Expedition 2: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

If you’ve ever been on a camping trip, you know how much planning and preparation are involved. You might have experienced a time when you brought too much, or even worse, forgot something important. These oversights can impact your goals for the trip by affecting how you will accomplish them, and whether or not they can still be met.

Setting Goals

Kit must clearly define her goals, or criteria, for the trip. “Criterion” (singular) is a term often used in engineering to define a measure for success. Kit will be successful if she meets criteria such as:

  • staying safe and healthy while in the field,
  • reaching her destinations,
  • collecting enough samples,
  • keeping detailed notes,
  • keeping her samples organized and free from damage, and
  • generating data from these samples to answer her research questions.

How will we increase our chance for success?

The task doesn’t end there. Now that her criteria for success are defined, she needs to figure out how to meet them most efficiently.

As observers, we have the luxury of imagining the best ways of accomplishing these goals. However, using jetpacks to get from island to island, or using a handy pre-European human activity detector may not be the most realistic options when it comes to Kit’s available resources.

Things like time, money, people, equipment, and weather conditions are referred to as constraints in engineering. “Constraints” limit us to doing what we can with what we have. Unfortunately for Kit, the life of a field researcher is typically not one of luxury. Operating with limited resources means that careful planning is required, as the room for mistakes is much smaller when you are more than 6500 miles from home on a remote island with no cell phone service. Since Kit must endure harsh weather conditions and will have limited access to local resources, the constraints are significant. An expedition like Kit’s is something that must truly be engineered.

Putting the pieces together

In order to meet the criteria while considering the constraints, Kit must revisit her research question: “How and when did the warrah arrive in the Falkland Islands?” As Kit explains in the video, answering this question involves lots of smaller, but important questions that the team must answer in order to be well prepared.

Long before the first test pit is dug, answers must be carefully considered to questions such as: What are we trying to find out?; What do we think our results might be?; What information will we need to use as evidence that can be used to evaluate our predictions?; Where will these data come from?; How much data do we need?; Where do we need to go?; What do we need to bring?; Should I pack my bathing suit, or my snowsuit?; What will we eat?; How will we cook?; How many days will we need?; and How do we get the samples back home safely?

You, the scientist

In the process of planning and carrying out her investigation, Kit must use additional science and engineering practices. Kit will have to think and act like an engineer by defining problems and creating solutions in order to answer questions she has as a scientist. You may begin to notice that in your science experiences both in and out of school, you too are using multiple practices when planning and carrying out investigations.

What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

  • Why is a field notebook so important? What do you think Kit is writing in her notebook?
  • What kinds of equipment should scientists bring with them on remote expeditions?
  • If Kit doesn’t find data that supports her hypothesis, did she fail? Is the information that we get still important?
  • What would you pack with you on a trip like this?
  • Do we actually plan and carry out investigations like scientists in our daily lives?
  • In what ways have you thought like a scientist lately? An engineer?
  • What are other ways that engineering is incorporated into Kit’s expedition?

Have more questions?