A Tower Stands Tall
A Tower Stands Tall
All Kinds of Engineers
There are many different kinds of engineers. Designing buildings, roads, spaceships, towers, and even medicines requires engineers with different kinds of knowledge. One engineer might design a tower’s shape. Another might create the materials used to build it. Most engineers work as part of a team.
The CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. It is made of concrete. This shape and material help the tower remain stable in strong winds. The tower supports a restaurant and viewing area near the top.
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.
The use of a silo as the opening problem in A Tower Stands Tall is interesting as it may not be a structure familiar to city kids although those on the prairies and in the farm belt will recognize them immediately. The pictures are great, including the Eiffel Tower on the cover then the CN Tower, silos, wind turbines, the Tokyo Skytree, high tension electrical tower, bell tower, watchtower, lighthouse and even the leaning tower of Pisa. The design process is explained as well as in the other books in the series although it does not really describe a silo as being different from other types of towers.
The disaster described is compelling in that the tower burned yet the structure survived. The activity is a very practical and apt learning experience in that it compares different shapes of card stock prisms that are then tested to destruction.
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.