Use the engineering design process to help Makayla solve a problem for her grandmother.
Can your students solve a family problem with engineering? Students will plan, create, and test a design to get peppers from Makayla’s second-story apartment porch to her grandmother’s second-story apartment porch in the adjacent building. Students will use the engineering design process—a sequence of steps that models how real engineers solve problems.
Students can complete this activity independently or with their family. They can also work with online partners through the Ask, Imagine, and Plan steps before creating their design at home.
Pass the Peppers is generously supported by the Overdeck Family Foundation.
- Apply the engineering process to find a solution for how to get an object from one above-ground location to another.
What You’ll Need
- Pen or pencil
- A variety of materials found around the home that may include, but are not limited to: cardboard, cardboard tubes, string, straws, wooden sticks, papers, and paper clips
Try engineering as a family!
Makayla and Andre have a problem. They need to get fresh peppers over to Grandma but the stairs are exhausting! Thankfully, they know how to think like engineers. Engineers are people who figure out how to make things that solve problems. Try this activity as a family and you’ll be thinking like engineers too!
How many plans did you imagine? How did you decide which plan to create?
Were you surprised by anything throughout the engineering process? (Remember that the steps are: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.)
Write a short paragraph describing your solution. Were you able to successfully transfer the peppers from one porch to the other? How were you able to accomplish this?
What additional improvements could you make to your design?
Students’ creativity will be demonstrated at all levels. Consider asking questions to extend students’ thinking beyond their current abilities. Simple formative questioning can guide the lesson, steer extensions, and inform next steps. Consider the following questions to extend students’ thinking:
- Which part of the engineering process did you enjoy most. Why?
- What was the most challenging step of the engineering process? Why was this challenging for you, and how did you overcome the challenge?
- What lessons might you be able to learn from the engineering process that you can apply to other areas of your life?
- How will you continue to develop students’ confidence in solving challenging problems?
For further ideas, check out this STEM Teaching Tool on addressing STEM with students who receive special education services.