Each individual engineering design field day “event”
(activity) promotes engineering and design concepts that directly relate
to real-world engineering problems. In each activity, students are
presented with a problem to creatively solve within given material and
time constraints. The culminating competition serves as a testing ground
to evaluate whether their designs meet the criteria. For example, the
designing and building of craft-stick bridges tests the weight-bearing
capability of the bridges as well as the weight of the bridges
themselves. Since weight serves as a measure of the overall material
used, reduced weight simulates the economic advantages associated with
fewer required construction materials while still meeting the project
requirements. Furthermore, the project materials are fixed, so students
must use their creativity to find optimal ways to exploit the materials
Competition is a common aspect of the engineering world. For
example, “calls for proposals” essentially set up competitions among
companies to win jobs. Winners are selected based upon economic,
technical, efficiency and aesthetic criteria. To surpass their
competitors, engineers must be creative and resourceful. Students are
introduced to this concept through the field day activities.
Finally, in the engineering profession, entire teams must
work together to complete projects. Cooperation and flexibility are
necessary for success. These virtues are especially fostered through
activities that require group collaboration such as in the
Race to the Top! Modeling Skyscrapers
Engineering Derby: Tool Ingenuity
The activities expose students to various engineering
principles across a wide range of fields including aerodynamics (
Design and Fly a Kite
Water Bottle Rockets
Wind-Powered Sail Cars
), collaborative problem-solving (
Engineering Derby: Tool Ingenuity
), Newtonian mechanics (
Spaghetti Soapbox Derby
), and structural stability (
Race to the Top! Modeling Skyscrapers
Straw Towers to the Moon
Operation Build a Bridge and Get Over It
). By holding the event in the form of a competition, students
become deeply invested in designing and building their projects to beat
their competitors’ designs. A concluding awards ceremony recognizes the
winners of each competition for their achievements, setting an example
for all students to excel in engineering.
As described in this document, the suggested culminating
“field day” competition takes about seven hours, while the student
design/build preparation requires additional time in advance, which
varies by activity. See the
Example Engineering Field Day Schedule
for a 7AM-2PM “field day” schedule that is based on a
multi-school event held in Sacramento, CA, in April 2015 that hosted
~420 students from 12+ elementary schools. You may want to customize the
plan and schedule for your situation, perhaps setting up a more or less
complex event, drawing on different or fewer activities.
Planning Suggestions and Tips:
Arrange for the preparation of student team project
submissions for each event in advance of the field day, as specified in
the 10 activity write-ups. The various activities require different
amounts of preparation time. Using the suggested schedule, any given
student can participate in up to four events.
Each activity write-up provides its own information and
attachments for that event’s construction and competition rules and
guidelines that cover topics such as project construction, eligibility
criteria, testing conditions and judging/scoring rubrics.
Arrange for volunteers and helpers (organization and
judging). Each activity needs to be overseen by a lead teacher/volunteer
since during each period, numerous competitions are being held
concurrently in different school/classroom locations. Before the day of
the event, get them schedules and rubrics so they know what they’re
doing, where and when (including 7AM arrival that day).
If possible, invite engineering professors, engineering
students and/or practicing engineers from local colleges and engineering
firms to the engineering field day (or to be volunteers and judges!) so
that the children meet scholars and professionals, which plants the
seeds for engineering futures.
Plan on about an hour of preparation time before beginning
the field day to make sure all activity stations, check-in, awards and
lunches are set up and organized before the children arrive.
Plan on about 30 minutes for check-in. Have students check-in
their projects and register for the day. Registration includes
providing nametags to place on the projects and a schedule of the events
students are signed up to participate in during the day. It is helpful
to prepare for each student a nametag that also lists the events s/he is
participating in during each period to minimize confusion and misplaced
students. Provide designated locations for students to drop off their
belongings and pre-made projects. Also have teachers check-in so that
they can gather their students and help direct them to their first
Allow about 15 minutes for a welcome and orientation to all participants and visitors.
During the day, events are held in four, 45-minute blocks
with 10-minute passing periods between the activities so students have
time to travel to the next competition site. Students participate in up
to four competitions, provided they have projects prepared for each.
At each event location, the lead begins by verifying that
each student group submission meets the eligibility criteria set forth
in that activity’s competition rules. Furthermore, it is helpful if the
lead teacher has a master schedule with a list of all the students and
the activities they are signed up to participate in to safeguard against
confusion that might result from lost name tags.
Depending on the popularity of each event, stagger the
schedule to facilitate students’ ability to participate in multiple
events without time conflicts. For example, the attached schedule
provides for two runoffs of each of the 10 activities. Students who opt
to participate in fewer than three events need to be occupied for the
periods in between. For these times, plan ahead to have non-competitive
“float” activities to occupy them and/or encourage them to observe the
other events. Example float exercises include
What a Drag!
(plastic bag parachutes),
(cut/folded paper airplanes) and
(cereal and charged combs)—or other TeachEngineering
As an additional competition, consider incorporating a
math test for each participating grade level
in the field day; see the Attachments section for example
tests. Adding this event enables students to demonstrate their
capabilities in a way that may not be captured in the other events.
Including the math test requires either adding an additional period to
the schedule or dedicating the first period to administering the math
test to all students. If doing the latter, realize that doing that
limits each student to participating in a maximum of three activities.
After all activities are completed, provide a 45-minute lunch
period, during which time the judges, volunteers and/or organizers
determine the winners of each competition.
Conclude the day with a 45-minute awards ceremony to recognize all of the competition victors.
Each of the 10 events (activities) has its own assessment
suggestions, many in the form of pre/post quizzes. See the specific
Overall Event Assessment
To evaluate the event as a whole, supply teachers and volunteers with the seven-question
Overall Event Assessment Survey
to get feedback from people closely involved in the event, which helps you make improvements for the next time.