to the dispersal methods by which plants spread their seeds. Students look closely at real seeds to figure out how they might be dispersed. They discuss their ideas about how specific seeds are dispersed and which ones might “make it” the farthest from the parent plant. They also consider why it might be important for seeds to disperse at all.

Lesson 2 - Spinning Seeds
In this activity, students briefly examine maple samara seeds to observe how they travel in the wind. They then explore paper models that spin like the rotors of a helicopter. They build their own paper helicopters, explore how they fly, and compare the way they fly to how maple seeds fly.

Lesson 3 - Testing Helicopters
In this activity, students compare the flight of maple samara seeds to the flight of a paper helicopter. Then they experiment with how changing the amount of weight attached to the helicopter changes the time it takes for a helicopter to hit the ground.

Lesson 4 - Testing Rotor Length
In this activity, students continue to explore paper models that spin like the rotors of a helicopter. They build their own paper helicopters and experiment with how changing the rotor length changes the time it takes for a helicopter to hit the ground.

Lesson 5 - Floating Seeds
In this activity, students consider how parachute seeds work. They then have the opportunity to build their own parachutes and test them.

Lesson 6 - Parachute Weight
In this activity, students explore how weight affects the parachute’s drop time. They also discuss their observations and results.

Lesson 7 - Parachute Surface Area
In this activity, students explore how the size (surface area) of a parachute affects the time it takes to drop to the ground. They build parachutes with larger canopies and explore how the larger-sized canopies change the time it takes for the parachute to hit the ground.

Lesson 8 - Build the Best Flyer
In this activity, students build a toy that will stay aloft as long as possible using knowledge that they’ve gained over the course of the challenge. In teams, students discuss how they will design their toy and build some prototypes to test. Based on their test, students build a toy to be entered into the flight challenge.

Lesson 9 - Drop Time Racing
In the previous activity, students had the opportunity to create a flyer designed to stay in the air as long as possible while carrying at least one paper clip. In this activity, student teams compete in races to compare their flyer’s drop time performance with other flyers.
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