Week 3

Session 1

Guiding Question

  • How can we detect life on Mars using a robot?


  • When building a bridge to hold weight, what ideas ensure success and why?

  • How should a bridge engineer change his/her design to meet the needs of the environment?

  • What information does a bridge engineer use to improve the construction of a bridge?


  • Learners gain knowledge about the work that bridge engineers complete; complete bridge design challenges.

CT Components


  • Students will learn to build a bridge to satisfy certain requirements using trial and error.


  • Students will keep a journal and make presentations to the class.

Entry Event

10 minutes

A teacher asks “What does a bridge engineer actually do?” PAUSEs, allowing the students to share ideas, reflect on their learning from the previous weeks, and the teacher offers suggestions. “How does a bridge engineer get started in designing a bridge?” PAUSEs for responses and compares student opinions. “When building a bridge, what must the engineer consider?” The teacher previews a video the students will watch. The video shows a bridge engineer discussing her occupation and design considerations. The teacher plays the video and directs the learners to take notes of what a bridge designer must do to be successful. After watching the video, the teacher informs the students that they will participate in three bridge design challenges using K’NEX pieces.

Group Challenges

Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry (50 minutes)

A copy of the challenge directions will be provided to each group. The teacher stresses the importance of reviewing all challenge directions before starting to build the bridges.

The students are divided into small groups of appropriate size (2 or 3 individuals). Each group is given the directions and resources for each of the three Skill Builder Challenges.

The first challenge is approximately 20 minutes in length. The second and third challenges should run approximately 15 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, the students clean their work stations of K’NEX materials.

The teacher is the timekeeper, monitoring student efforts, and alerting them to the beginning of new challenges.

The teacher reminds the groups of design specifications for each challenge, and encourages students to think about how to record their measurements. Students should record their measurements for each challenge:

Challenge I: A) Maximum gap of your bridge span; and B) Maximum gap your bridge spans without sagging or bending

Challenge II: Maximum gap of your bridge span

5-minute break between challenge 2 & 3 if needed

Challenge III: Maximum gap your bridge spans without sagging or bending


  • 15 K’NEX Rods of any length from the Real Bridge Building set

  • 15 K’NEX Connectors of any color from the Real Bridge Building set

  • 50g and 100g weights or slotted masses

  • Ruler

  • Safety Goggles

  • Skill Builder 1 Inquiry Sheet

Reporting Back

5 minutes

The teacher debriefs the session, asking the students to report back their group measurements for each challenge. After discussing student measurements of their challenges, the teacher previews a video showing the Tacoma Bridge collapse of 1940. After viewing the video, the teacher asks “What happens if you do not design and construct your bridges carefully?” The teacher and students comment on the conditions that must be considered in bridge design and construction.

End of Session Reflection and Debriefing

5-10 minutes

Teacher briefly explains the computational thinking (CT) skill embedded in the Problem Solving Process Diagram. Using the problem solving process diagram, the teacher will ask students to identify what kind of problem solving skills/process/computational thinking they used in this session and explain how they used it. The following are some sample questions that can guide the debrief.

  • What did I learn today?

  • What problem solving skills/processes or CT components in this diagram did I use today?

  • How did I use the problem solving skills/processes/CT components?