Learning by Design

by Alyson Boedeker

Math Teacher, Caravel Academy

Empower students to apply creativity and problem-solving skills to find innovative solutions to both defined and original engineering design problems by learning and practicing the basics of the engineering design process.

Project Resources:

  • Project Framework
  • Subjects: Engineering, Design
  • Learning outcomes: Creativity, Teamwork, Communication Skills, Working within Constraints, Leadership
  • Project Notes:
    • Use the Design Challenges to Implement the basic Engineering Design Process:
      1. Identify/Define the Problem — Present students with the design challenge description which should include the objective, constraints, and materials. Reinforce the concept of constraints by limiting the materials to those provided and enforcing a time limit. A requirement to use all the provided materials can also be added when weight is a factor in the design.
      2. Background/Research — Depending on the challenge, give students 5-10 minutes to research the concepts underlying the challenge. When research time is permitted, do not reveal the materials until after research is completed
      3. Concept Generation & Selection — Students first work individually to brainstorm a solution. They should then conceptualize their solution by sketching their design, identifying the components, the purpose of the components, and the materials used for the components. Students then collaborate in groups of two to three students to develop and conceptualize a single group solution.
      4. Build and Test – Groups build and test their solutions, recording their results.
      5. Evaluate/Communicate Results – Students use the individual Design Challenge Sheet to evaluate their and the other groups’ solutions. The winning group gives a short oral presentation explaining the rationale for their design.
      6. Redesign & Test – If time permits, students may modify and re-test their designs. At a minimum, choose one or two challenges to repeat at a later time so students may apply what they learned from the first test to improve their designs.
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