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2015 PLTW Launch Module Descriptions

Modules Aligned to Kindergarten Standards

Structure and Function: Exploring Design
Students discover the design process and how engineers influence their lives. They explore structure and function by identifying
products around them designed by engineers, asking questions engineers might ask as they design products, and determining the
structure and function of items. Working in small groups, students design, build, and test a structure from available materials to withstand a force. Students apply newly acquired knowledge and skills as they utilize the design process to design, sketch, build, test, and reflect on a new tool design.

Pushes and Pulls
Students investigate different pushes and pulls on the motion of an object and develop knowledge and skills related to forces of differing
strengths and directions. Their explorations include pushes and pulls found in their everyday world such as pushing a friend on a swing
or pulling a wagon. Students are challenged to refine a design and successfully solve a problem, and they reflect on the effect of
modifying the strength or direction of a force.

Structure and Function: Human Body
Students explore the relationship between structure and function in the human body. They examine major structures, or organs, within
the body and investigate how the structure of each organ is related to its function. Once students establish an understanding of basic
structure and function in the body, they take a deeper look at the functions of bone. Students assemble a skeleton and create a model
X-ray of a hand. They act as scientists to perform an inquiry investigation to understand why fingers are made up of more than one
bone. Finally, each student works through an engineering design process to design and build a cast to aid healing of a broken bone.

Animals and Algorithms
Students explore the nature of computers and the ways in which humans control and use technology. Starting with a computer-free
activity, students learn about the sequential nature of computer programs. Students apply this knowledge to the domain of science when
they design a simple algorithm about an animal in its habitat. Using an age-appropriate programming environment, students use their
newly developed programming skills to turn their algorithm into a short animation. Through this work, students come to understand
that computing is a collaborative activity that can be used to create digital artifacts pertaining to any area of interest.

Modules Aligned to First-Grade Standards

Light and Sound
Students investigate light and sound, including vibration from sound waves and the effect of different materials on the path of a beam of
light. After students develop understandings of light and sound, they are challenged to design a model to solve a design problem.
Students use the design process to sketch, build, test, and reflect on a device that uses light or sound to communicate over a distance.

Light: Observing the Sun, Moon, and Stars
After observing the sun, moon, and stars, students identify and describe patterns in their recorded data. Students build upon their
knowledge of light to design, build, test, and reflect on a device designed to solve a problem related to the patterns of the sun. After
evaluating their design, students share their findings and ideas for ways to improve the device based on the testing data.

Animal Adaptations
In this exploration of animal adaptations, students are presented with the problem of preparing an ideal traveler for a visit to an
extreme environment and designing the ideal shoe for this traveler to wear in this environment. Students learn what it means for an
organism to be adapted to its environment and how different adaptations can be categorized. Through various investigations, students
explore adaptations for protection, camouflage, food obtainment, and locomotion. Students combine all of their knowledge of plant and
animal adaptations with their understanding of the extreme environment to prepare their travelers and design their shoes.

Animated Storytelling
Through this exploration of both storytelling and animation, students are presented with the problem of arranging moving images and
sounds to depict a story. Students learn that computers need specific instructions written in a language that the computer can
understand. Students develop an understanding of events as triggers that make computer programs carry out instructions. Combining
fundamental ideas in computer science with story-building skills from language arts, students create animations that show characters,
settings, actions, and events in a short story of their own creation. The programming environment in which students create these
stories is appropriate for emerging readers and offers an appropriately scaffolded environment for piecing together logical steps to
produce an animation.

Modules Aligned to Second-Grade Standards

Materials Science: Properties of Matter
In this exploration of materials science, students investigate and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties,
including color, texture, and heat conduction. After analyzing data from materials testing, students apply their knowledge and skills to
determine the best material to solve a design problem. Students analyze how well the model solved the problem and determine
improvements that could be made to their designs.

Materials Science: Form and Function
Students research the variety of ways animals disperse seeds and pollinate plants. Students expand their understanding of properties
of matter as they consider the form and function involved in seed dispersal and pollination. Students gain understanding of form and
function and how each concept informs design. The design problem requires students to apply their knowledge and skills to design, build,
and test a device that mimics one of the ways animals either disperse seeds or pollinate plants. Students reflect on the efficiency of their
designs and how they were informed by nature.

The Changing Earth
Students explore how the surface of the Earth is always changing. They are introduced to different kind of maps and explore how these
maps convey different kinds of information about the world in which we live, including where water is found on Earth. Students
investigate the different forces that shape the surface of the Earth and design solutions to limit the impact of erosion on a fictional

Grids and Games
In this exploration combining mathematics and computers, students investigate numerical relationships while learning about the
sequence and structure required in computer programs. Starting with computer-free activities and moving to tablet-based challenges,
students apply addition and subtraction strategies to make characters move on a grid. Using skills and knowledge gained from these
activities, students work together in groups to design and develop a game in which a player interacts with objects on a tablet screen.
Students make extensive use of logic as they create a working game using an event-based model.

Modules Aligned to Third-Grade Standards

Stability and Motion: Science of Flight
Students are engaged in developing an understanding of the forces involved in flight as well as Newton’s Laws of Motion. Discovering
computer-aided design, students use basic descriptive geometry as a component of design. Students apply their knowledge and skills to
design, build, and test an experimental model glider to explore forces that affect flight. In addition, they modify their glider designs as
they solve a real-world problem.

Stability and Motion: Forces and Interactions
Students explore simple machines such as wheel and axles, levers, the inclined plane, and more as they investigate the effects of balanced
and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object. Additionally, students explore magnetic interactions between two objects not in
contact with each other through a hands-on project. Finally, students apply their knowledge of mechanisms and magnetic interactions as
part of a solution to a design problem.

Variation of Traits
Students investigate the differences between inherited genetic traits and traits that are learned or influenced by the environment.
Students explore the phenomena that offspring may express different traits than parents as they learn about dominant and recessive
genes. Students use what they learn to predict inheritance patterns of plants through multiple generations and investigate how predicted
outcomes compare to experimental results.

Programming Patterns
Students begin to move beyond basic sequential computer programs to discover the power of modularity and abstraction. Starting with
computer-free activities and progressing to programming in a blocks-based language on a tablet, students learn how to think
computationally about a problem. They gain appreciation for the powerful computing practice of reducing programmatic solutions so
they are generic enough to be reused in a variety of specific circumstances. Building on this transformational way of thinking, students
create a final program using modular functions and branching logic.

Modules Aligned to Fourth-Grade Standards

Energy: Collisions
Student exploration of mechanisms includes investigations of how mechanisms change energy by transferring direction, speed, type of
movement, and force. Students discover a variety of ways potential energy can be stored and released as kinetic energy. Citing evidence,
students explain the relationship between the speed of an object and the energy of that object. They also predict the transfer of energy
as a result of a collision between two objects. As students solve the problem for this module, they apply their knowledge and skills
related to energy transfer in collisions to develop a vehicle restraint system.

Energy: Conversion
As students learn about forms of energy, they identify the conversion of energy between forms and the energy transfer required to
move energy from place to place. Students identify and explain how energy can be converted to meet a human need or want. After
exploring energy conversion and transfer, students apply scientific ideas about the conversion of energy to solve a simple design
problem. The problem requires students to design a system that is able to store energy and then convert the energy to a usable form as
it is released.

Input/Output: Computer Systems
In this exploration of how computers work, students are encouraged to make analogies between the parts of the human body and parts
that make up a computer. Students develop a notion of the computer as a machine that takes input, processes information using defined
instructions, and produces output. With strong connections to the fourth-grade Human Brain module, students investigate reaction time
as a measure of nervous system function. Students apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout the activities to build their own
reaction time measurement devices on tablets.

Input/Output: Human Brain
Students discover how signals passing from cell to cell allow us to receive stimuli from the outside world, get this information to the
brain for processing, and then send out a signal to generate a response. Students investigate how we take in information through the
senses and where the information is processed in the brain. Students work as part of a team to design, plan, and create a video or
podcast to raise awareness about concussions and educate children as to how concussions can either be identified early or prevented

Modules Aligned to Fifth-Grade Standards

Robotics and Automation
Student exploration of robotics includes ways that robots are used in today’s world and the impact of their use on society and the
environment. Students learn about a variety of robotic components as they build and test mobile robots that may be controlled
remotely. The design problem provides an opportunity for students to apply their robotic skills and knowledge to solve a real-world
problem related to environmental disaster cleanup.

Robotics and Automation: Challenge
Students expand their understanding of robotics as they explore mechanical design and computer programming. The focus for this
module centers on developing skills needed to build and program autonomous robots. Students develop programming skills in a variety
of platforms, including tablet applications and browser-based programming environments. Finally, students apply the robotic knowledge
and skills they have developed to build and program an autonomous robot to solve a real-world design problem.

Infection: Detection
Students explore transmission of infection, agents of disease, and mechanisms the body uses to stay healthy. Students design and run an
experiment related to limiting the spread of germs and apply results to propose appropriate prevention methods. When presented with
a fictional disease outbreak scenario, students examine evidence to deduce the agent of infection, the likely source of the outbreak, and
the path of transmission through this fictional school.

Infection: Modeling and Simulation
Of all the things computers can do, one of the most helpful is the ability to process a lot of information very quickly. Students discover
this and other powerful ideas about computing as they investigate models and simulations. Exploration begins with students acting out a
simulation in which they are agents following rules of a given model. Applying their new understandings, they program their own models
and collect data by running simulations with different parameters.

Modules Aligned to Sixth-Eighth Grade Standards

Foundational Units:

Design & Modeling
Students apply the design process to solve problems and understand the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. They work in teams to design a playground and furniture, capturing research and ideas in their engineering notebooks. Using Autodesk® design software, students create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their innovative solutions.

Automation & Robotics
Students trace the history, development, and influence of automation and robotics as they learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation, and computer control systems. Students use the VEX Robotics® platform to design, build, and program real-world objects such as traffic lights, toll booths, and robotic arms.

Specialization Units:

Introduction to Computer Science 1
Studies show that by 2018, 1.4 million job openings will be available for computer specialists. In this unit, students discover the principles of this fast-growing field by focusing on creativity and an iterative design process as they create their own basic apps using MIT App Inventor.

Introduction to Computer Science 2
Students continue to explore the fundamentals of the stimulating career path of computer science. They venture into text programming through Python and, in the final problem, develop an app to crowdsource and analyze data on a topic of their interest.

Energy & the Environment
Students are challenged to think big and toward the future as they explore sustainable solutions to our energy needs and investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the world. They design and model alternative energy sources and evaluate options for reducing energy consumption.

Flight & Space
The exciting world of aerospace comes alive through Flight and Space. Students explore the science behind aeronautics and use their knowledge to design, build, and test an airfoil. Custom-built simulation software allows students to experience space travel.

Science of Technology
Science impacts the technology of yesterday, today, and the future. Students apply the concepts of physics, chemistry, and nanotechnology to STEM activities and projects, including making ice cream, cleaning up an oil spill, and discovering the properties of nano-materials.

Magic of Electrons
Through hands-on projects, students explore electricity, the behavior and parts of atoms, and sensing devices. They learn knowledge and skills in basic circuitry design, and examine the impact of electricity on the world around them.

Green Architecture
Today’s students have grown up in an age of “green” choices. In this unit, students learn how to apply this concept to the fields of architecture and construction by exploring dimensioning, measuring, and architectural sustainability as they design affordable housing units using Autodesk’s® 3D architectural design software.

Medical Detectives
Students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they analyze genetic testing results to diagnose disease and study DNA evidence found at a “crime scene.” They solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, investigate how to measure and interpret vital signs, and learn how the systems of the human body work together to maintain health.


About PLTW

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education curricular programs used in schools. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, PLTW exists to prepare students for the global economy through its world-class curriculum, high-quality professional development, and an engaged network of educators, students, universities and professionals. PLTW’s comprehensive curriculum has been collaboratively designed by PLTW teachers, university educators, engineering and biomedical professionals, and school administrators to promote critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem solving skills in students. The hands-on, project-based program engages students on multiple levels, exposes them to areas of study that they typically do not pursue, and provides them with a foundation and proven path to college and career success. More than 4,700 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are currently offering PLTW courses to their students. For more information, visit and take a moment to watch this video to learn more.

For more information on Morning Star Christian School’s PLTW courses or to set up a school visit, please contact our school office at (541) 382.5091 also check out our blog.

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