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Novel Engineering Challenges Wraps Up Its Third Challenge Cycle

by Susan Bitetti, Education Specialist

Between April and December 1, 2017, Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) designed, developed, and hosted, a series of three open-ended, engineering design challenges based on children’s literature and hosted on an online platform as part of a grant funded by the United Engineering Foundation. The overarching goal of the project was to broaden interest and participation in engineering by providing a new entry point to engineering through literacy. Teachers tried out Novel Engineering (NE), a research-based engineering approach developed at the CEEO, with their students using supporting curriculum available on the website. For each challenge, students read the book associated with the challenge and then designed and built solutions to address the problems they found in the stories. Teachers posted pictures of their students’ designs on the Novel Engineering Challenges website, which allowed them to participate in a national competition where community members could vote on their favorite submission. There were two categories of winners: the Popular Vote and Judge’s Choice.

The third challenge cycle, using the books Poppy by Avi and Weslandia by Paul Fleischman was the most exciting challenge cycle yet. Poppy, a novel about a field mouse and the challenges she faces in overcoming the danger of the woodland owl, Mr. Ocax, saw 48 student entries showcasing a large array of student creativity! The winning entries included a vehicle for Poppy cleverly disguised as a porcupine and a drawbridge to help Poppy cross the creek. Meanwhile, the picture book Weslandia saw 131 different group entries spanning intricate shelters for Wesley (the main character), to juice makers, to zip lines.


Judge’s choice winner: a mobile greenhouse for Wesley and a porcupine car for Poppy

We were blown away by the range of problems students chose to solve, and especially by the students that found unique ways to test the “success” of their projects. One group, for instance, developed a system for Wesley, since he was living in the outdoors and relying on himself for clothing, shelter, and food, to produce juice from his crops. They demonstrated the juice press in their video using play dough and water (surprisingly not as messy as it might sound!). It was also impressive to see just how much students could create with varied materials. The NovelEngineeringChallenges website offered support to schools seeking materials for their classrooms through portable maker workshop give-aways, material lists, and other curriculum resources all available online.

One of the things we value the most in the Novel Engineering framework is the lack of emphasis on “tech heavy” materials and demonstrating how much students can accomplish with just found or recycled materials. This makes the framework accessible to a larger span of schools with varied resources. And sure enough, we saw schools from all over the country and varied demographics participate in the Novel Engineering Challenges community. Our third round involved participants in Minnesota, New England, New Mexico, Tennessee, and even a US military base in Japan.


We are very excited by the student work and community generated through these challenges! Thank you to everyone who has supported and contributed to Novel Engineering Challenges and stay tuned for more challenges to come in January 2018!

December 12, 2017 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

New Funding at the CEEO

IMG_0755The CEEO is thrilled to announce four new projects, funded by NSF, that launched this fall.  These are new projects so we don’t have much to report yet but stay tuned for new tools, research and outreach tools.

Continue Reading November 28, 2017 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Summer Vacation and ENE 151

By Kimberly Fogarty, TEEP student, Academic Technology Specialist at the Park School in Brookline, MA

IMG_5311 (1)As a student in the Teacher Engineering Education Certificate program, I have come to expect and enjoy relevant readings and projects as part of my courses.  Never before was this more true than when my ENE151 class and an amazing Teacher-In-Residence program overlapped this summer.  ENE 151 focuses on product design, manufacturing, and human factors and their role within engineering. Offered through the Cape Cod Regional STEM Cooperative, the Teacher-In-Residence program sends accepted applicants to different Cape Cod destinations to learn about STEM in in practice and to develop curriculum for students who visit the facility to link real-life math, science and engineering to the classroom. I applied and was accepted to spend two weeks at SencorpWhite, a Cape Cod corporation that designs and manufactures thermoforming machines and vertical storage solutions.  

Continue Reading November 21, 2017 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

New faculty, staff and students at the CEEO

collageWith the start of a new school year, the CEEO welcomes new faculty, staff and students.  Check out who joined us this year!

Continue Reading November 21, 2017 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

New STOMP Cohort

2017-2018New STOMPers engage in a classic design challenge, Spaghetti Towers.With the start of the new semester, the CEEO welcomed STOMP Alum Laura Fradin as the new Education Specialist to work on multiple projects including LEGO Outreach, Novel Engineering, Design and Engineering Workshops, and various research projects. Laura also manages the STOMP program. As the STOMP Manager, Laura has been working hard to hire new STOMP Fellows and schedule times for 43 elementary and middle school classrooms in Boston, Everett, Medford, Malden, Somerville.

Continue Reading October 16, 2017 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Design and Engineering Workshops – Summer 2017

IMG_8049Over the summer the CEEO hosted 11 different workshops for children age five to eighteen.  For younger students there were workshops that focused on exploring engineering while helping out characters from their favorite PBS shows and also learning the engineering design process through stories, songs and hands-on activities.  There was a session of Girls Design and Engineering Workshop where the students explored topics of simple electronics, human factors, programming, robotics, and user-centered design, focusing on engineering but also paying attention to the client.

Continue Reading September 27, 2017 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

Summer Undergraduate Internships


Every summer, CEEO hires 30-40 Undergraduate Student Interns to work on various research, outreach initiatives, or operations support  projects at the CEEO. This past summer we had 37 undergraduate students from Tufts and a few other Universities working at the CEEO on the projects listed below.

Continue Reading September 26, 2017 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

An Afternoon of Learning and Hacking

by Whitney Crooks, PhD Graduate in Mechanical Engineering

IMG_0093On Friday, July 7th, the CEEO hosted an afternoon of learning and hacking with MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten (LLK), which shares a love of LEGO with the CEEO and has a similar mission: “develop new technologies that, in the spirit of the blocks and fingerpaint of kindergarten, expand the range of what people can design, create, and learn.”

Continue Reading August 10, 2017 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

Maker Workshop with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

by Elissa Milto, CEEO Director of Outreach

dancing robotDr. Daniel Hannon received a CEEO Innovation Grant from the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach to run a Maker workshop in order to help develop social awareness in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He and Elissa Milto, CEEO’s Director of Outreach, structured this pilot workshop to look at understanding how adolescents with ASD  gain social skills to help them more fully integrate into society, to  interact meaningfully with one another, and to become better prepared for jobs in the future. There is very little research on adolescents with ASD so the researchers wanted to better understand how to support this age group to become productive members of society.

Continue Reading July 20, 2017 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Maker Games

by Matt Mueller, Doctoral Student in Mechanical Engineering


Hello, my name is Matthew Mueller and I am a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering interested in simplifying interfaces for digital fabrication tools (like 3D printers and CNC machines) and developing ways for young students to engage in authentic engineering design.  As part of the 2016/2017 CEEO Innovation grant, David Alsdorf and I have created the MakerGames, a game designed to leverage the power of make believe play and to spark thoughtful conversations about engineering concepts as students engage in open ended design challenges.

Continue Reading July 17, 2017 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

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