Engaging engineering for education

Students at Kump Education Center will engage in a little Egyptian engineering for the final Main Street First Friday activity Sept. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. We hope families will come to see what can be done with a three-sided Pyramid and a build-it-yourself Sphinx. We want students and parents to realize that people have been doing amazing things with math since ancient times.

Our interest in geometry was inspired by Tammy Tucker’s “Math 4 Randolph County” initiative. Her math manipulatives involve brightly colored, plastic pieces in various geometric shapes. We liked the idea that children should be able to work with plane geometry while they wait for care in a doctor’s office or for service in a restaurant.

These two-dimensional pieces help children see shapes in real-world designs they recognize in daily life. For example barn quilt designs on local buildings are local 2-D art that exhibits the beauty of geometric design. However, “Math 4 Randolph County” does not offer manipulatives to teach 3-D designs using solid geometry. At KEC we want to give children a chance to think three dimensionally and use solid geometry shapes three feet high that they can move about.

We are planning a “Post-it Note Pyramid Problem” as one of the math challenges for creative minds on Sept. 6. We want students to estimate how many whole 3 inch by3 inch Post-it Notes will fit on our three-sided pyramid that stands about three feet tall. This problem is designed to help students think about ways to plan for shingles on a roof or blocks in an Egyptian pyramid.

We have learned that the Egyptians used four-sided pyramids in order to have square floors and add space for storing the Pharaohs’ mummies and all their treasures. We also want children to look for four-sided pyramids in Elkins. A red and white four-sided pyramid stands on the top of the short tower roof at Kentucky Fried Chicken on route 33 across from the wetland at Kump Education Center. Although we know that the Egyptians had four sides on their pyramids, ours has only three sides. We can talk more about the advantages and of each 3-D shape.

A “Build-it-yourself Sphinx” will have the parts for building a sphinx with the head of a human and the body of a lion. This math challenge will allow children to consider new construction problems and identify the solid geometric shapes they can see in nature. What 3-D shape is a human head? What 3-D shapes are in a lion’s body? We will see what shapes they can see.