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Ecil Miller

Implementation of a project-based learning unit that uses mid-powered rockets

2019 STEM Scholar
Bowling Green, KY Drakes Creek Middle School

Ecil’s Big Idea:  Ecil will implement a project-based learning unit using mid-powered rockets to teach Newton’s laws, kinetic energy, air quality and the history of rocketry. Students will use the engineering design process to 3D print and build rockets, researching rockets from the past to aid in their design. The completed rockets will then be used to learn about inertia, speed, propulsion, acceleration and kinetic energy. In addition, students will use the rockets to measure air quality (carbon dioxide) and learn about the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels.

Interesting Facts:  Ecil’s favorite lesson to teach uses motion detectors to describe the movement patterns of a car. Students learn how the motion detector is more accurate as an accelerometer. Students predict how the accelerometer will react to a series of different motions during a single trip. They connect the accelerometer to a video recording device to observe during an actual car trip. The students are able to see the actual car used and how the accelerometer is used. After the class returns to the classroom the car is driven along one of three different possible trips around the school. A video of the trips is brought back into the class for viewing. Students then compare the data to three different trip options to determine which trip the car took. Google Maps are used to design multiple routes that a car will take. The motion detector is inside the car and is being recorded for the duration of the trip. The students recreate the trip using the video. This lesson teaches students about linear motion including acceleration and inertia. Kinetic energy is also included. Students are fully engaged by using the equipment and discussing technologies they can relate to. This lesson also provides the opportunity to show students there are other opportunities outside of a traditional 4-year college or university.

In his own words: "Along with teaching, I also coach archery and mentor a rocketry team. Coaching has been an excellent way for me to build relationships with my students that go beyond the student/teacher relationship found in the classroom. Mentoring the rocketry team is a way for me to work with a group of students while doing something that I am passionate about."