A House Gives Shelter
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A House Gives Shelter
When one of the solutions is chosen, engineers begin planning. An architect may be part of the team that plans the building of a house. Engineers must think about the environment where the house will be built, including common weather patterns in the area. This will affect the shape of the house design, as well as which building materials the engineers choose.
Houses can be built from recycled material. This house in Prince Edward Island, Canada, is built from 25,000 recycled glass bottles.
Engineers build sloped roofs so rainwater will flow off the building. Using materials such as concrete and tile helps keep water out.
These four books are an expansion of Crabtree’s “Be an Engineer! Designing to Solve Problems” series. (Reviews of the original titles can be found at https://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/vol23/no39/beanengineer.html). The format is similar across all the books which use two cartoon guides to point out how to use the books and which have lots of pictures and sidebars to break up the material. Each book starts with a child in a realistic situation wondering how to solve a specific problem and then explains what an engineer is and the engineering design process using that example. The process is then broken down showing how each step can be applied to the problem to find a good solution. There is also an instance of failure in design and a brief summary indicating that following a good process can avoid disaster.
Every book also includes a simple model activity to tangibly introduce the concepts. Finally, there is a glossary and some suggestions for finding more information. The book references include other series by Crabtree as well as some by DK (Dorling Kindersley) and others, all at an appropriate level. The websites are particularly interesting; some have suitable educational material and lots of photographs while others include videos and games to make learning more fun and interactive. There is also a Crabtree Plus website linked to the books.
The original books in the series referred to a bridge, skyscraper, dam and tunnel. There are supporting materials for teachers (or parents) available online for each of these subjects. Presumably Crabtree will add more information for these new books. It seems that this series is intended to support curriculum requirements regarding the engineering design process, with the different types of structures having been chosen to provide students with subjects that will interest them. Much of the information in the books is the same as the books are more about the design process than the type of construction.
Houses are a particularly good topic for this series as a house is familiar to all of us, and there can be very many different types of houses. The examples shown in the pictures are varied, interesting and well-presented with old and new mixed with a house on stilts. The sections on modeling and testing the designs are also particularly good in this book. The activity is on withstanding winds with a small cardboard model and toothpicks.
In a twist, the section on disasters takes the opportunity to indicate that engineers learn from the mistakes of the past. A House Gives Shelter holds together well although it does not return to the original issue, flooding, again later in the book.
The recommended websites are also varied, including a Design Squad site with PBS as well as another general site for science and technology. The third site is another one with videos and games. A House Gives Shelter would be a very good choice for learning more about the design process.
While the “Be an Engineer! Designing to Solve Problems” series may be designed to fulfil curriculum requirements, the books at least have lots of ideas and examples to interest the reader. It is sensible to start each book with a problem that may be familiar to introduce the concept that problems can be solved using a process and that engineers are involved in that process. Perhaps engineers are given too much credit for the undertaking as many other workers will be involved at every stage of the creation of the house, tower or other construction, but that’s not a big problem as that information can certainly be learned in other ways at other times.
Science is such an important part of our modern life that anything that can aid in leading children to a science career is welcome, and especially in the early grades where just to know that such a career is possible is a start. This series introduces critical ideas that make engineering sound interesting and like something they would want to do when they grow up.
Since much of the material is repeated in each of the books with some variation, parents probably would not want to purchase the entire series for a home library but would rather buy the one that is the most interesting to their child. However, all four of these new additions to the series would be useful additions to the previous four in a school library as they would offer more opportunities for students to choose a topic of most interest to them.
Willow Moonbeam worked as an engineer in the testing of gas turbine engines for 10 years before becoming a professor, teaching math to technicians and technologists and then in business programs. After returning to university, she now works as a librarian in Toronto, Ontario.