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Engineering Teaching Kits

Through innovative and easy-to-use Engineering Teaching Kits, the Engineering School makes the study of engineering fundamentals available to local youth well before they ever set foot in a college classroom.

Founded in 2002 by Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Larry G. Richards through the Virginia Middle School Engineering Education Initiative, the Engineering Teaching Kits program enables undergraduate students to design customized lesson plans, or teaching kits, for middle and high school students. The kits cover a variety of engineering topics, such as solar cars, bridges, catapults, hovercrafts, submarines, planes and rockets, vehicle crash testing, sustainable house design, artificial arms, water filtration devices, heart pumps and brain surgery.

As part of the design process, the students take the plans to local schools, where they field-test the kits by leading the students through the engineering discovery exercises. Each kit includes an engineering design challenge. The pre-college students then demonstrate their understanding by designing and building a working device or system.

Over the past five years, the Engineering Teaching Kits have proven very successful. “Our students,” Richards says, “have done a great job of representing the Engineering School, serving as role models, and both teaching the students and getting them excited about engineering.”

The kits are being used by middle school science and math teachers throughout Central Virginia and in summer programs for both middle and high school students. This program is supported by the Payne Family Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

Engineering Teaching Kits have been field tested on a wide array of topics, including:

  • Under Pressure Designing submersible vehicles
  • RaPower Designing and building model solar cars.
  • Brainiacs Brain tumor treatment technology
  • Destructural Mechanics Engineering materials and the design of structures
  • Catapults In Action: Designing catapults for distance and accuracy
  • Pump – It – Up Human circulatory system functioning, heart disease, fluid flow, and artificial heart pumps
  • Alternative Energy Resources Primarily wind power
  • Losing Stability: Designing and building stable floating structures
  • Aerospace Engineering: Designing planes and rockets
  • Bio - Mech - a – Tek: Designing prosthetic devices to achieve arm functions
  • Get Stressed: Building Bridges from everyday materials
  • Sustainable House Design
  • Crane Corp: Simple Machines for complex tasks
  • Aspects of the Crash: protecting vehicle occupants
  • Filtering Ideas: Designing a water filtration device
  • HoverHoos: Hovercraft design
  • Crash and Burn: Cars racing off a ramp.
  • Roller Coaster Physics
  • Transformers: Energy Transformation

To learn more about using these kits in your school, please contact Professor Larry Richards at, 434.924.3191.