Authentic Contexts in STEM Education: Engineering

How to build a (pneumatic) pontoon bridge to evacuate civilians?

Engineering involves the purposeful application of mathematical and natural sciences and a body of engineering knowledge, technology and techniques to designing objects, processes, and systems to meet human needs and wants. Considering the recent warfare and natural diesters, it has been a issue to evacuate civilians since bridged were destroyed. 

How can you build a (pneumatic) pontoon bridge to evacuate civilians?







Authentic context in this example

Characteristics of authentic context

How to integrate engineering practices in STEM Ed

Engineering concepts and practices implicitly or explicitly integrated into K-12 curricula over the years. By doing so, design-based learning has been commonly used in addition to inquiry-based learning. In this example, the user experiences with an authentic real-life problem to develop a technology in this case a pneumatic pontoon bridge. Another good part of this example is that it includes both a design-based and inquiry based approaches for addressing the problem in hand. 


  • Design is creating something for someone for some purpose. Making trade-offs between criteria and constraints are crucial during this process. Following questions can be considered:
  • What is the real problem? What are the possible solutions? 
  • What are the design constraints?   
  • How can we make this easier/functional/aesthetic/economical/simple/environmentally friendly?  
  • How can we make it safer/easier for both those who will use this technology and those who will develop it?

Dealing with a problem in authentic context

  • Define the problem in an engineering context is important.
  • Undertaking real world problems or projects and building empathy by exploring all angles from the very beginning till the end are crucial in the engineering design processes. 

The engineering design processes discussed in this example can be taken into account while teaching STEM in an interconnected and meaningful way in real-world context. Integrating epistemic practices of engineering in education enables us to define the real problem, generate solutions to best meet the criteria and constraints of the problem, test, refine, and improve the final design by trading off less important features for those that are more important.

The goal is to generating solutions to best meet to a real world problem.

1. Read the text carefully!

2. How do overcome with this problem. 

3. Put yourself in the role of an engineer. How would you design an artifact to address the problem?

4. Do your own (internet) research.

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