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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Glossary of Selected Terms

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Adaptation modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment.

Atmosphere the gaseous envelope of a celestial body (as a planet).

Biotechnology Any technique that uses living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make or modify products, improve plants or animals, or to develop microorganisms for specific uses.

Climate the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation.

Communication The successful transmission of information through a common system of symbols, signs, behavior, speech, writing, or signals.

Conductor A material capable of transmitting another form of energy (as heat or sound).

Constraint A limit to the design process. Constraints may be such things as appearance, funding, space materials, and human capabilities.

Construction The systematic act or process of building, erecting, or constructing buildings, roads, or other structures.

Consumer An organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter.

Decomposer Any of various organisms (as many bacteria and fungi) that return constituents of organic substances to ecological cycles by feeding on and breaking down dead protoplasm.

Design An iterative decision-making process that produces plans by which resources are converted into products or systems that meet human needs and wants or solve problems.

Design Brief A written plan that identifies a problem to be solved, its criteria, and its constraints. The design brief is used to encourage thinking of all aspects of a problem before attempting a solution.

Design Process A systematic problem solving strategy, with criteria and constraints, used to develop many possible solutions to solve a problem or satisfy human needs and wants and to winnow (narrow) down the possible solutions to one final choice.

Ecosystem The complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit.

Electric circuit The complete path of an electric current including usually the source of electric energy.

Electric current A flow of electric charge.

Energy The capacity for doing work.

Engineer A person who is trained in and uses technological and scientific knowledge to solve practical problems.

Engineering The profession of or work performed by an engineer. Engineering involves the knowledge of mathematical and natural sciences (biological and physical) gained by study, experience, and practice, applied with judgement and creativity to develop ways to utilize the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.

Engineering Design The systematic and creative application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.

Environment The complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival.

Erosion The gradual wearing away of rock or soil by physical breakdown, chemical solution, and transportation of material, as caused, for example, by water, wind, or ice.

Food chain An arrangement of the organisms of an ecological community according to the order of predation, in which each uses the next usually lower member as a food source.

Force An agency or influence that if applied to a free body results chiefly in an acceleration of the body and sometimes in elastic deformation and other effects.

Fossil A remnant, impression, or trace of an organism of past geologic ages that has been preserved in the earth's crust.

Gas/gas state Gas is a state of matter. Gas molecules do not hold together at all, so gas spreads out in all directions, including straight up. Gas changes both its shape and its volume very easily.

Habitat The place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows.

Heat The energy associated with the random motions of the molecules, atoms, or smaller structural units of which matter is composed.

Igneous Formed by solidification of magma.

Inherited To receive from ancestors by genetic transmission.

Insulator A material that is a poor conductor (as of electricity or heat).

Life cycle The series of stages in form and functional activity through which an organism passes between successive recurrences of a specified primary stage.

Light An electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range including infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and X rays and traveling in a vacuum with a speed of about 186,281 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second; specifically : the part of this range that is visible to the human eye.

Liquid/liquid state Liquid is a state of matter. Liquid molecules hold together weakly, so liquids flow. Liquids do not change their volumes significantly but do change their shapes easily.

Machine A device with fixed and moving parts that modifies mechanical energy in order to do work.

Magnetism A class of physical phenomena that include the attraction for iron observed in lodestone and a magnet, are inseparably associated with moving electricity, are exhibited by both magnets and electric currents, and are characterized by fields of force.

Manufacturing The process of making a raw material into a finished product; especially in large quantities.

Material The tangible substance (chemical, biological, or mixed) that goes into the makeup of a physical object. One of the basic resources used in a technological system.

Matter, states of Matter ordinarily exists in one of three physical states: solid, liquid, or gas. A given object's state depends on what the molecules are doing at the object's current temperature and pressure, i.e., are the molecules not holding together at all, holding together weakly, or holding together so tightly that they are locked into a stationary position. The transition between the states occurs at definite temperatures and pressures. A fourth state of matter, plasma (ionized gas in which the electrons are separated from the nuclei), can exist at extremely high temperatures. Plasma is found on the sun and other stars.

Medium A substance regarded as the means of transmission of a force or effect.

Metamorphic rocks Are formed from preexisting rocks that are subject to very high pressure and temperature, which result in the structural and chemical transformation of the preexisting rocks.

Metamorphosis A marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching.

Mineral A solid homogeneous crystalline chemical element or compound that results from the inorganic processes of nature.

Natural material Material found in nature, such as wood, stone, gases, and clay.

Orbit A path described by one body in its revolution about another (as by the earth about the sun or by an electron about an atomic nucleus).

Organism An individual self-sustaining unit of life or living material. Five forms of organisms are known: plants, animals, fungi, protists, and bacteria.

Pitch The property of a sound, and especially a musical tone, that is determined by the frequency of the waves producing it: highness or lowness of sound.

Plasma/plasma state Plasma is a state of matter, often called "the fourth state." The atoms in plasma move around in all directions at high speed. Plasmas are usually very hot and they glow. The sun, northern lights, lightning, and the glowing "gases" in neon sign tubes and fluorescent lamp tubes are examples of plasmas.

Precipitation A deposit on the earth of hail, mist, rain, sleet, or snow; also : the quantity of water deposited.

Process 1. Human activities used to create, invent, design, transform, produce, control, maintain, and use products or systems; 2. A systematic sequence of actions that combines resources to produce an output.

Producer Any of various organisms (as a green plant) which produce their own organic compounds from simple precursors (as carbon dioxide and inorganic nitrogen) and many of which are food sources for other organisms.

Prototype A full-scale working model used to test a design concept by making actual observations and necessary adjustments.

Reflection The return of light or sound waves from a surface.

Refraction Deflection from a straight path undergone by a light ray or energy wave in passing obliquely from one medium (as air) into another (as glass) in which its velocity is different.

Resource In a technological system, the basic technological resources are energy, capital, information, machines and tools, materials, people, and time.

Revolve To move in a curved path around a center or axis.

Rotate To turn about an axis or a center.

Sedimentary Rocks formed from material, including debris of organic origin, deposited as sediment by water, wind, or ice and then compressed and cemented together by pressure.

Simple machine The simple machines are the lever, pulley, and inclined plane, along with their most basic modifications, the wheel and axle, wedge, and screw. A complex machine is a machine made up of two or more simple machines.

Sketch A rough drawing that represents the main features of an object or scene and often made as a preliminary study.

Solar system The sun together with the group of celestial bodies that are held by its attraction and revolve around it.

Solid/solid state Solid is a state of matter. Solid molecules hold together very tightly and often line up in exact patterns, therefore, solids do not flow. Solids do not change their shapes or volumes.

Sound A kind of energy contained in vibrating matter. Sound travels through solids, liquids, and gases. The eardrums convert this vibrational energy into signals that travel along nerves to the brain, which interprets them as voices, music, noise, etc.

Streak The color of the fine powder of a mineral obtained by scratching or rubbing against a hard white surface and constituting an important distinguishing characteristic. Note: the streak color may be completely different from the color observed at the surface of the mineral.

Synthetic Material Material that is not found in nature, such as glass, concrete, and plastics.

System A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements or parts that function together as a whole to accomplish a goal.

Technology 1. Human innovation in action that involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities; 2. The innovation, change, or modification of the natural environment to satisfy perceived human needs and wants.

Technology Education A study of technology, which provides an opportunity for students to learn about the processes and knowledge related to technology that are needed to solve problems and extend human capabilities.

Texture The nature of the surface of an object, especially as described by the sense of touch, but excluding temperature. Textures include rough, smooth, feathery, sharp, greasy, metallic, and silky.

Weather The state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness..

Weight The force with which a body is attracted toward the earth or a celestial body by gravitation and which is equal to the product of the mass and the local gravitational acceleration.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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