Feel The Heat
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Feel The Heat Engineering Design Challenge. An Educator Workshop NASA Langley Research Center Aerospace Education Specialist, Brandon M. Hargis [email protected] www.aesp.psu.edu. Engineering Design Challenges Connect Engineering to Science. Thermal Protection System. Plant

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Feel The Heat

Engineering Design Challenge

An Educator Workshop

NASA Langley Research Center

Aerospace Education Specialist, Brandon M. Hargis

[email protected]


Engineering Design Challenges

Connect Engineering to Science









Education standards
Education Standards

  • National Science Education Standards (Grades 9–12)

    • Physical Science

      • Conservation of Energy

      • Interactions of Energy and Matter

    • Science and Technology

      • Abilities of Technological Design

      • Understandings About Science and Technology

  • International Technology Education Association Content Standards (Grades 9–12)

    • Design

      • Standard 8: Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.

      • Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.

Education standards1
Education Standards

  • Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.

  • Abilities for a Technological World

    • Standard 11: Students will develop abilities to apply the design process.

    • Standard 12: Students will develop abilities to use and maintain technological products and systems.

    • Standard 13: Students will develop abilities to assess the impact of products and systems.

  • The Designed World

    • Standard 16: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use energy and power technologies.

Education standards2
Education Standards

  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards (Grades 9–12)

    • Problem Solving

      • Build new mathematical knowledge through problem solving

      • Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts

      • Apply and adapt a variety of appropriate strategies to solve problems

    • Measurement

      • Understand measurable attributes of objects and units, systems, and processes of measurement

      • Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements


    • Heat is transferred from the sun/lamp to the tube by radiation (i.e., infrared waves—see below). The tube transfers its heat to the water by direct contact (i.e., conduction).

    • It is the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum coming from the light/sun that changes the water temperature.

    • Some shapes, colors, and materials are particularly good at absorbing light energy and releasing it as heat energy.

    • Gravity pulls the water through the solar panel’s tube when the supply cup is placed higher than the collection cup.

    • Kids measure the volume of water, the temperature change, and the rate of water flow.

What does an engineer do
What Does an Engineer Do?

“The best part of being an engineer is the creativity that’s involved and the satisfaction that comes from solving hard problems.”

- Jananda Hill, Computer Science Engineer

Photo: Lauren Feinburg

The Design Challenge


  • Design and build a solar hot water heater and see how big a temperature change you can get.

  • In this challenge, follow the engineering design process to: (1) build a solar hot water heater; (2) test to see if it can raise the temperature of water; and (3) use testing results to improve your heater and get as big a temperature change as possible.

Gooseneck Lamp

Bulb 8 inches above panel

Water supply cup


Cardboard backing

Collection Cup

Safety note

If you use a lamp, keep the cord and bulb away from the water. To keep the lamp base far away from the hot water heater, use a gooseneck lamp. This kind of lamp also makes it easy for kids to keep the light bulb above the hot water heater.

Questions to consider
Questions to Consider

  • What color should you make the tube and background?

  • How fast should the water flow through the tube? How might its speed affect its temperature?

  • How can zigzagging the tube help the water absorb heat from the sun or light bulb?

  • How might astronauts use a solar water heater?

  • Where did conduction, convection, and radiation occur in your water heater?

  • Which features help a solar hot water heater use solar energy to heat water?

  • Engineers’ early ideas rarely work out perfectly. How does testing help them improve a design?

  • How do the stories on the back of the handout about exploring the moon relate to today’s activity?

Find out more

Explore more about engineering. The following Web sites offer fun projects, videos of engineers doing innovative work, and videos of real-world STEM connections:

  • NASA eClips at www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/nasaeclips

  • NASA E.D. Challenges at www.edc.nasa.gov

  • Engineer Your Life at www.engineeryourlife.org

  • Discover Engineering at www.discoverengineering.org

  • Design Squad at www.pbs.org/designsquad

National Aeronautics

and Space Administration