This past week my students made Barbie cars and bumpers, ran them down a ramp, and looked at the g-forces on the occupant. It allowed us to look at force diagrams, frictional forces, crumple zones, and net force.
Additionally, it is one of the few STEM experiences many of my students will have into the world of engineering design. It allowed them to think, and analyze, and compare. It's not a canned program. It's not perfect, but it uses data analysis (just as safercar.gov does) to come to conclusions.
When they finished, the students had to report their findings. Most chose Google Docs or Google Presentations because of the design ease. This data will follow them through the unit as we look at Force applied, Force net, and mu.
My role as a teacher? Challenge designer. Interpreter. Identifier of misconceptions (there are many) in the presentations during a post-presentation conference. While this is not a summative experience, it is a critical formative experience, focusing not on a formula, but instead on the idea of relevant problem-solving and design.
THIS is what I want for students in the 21st century. Collaborative. Multiple solutions. Focused on the big ideas. What do you want for your kids?