Engineering the Built Environment (Middle School)


Mies Campus


Rising sixth through eighth graders (ages 11–14)

Program Overview

Everywhere we look, we see the work of civil, architectural, and environmental engineers. Civil engineers design, construct, and maintain the infrastructure that supports our physical and natural worlds—the roads and bridges that we travel on, the foundations upon which our buildings are built, and the dams and retaining walls that prevent water and earthen materials from flooding our towns. Architectural engineers work with civil engineers, architects, and owners to design, build, and build the operations of buildings to be efficient with materials, use less energy, have healthier indoor environments, and improve sustainability. Environmental engineers develop solutions to control contaminants, manage sewage and other waste, and improve the quality of water that we drink and the air that we breathe in pursuit of making our environment more sustainable. Through this summer program, students will learn how civil, architectural, and environmental engineering is fundamental and a part of their everyday lives. Students will work on various projects to design and build a variety of structures, test their performance, and identify solutions to environmental problems.

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize the role of civil, architectural, and environmental engineers in designing, constructing, and maintaining our built and natural environments
  • Describe the engineering behaviors of soil and groundwater, construct a hydraulic conductivity test setup, and demonstrate the flow in porous media
  • Engage in the engineering design processes for buildings and bridges using common materials and examine the performance of structures
  • Explain environmental engineering problems and develop a contaminant removal plan
  • Understand how to assess the performance of buildings and their indoor environments

Example Activities:

  • Building a gingerbread house with gingerbread cookies and icing to consider natural ventilation and structural stability; conducting a ventilation test, wind test, and shake test after the house is constructed (indoor air quality, structural and geotechnical engineering)
  • Designing and building different types of bridges (truss, beam, cable, and else) using spaghetti, straps, and rubber bands; conducting a load test after the bridge construction and discussing engineering designs for beautiful and strong bridges (structural and architectural engineering)
  • Designing a dome with wooden sticks and rubber bands, and conducting a collapse test; discussing building framing for structures and relationships between the shape and strength of structures (structural and architectural engineering)
  • Designing and constructing hydraulic conductivity test equipment using plastic bottles and rubber tubes; investigating how groundwater flows through a porous medium using a different grind size of coffee beans and then measuring hydraulic conductivity for each coffee grind size (environmental and geotechnical engineering)
  • Designing a remediation strategy for oil spills, including how to capture and clean the oil spills; simulating oil spills using a dyed vegetable oil and testing different absorbent materials to remove the oil from water (environmental engineering)
  • Conducting energy and indoor air quality performance testing on buildings, from models to full-size


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