Discover Engineering! through the TechXcite Rainwater Harvesting Module

A Series of articles focusing on science, engineering and technology concepts using TechXcite modules available through a partnership between Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and Michigan State University Extension.

Explore science and engineering by getting involved in TechXcite’s Rainwater Harvesting Module. You can become involved in this program by visiting TechXcite’s website, joining a community program led by a Michigan State University Extension staff person or 4-H volunteer, or becoming involved yourself as a parent volunteer to help lead one or any of the modules.  The Rainwater Harvesting module contains ready to use curriculum, supplies and hands-on activities that will allow youth and adults to learn more about the properties of water, how a rainwater collection system and roof works, and the process of water purification.  Each lesson takes approximately one hour to complete; there are four lessons in this module. 

In this module, your child will experience hands-on explorations including testing the magic of surface tension, observing water on the rise and capillary action, designing a rainwater collection system and building a water filter.   Better yet, lead them in an inquiry process related to each of these explorations.  Ask them, what makes it possible for certain aquatic insects to walk or skate on the surface of the water?  Why is the colored water defying gravity as it travels up the sugar cubes?  What design will collect the most water from our simulated roof?  How does your drinking water get filtered? 

Each of these themes and questions relate to a specific module within the rainwater harvesting kit.  Your child will first explore the properties of water, work to create a small simulated rainwater harvesting collection and discover how properties of the different particles of sand and gravel can assist in filtering water.  The rainwater harvesting collection system can be expanded by exploring actual designs used at homes or businesses.  Maybe there are some systems around the neighborhood that could be observed?  What about a fieldtrip to the wastewater treatment plant?

Your child gets the opportunity to work together with another peer, or two, to complete these activities and to solve problems.  Groups then share their experiences with the large group by presenting what they observed and experienced while creating and testing their rainwater collection system.  Groups work to collect the most water from their simulated roofs.  They are led in discussions to observe differences in other groups’ designs as to what worked well, what needs improvement and what they would do next time to improve their design. Because each group uses their own ideas, every design presents different strengths and weaknesses and is unique. They are able to learn from each other while working toward a common goal.  The design constraints provide real world examples that engineers experience in the field.

Check out MSU Extension’s events calendar to see if this opportunity exists in your community.  Look for the next article on the TechXcite Quest for Speed module coming soon!

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