We try to employ one project each quarter that uses physics concepts from class to solve an engineering problem. In doing so, the students learn to use the engineering design process, which we do instinctively when solving problems on our own. The challenge for students is not only to build a device that solves the problem but to effectively communicate their thoughts, actions, and designs with their team members and with their project manager - me!
In the hydraulic arm project, groups of six had to design an arm that could lift a light bulb over a 20 cm high wall and set it back down without breaking. The hydraulic systems were created from a series of syringes and aquarium tubing. Each team was divided into three "specialty" groups - one to build the rotating base, one to build the moving arm and one to build the picker-upper device.
For more information, contact Chick Westby at the Fort Atkinson High School.