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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | STEM

4 Hands-On High School Engineering Projects

October 12th, 2022 | 3 min. read

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Hands-on learning is one of the core components of Career and Technical Education (CTE). While everyone has their own needs when it comes to learning, hands-on learning is uniquely positioned to support or elevate content for all types of learners.

Classroom projects can be incorporated into your classes regardless of your budget. Feel free to collect recycled items from your co-workers and community. To help you incorporate hands-on learning in your classroom, we have developed four high school engineering projects to teach design practices:

  1. Catapults
  2. Can Recycling
  3. Frictionless Design
  4. Maintaining Distance

1. Catapults

Challenge: Design a catapult to shoot within the medieval city walls to keep intruders out. The catapult should be safe and not damage the walls when launched.

Set up a medieval wall using paper and tape. Once students arrive, show pictures and videos of various catapult designs pointing out the basic features of a catapult. Upon discussing catapults, share the challenge with students.

Once students design a device that will accurately launch over the wall, encourage them to experiment with how to make their device shoot the projectile as far as possible to keep attackers from getting too close.

Learning objectives:

• Practice iterative design
• Practice optimization
• Apply projectile physics principles

2. Can Recycling

Challenge: Use a renewable power source, such as human-powered hydraulics, to design a way for a recycling plant to effectively crush multiple soft drink cans at once.

Use the first part of the class to discuss the importance of recycling, especially with renewable power sources. Upon understanding the importance of recycling cans, provide students with their challenge for the day. Encourage the use of repurposed materials for the base of the crusher when possible.

Learning objectives:

• Using environmental engineering
• Apply principles of force
• Apply principles of fluid power systems

3. Frictionless Design

Challenge: Design a model car to efficiently turn potential energy into kinetic energy. At the end of the class, we will race the cars to see which one travels the furthest.

Begin by having students research how race cars are designed to minimize energy loss. Discuss how cars with reduced air resistance and friction are the most energy-efficient and will travel the furthest and fastest. Show students examples of mousetraps and derby cars to help them brainstorm their model car.

Learning objectives:

• Apply principles of energy conservation 
• Research engineering design and processes 
• Develop strategies for determining efficiency in a design

4. Maintaining Distance

Challenge: Develop a strategy and tools to transport extremely toxic samples from one containment area to another. Until the toxins are secure, make sure everyone stays out of the contamination zone.

Set up two containment areas in the room. Instruct students that they are part of a task force employed to transport extremely toxic samples from one containment area to another. Have students strategize and test their methods until all the toxins are secured.

Learning objectives:

• Practice problem-solving
• Apply principles of machine design 
• Practice communication and teamwork

Need More Than Just High School Engineering Projects?

In this article, you've learned about some of the most creative high school engineering projects out there. If you incorporate these projects into your class, your students will gain the hands-on experience they need to succeed as future engineers.

However, if you need a more comprehensive engineering curriculum for your CTE course, then check out iCEV's STEM courses!

These full-year curriculum options includes videos, presentations, lesson plans, and plenty of projects that make it easy to integrate hands-on learning experiences in the classroom. Regardless of budget, environment and experience, these courses will serve your students well: 

Discover STEM Curriculum