General Engineering Back

Engineers work to solve the difficult problems that face our society. Whether it’s building a bridge to cross a river, creating a new machine to manufacture cars, or fitting a huge amount of technology into a smartphone, an engineer’s work can leave a lasting impact on society.


  • Engineering


By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Define the different branches of engineering.
  • Help Explorers understand what engineers do.
  • Demonstrate key engineering concepts.


  • Flip Chart, scissors, and markers
  • Match the Engineering Discipline activity sheet, cut into strips prior to meeting (see resources)
  • Paper Tower activity: measuring tape, newspaper, clear tape
  • Parachute Races activity: plastic bag or lightweight fabric, scissors, string, a small weight (one set per team)
  • Hot Potato activity: effervescent tablets (such as Alka-Seltzer), small balloons, water


Text in italics should be read aloud to participants. As you engage your post in activities each week, please include comments, discussions, and feedback to the group relating to Character, Leadership, and Ethics. These are important attributes that make a difference in the success of youth in the workplace and life.



Ask Explorers to identify the four major branches of engineering. Have an Explorer record each branch on a separate sheet of chart paper. As needed, briefly review with participants the types of projects an engineer might encounter in each field.


Chemical engineering—the study of chemicals and the process of creating new materials and compounds

Mechanical engineering—the study of designing mechanical systems

Civil engineering—the study of designing and constructing public and private works

Electrical engineering—the study of designing electrical systems and components


Match the Engineering Discipline

Prior to the meeting, print four copies of the Match the Engineering Discipline activity sheet and cut the disciplines into strips.


Divide the Explorers into teams, and have each team pick one branch of engineering. Give each team one set of paper strips from the activity sheet. Allow teams some time to review the disciplines and discuss which disciplines might match their assigned branch. Then, have the Explorers take turns taping the disciplines to the branch that they picked and explaining why they picked them. As needed, allow Explorers to do a quick search of Internet references if they encounter an unfamiliar term. Keep the discussions moving while teams make their decisions.


Chemical Engineering

  • Bioinformatics
  • Biotechnology
  • Cheminformatics
  • Environmental engineering
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Molecular engineering
  • Nanotechnology
  • Polymer and plastics engineering
  • Textile engineering



Civil Engineering

  • Materials engineering
  • Coastal engineering
  • Construction engineering
  • Structural and earthquake engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Water resource engineering
  • Surveying
  • Transportation, municipal, and urban engineering


Mechanical Engineering

  • Biomechanics
  • Mechatronics
  • Acoustical engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Automotive engineering
  • Design and drafting


Electrical Engineering

  • Power engineering
  • Control engineering
  • Electronic engineering
  • Microelectronics
  • Telecommunications engineering
  • Instrumentation engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Signal processing


Paper Tower

Equipment: Measuring tape, newspaper, clear tape

Method: Give each Explorer two full sheets of newspaper and five minutes to construct a tower. The tallest tower that can stand longer than 30 seconds wins.

Variation: Follow the same instructions, but give each Explorer 8 inches of clear tape. See how much taller the towers can become with this added support.


Parachute Races

Equipment: A plastic bag or lightweight fabric, scissors, string, a small object to act as the weight

Method: Give teams of Explorers five minutes to design a parachute for the weighted object. Explain that their objective is to create a parachute that is the last one to touch the ground when all are released from a given height.

Scoring: The last parachute to touch the ground wins.


Hot Potato

Hot Potato

Equipment: Effervescent tablets (such as Alka-Seltzer), small balloons, water, safety glasses

Method: Have the Explorers put on safety glasses and form a circle, preferably outdoors. Fill a small balloon with an inch of water, and drop a tablet into the water. You may need to break the tablet into pieces. Inflate the balloon, tie it shut, and pass it to an Explorer. The objective of the game is not to be holding the balloon when it pops! Have Explorers pass the balloon to the person next to them. The person holding the balloon when it pops is eliminated. Start another balloon around the circle.

Scoring: The winner is the remaining Explorer.


Gather the Explorers together after completing the activities to discuss what took place and why. Use the reflection questions that follow.


Focusing Questions

  • What was the purpose of these activities? Why did we do them?

Analysis Questions

  • What type of engineering was used in each activity?

Generalization Questions

  • What types of engineering would you like to learn more about?
  • What subjects in school do you believe you will need to pursue a career in engineering?
General Engineering Activity Sheet
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