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Lesson Ideas

5 Articles About Technology and Engineering

This collection of adapted research articles introduces students to research on technology and applied engineering. Engage students with standards-matched adaptations, introductory video content, comprehension questions, and vocabulary to further your lesson outcomes. Each adapted article also comes with additional suggestions for activities to enhance the readers’ understanding and make the class more exciting.

View the full collection of technology articles here, or scroll down to learn about some featured articles.

1. Can a robotic arm be controlled by the brain?

Abstract: Picking up an object and moving it from one place to another might seem like an easy, everyday task. But for many people with tetraplegia, it is not possible. They have spinal cord injuries and cannot grasp, move, or feel objects with their hands. This is because the connection between the brain and limbs is damaged. In a previous study, we made a device that allowed a person to control a robotic arm using small implants in their brain. Using their sense of sight, they guided the arm to an object, picked it up, and placed it in a new location. In this study, we improved this system to include implants in the part of their brain that senses touch from the hand. We found that touch feedback improved a person’s ability to complete tasks with the robotic arm. The time it took to complete the assigned tasks was cut in half! This is because the study participant could grasp the object faster using both senses.

This article is suitable for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. It is available in both upper and lower reading levels and in Spanish (PDF). Audio versions are available in both English and Spanish. This article includes a Lesson Idea video to engage students in building their own robots.

  • Key terms: engineering, neuroscience, robotics
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, pictograph
  • Scientific methods: case study, experiment

2. How can virtual reality help construction engineers?

Abstract: With virtual reality (VR), you can look and move around in a digital world. We wanted to know if VR could help construction engineers plan their projects. To find out, we set up an experiment where expert and novice engineers used either VR goggles or a normal desktop computer to review engineering designs in three dimensions (3D). We found out that VR goggles made it easier for engineers to spot problems in construction plans. VR also helped engineers work out the order in which a project should be built. But VR has some limitations and should only be used for appropriate tasks and scenarios.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available.

  • Key terms: engineering, virtual reality
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, pictograph
  • Scientific method: experiment

3. How can we turn ocean water into renewable energy?

Abstract: Think about what life would be like without energy. No refrigerators, no computers, no cars, and no cellphones! Today, most of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable resources (resources that take a long time for the Earth to make) that pollute our air and land. That is why we are trying to find cleaner, renewable energy resources that can power our planet. Hydrogen is a great renewable fuel that can be made from water. Most of the water on Earth is saltwater, so we created a device that can make hydrogen from it at a low cost. It combines the process of osmosis with the reaction of water splitting. Our data show that this device is effective and efficient, which means hydrogen could become more available in the future.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available in English, and a written translation is available in Bulgarian (PDF). This article includes an original hands-on Lesson Plan (PDF) to test how splitting water can be used to generate electricity.

  • Key terms: physics, renewable energy
  • Scientific figure: pictograph
  • Scientific method: experiment

4. How can your smartphone make water safe to drink?

Abstract: Clean drinking water is essential for our health. Water containing bacteria or viruses can make us very sick. Unfortunately, not everybody has access to clean water from centralized water plants. However, nearly everybody nowadays has a smartphone! That’s why we developed a small device and an app that can be used with a smartphone to kill harmful bacteria in water. It could mean that people without a clean water supply can easily disinfect their drinking water and avoid getting sick.

This article is suitable for elementary school and middle school students. An audio version is available.

  • Key terms: disinfection, drinking water, groundwater, physics
  • Scientific figure: pictograph
  • Scientific methods: bacterial culture, experiment

5. Can graphene in your clothing stop mosquito bites?

Abstract: Wouldn’t it be great if there was clothing out there that could fully protect us from mosquito bites? This could reduce itching and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. To find out, we tested whether a super thin but really strong substance, graphene, has the potential to make clothing mosquito-proof. In a lab experiment, we exposed humans wearing a) no protection or b) cheesecloth, or c) cheesecloth plus graphene to mosquitoes. And we found that the graphene indeed kept mosquitoes from biting people. We were surprised to realize that it not only acted as a physical barrier for the insects’ mouthparts but also blocked important chemical signals that mosquitoes use to detect humans. Under dry conditions, our graphene layer, therefore, showed double potential for protection. However, sweat or water made it less mosquito-proof. But we found a modified form, “reduced graphene”, that protected humans even when it was wet.

This article is suitable for middle school students. A written translation is available in Bulgarian (PDF).

  • Key terms: disease control, insects, mosquitoes, vector-borne diseases
  • Scientific figure: bar graph
  • Scientific methods: experiment, observation, scientific modeling

That’s Not All!

Check out all of our adapted research articles on technology and engineering. Take a look also at all our original lesson plans related to our scientific articles.

Title photo by ThisIsEngineering

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