Family Engineering
by Mia Jackson, David Heil, Joan Chadde, Neil Hutzler

Price at time of review: $39.95
115 pp.
Foundation for Family Science and Engineering
Portland, OR
ISBN: 9780615493664

Grade Level: K-College

Reviewed by Deb McNabney
Science Educator - retired

Hosting a community family event can be an intimidating endeavor, but this guide’s detailed event planning resources and hands–on activities address every conceivable issue. It is an amazingly comprehensive planning manual for family engineering programs.

Chapters 1 through 4 introduce family engineering, related education standards, and the world of engineering. Chapter 5, the organization chapter, includes advice on event size, format, location, scheduling, and publicity. A section on the event team outlines roles, recruitment, and training of the event volunteers. The event section guides planners in physical setup (including a diagram for room layout) and provides tips for a successful event.

The remainder of the book is dedicated to activities that have been piloted and field tested in schools, museums, clubs, and libraries in ten states and Puerto Rico. Although they are designed for children ages 7–12 and their parents, the range is certainly flexible. Chapter 6 contains activities called “Openers” These are quick tabletop activities that encourage family collaboration and problem–solving. They are self–directed and engage families immediately upon their arrival at the event. The openers are organized by difficulty level, with recommendations for the appropriate number and combination of the twenty two activities. Sample openers include testing toy car aerodynamics, constructing note card bridges, and building aluminum foil boats.

The engineering challenges described in Chapter 7 are the heart of the event. Families work together for 30 to 45 minutes to solve one or more of the fifteen design challenges. As with the openers, engineering challenges are organized by difficulty level. Suggested combinations of activities incorporate a variety of skills, levels of difficulty, and engineering fields. Sample Engineering Challenges include building a robot that draws, designing an efficient ballpoint pen assembly line, and creating a hot chocolate machine.

Besides the background information and the activities, extensive appendices offer reproducible materials for planning and implementation. These materials include signs, activity interactives, a flyer, a planning checklist, a sign–in sheet, and an evaluation form. This guide would be an invaluable tool for anyone planning a family engineering event; the planning section, however, could serve as a template to organize almost any large event. I am rarely this unequivocal about a review. I endorse this book and applaud the passion and attention to detail that went into its creation.

Family Engineering: An Activity & Event Planning Guide is co–published by the Foundation for Family Science & Engineering and Michigan Technological University.

Review posted on 3/14/2012

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