Resources

Disaster response

Introduction

The aim of this resource is to give students an insight into the roles of engineers following a natural disaster.

Engineers find solutions to problems. Sometimes it is easy to see an engineer’s role, particularly when they are involved in the reconstruction of roads and buildings, or of power generation and supply. Sometimes, the engineer’s contribution is in designing equipment that can be brought in to the disaster area, ready for use. Although engineers respond to the situation ‘on the ground’, they also contribute by trialing solutions in preparation for future needs. Alongside the activities, students will find quotes from practicing engineers about the work they have been involved in.

This resource contains a collection of student activities and related resources to support classroom teaching at KS3. The context of disaster response provides human interest and provides opportunities for students to engage with relevant challenges and consider real-life solutions that demonstrate key ideas that they have met. Throughout the activities, students are asked to apply knowledge, skills and understanding. They are also asked to consider how they might be ‘thinking like an engineer’.

Using the activities for CREST Awards

Included in the Teachers Version is a detailed timetable to allow teachers or STEM leaders to use the resource as the context for a STEM Challenge day.

A CREST Bronze Award requires roughly 10 hours’ work on a project. By carrying out several of the challenges, along with the plenary activity, it is likely students could fulfill the award requirements. Some students doing longer, more detailed projects may even consider working towards a CREST Silver Award.

Information for STEM Activity Leaders

How to use this STEM resource

This STEM resource has been written for the leaders of STEM activities to use with key stage 3 students (age 11–14). However, there is no reason why younger students should not be given the opportunity to investigate the STEM aspects of disaster response. The activities could also be adapted and extended to provide stretch and challenge for older students.

The desired learning outcome is for students to create a presentation that provides a reasoned answer to the ‘big question’, How do engineers save lives in the aftermath of a natural disaster? Students should arrive at their answer having investigated solutions to challenges arising from the aftermath of natural disasters.

The teacher’s version of the resource provides prompts, answers and notes to help support teachers, STEM ambassadors and STEM club leaders in their delivery of the resource. This can also be downloaded from the Download PDF link in the banner above.

There is also a booklet of student activity support sheets. The student version of the resource includes all the activity sheets, but none of the prompts, notes and answers or support sheets. The intention is that teachers select only those support sheets which will enable each student to carry out a particular challenge effectively without ‘spoon-feeding’ them or denying them the opportunity to demonstrate higher order investigative and design skills.

Overview of the student activities

All of the activities are meant to be carried out in groups of four students. Working effectively as a team is an important engineering skill.

Introductory student activities

The introductory activities are short ‘orientation’ activities. Before students can progress to the problem-solving activities, they need to be aware of the range of types of natural disaster, and the kinds of problems associated with them. It is also helpful for them to have some sense of scale in terms of time and speed of disasters.

Problem-solving activities

The student problem-solving activities are organised into two groups: immediate problems and longer-term problems. Parts of each activity are signposted by three headings: Information, The situation and The challenge.

  • Information provides general information about the real world problem caused by a natural disaster and how engineers are involved in providing solutions;
  • The situation and The challenge provide a more closely defined context and a brief for the problem solving activity.

Presentation activity

This is the plenary activity, in which students use the information and insights they have gained through the introductory and problem-solving activities to present an answer to the ‘big question’, ‘How do engineers save lives in the aftermath of a natural disaster?’

Student activities

Overview of the student activities

All of the activities are meant to be carried out in groups of four students. Working effectively as a team is an important engineering skill.

Introductory student activities

The introductory activities (1A, 1B) are short ‘orientation’ activities. Before students can progress to the problem-solving activities, they need to be aware of the range of types of natural disaster, and the kinds of problems associated with them. It is also helpful for them to have some sense of scale in terms of time and speed of disasters.

Problem-solving activities 

The student problem-solving activities are organised into two groups: immediate problems (2A, 2B, 2C) and longer-term problems (3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E). Parts of each activity are signposted by three headings: Information, The situation and The challenge.

  • Information provides general information about the real world problem caused by a natural disaster and how engineers are involved in providing solutions;
  • The situation and The challenge provide a more closely defined context and a brief for the problem solving activity.

Presentation activity

This is the plenary activity, in which students use the information and insights they have gained through the introductory and problem-solving activities to present an answer to the ‘big question’, ‘How do engineers save lives in the aftermath of a natural disaster?’

Activity challenge list

Through practical activity and problem solving, students will explore answers to the following questions:

ACTIVITY TITLE THE CHALLENGE
1A How much warning? What warning is there of different disasters? How quickly do some disasters move?
1B Aftermath What kinds of engineers face survivors after a natural disaster? What might engineers do to help?
2A Emergency shelter How many people could you accommodate overnight in the sports hall, and how might you do this?
2B What makes a good shelter? Design, construct and evaluate two model shelter solutions.
2C Tents, water and toilets! How many people could you provide temporary shelter for on the school sports field or other local open space?
3A Peace and quiet SHORT VERSION, CONCENTRATING ON ACOUSTIC PROPERTIES:
  1. Consider some possible screening solutions.
  2. Compare the sound absorption/reflection properties of the screening materials available.
  3. Identify the most suitable materials for screens based on this property.
LONGER VERSION, EVALUATING THE STABILITY OF THE STRUCTURE AS WELL:
  1. Consider some possible screening solutions.
  2. Suggest two possible screening solutions that you could compare.
  3. Construct prototype screens and compare the stability of the screens and how well they reduce the amount of sound reflected.
  4. Produce a brief report, recommending the best solution.
3B Clean water?  Evaluate the performance of four different sand filters.
3C The right size of filter Identify the best size of container to use for a household sand filter. Which would be the best size to use? Show how you arrived at your decision.
3D Solar disinfection Find out how difference in the way SODIS treatment is carrie carried out might affect how effective it is. Some questions you might consider are:
  • What containers work best?
  • Should the containers be 'standing up' or 'lying down'?
  • Does the surface that the containers are on make a difference?
Decide how you are going to investigate our chosen questions. Write a brief report abut what you have found out, suggesting what you think is likely to be that most effective way to carry out SODIS treatment.
3E Taps and waiting time Produce an initial report identifying how many supply points (taps) are likely to be needed, and how the supply rate at each tap could affect queuing times.