The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded a grant that enabled Sierra College to develop a model for teaching applied math while fabricating a catapult project called Tech-Explorer (www.tech-explorer.com). Findings showed that using hands-on projects, connected to authentic work situations, improves teaching of mathematics. Watch the Tech-Explorer movie on how Sierra College integrated math instruction with a catapult building project. The Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) received NSF Advanced Technological Education grant #1003259 for $150,000.
A total of 306 students built catapults using mills, lathes, drills and other industrial tools. Then the students captured speed, distance, and height of a launched ball during a competition and used the data in a parabolic equation to determine the best launch angle. In addition, 32 teachers participated in three workshops on using hands-on math projects in the classroom.
According to the project principle investigator, Sandra Scott, integrating practical application into math classes and math into technical classes is imperative. “Students really responded when they realized that the parabolic curve is used in headlights, snowboards and solar collectors,” said Scott. “We need to show students how math is applied.”
The Sierra College Tech-Explorer catapult project has been adopted at College of the Canyons, College of the Sequoias, and San Bernardino Community College. The Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing’s Advanced Manufacturing in Tennessee used it at a camp for 8-9th graders. Nebraska’s Columbus Public Schools incorporated Tech-Explorer into SHINE, a NSF funded program.
Learn more about Sierra College NSF Tech-Explorer.