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CLEAN, Try Engineering


5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th


Science, Mathematics, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans, two to three 45-minute class periods
  • Projects
  • Articles and Websites
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Solar Structures

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  • In this lesson, students act as engineers and build structures that use passive solar energy from the sunlight to either heat or minimize heating inside a building without using an external energy source.
  • Students will plan a design, select materials, produce structures, present their projects to the class, and test the efficacy of their design elements.
Teaching Tips


  • Students are encouraged to rethink designs and materials if they aren't the best fit, just as engineers would do.
  • The inquiry-based nature of the lesson is great for keeping students engaged and learning.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The Try Engineering link under Internet Connections and the link for ITEEA under Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks are broken.
  • Students should know about green energy, solar energy, and green building.
  • It may benefit students to understand why people want to use solar instead of fossil fuels or other energy sources.
  • Students should know how to measure and build three-dimensional models.


  • Students can think of simple ways the school can implement passive solar heating and cooling and write a proposal for their building.
  • Language arts students can do more research about solar energy and its use in homes and businesses and then produce an informative piece of writing to teach others.
  • Students can discuss what active solar elements they could implement in their models to achieve better results.
  • Social studies students can brainstorm ways the government can incentivize homeowners to implement more solar energy.
Scientist Notes
The solar structure activity has students learn about different types of solar energy generation while also encouraging them to think like engineers. The information presented is accurate and the resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
      • MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
      • 3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
      • 3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
      • 3-5-ETS1-3 Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-PS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Measurement & Data (K-5)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.A.1 Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.
    • The Number System (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.NS.C.5 Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.
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