Set-Up: Plastic rings are great for carrying cans, but they're a real problem when they become trash on a beach or in the ocean. When people litter, garbage like the plastic rings become harmful for birds, turtles, fish, and other animals. When the plastic ends up in the ocean, it breaks down into debris, called microplastics. Microplastics pollute the ocean and are often eaten by sea creatures, who may then be eaten by humans!
For this design challenge, follow the steps of the Design Thinking Process to engineer a prototype for a new and better way to hold a six-pack of soda cans that isn't harmful to animals. A prototype is a quick way to show an idea to others or to try it out. The Design Thinking Process is the steps engineers go through to solve problems. They: identify the problem, brainstorm and plan, build, test, and improve.
Time needed: 60 minutes
Note: If you’re missing a material or have another idea for something that might be useful, free feel to test them. Trying out different ideas to see what works is something engineers do!
To get started, Then, identify the problem you're trying to solve: engineer a soda holder that isn’t harmful to animals.
Then, spend a few minutes brainstorming the design of your holder. Sketch your ideas on sheets of scratch paper to create a plan that keeps in mind the criteria and constraints.
It might help to ask yourself questions like:
Once you have some ideas, choose one to turn into a prototype.
Then, use your plan and materials to build your holder. As you build, feel free to try lots of different ideas to see what works and doesn't work. Remember, the goal is to practice thinking like an engineer, NOT to make a perfect holder!
When you think you have a finished holder, test it and see how well it works!
Before you start testing, what do you think will happen to your holder? Will it be able to meet the criteria? Take a guess!
Then, find out if you were right! Test your prototype by placing the cans in your holder and walking around the room.
During the test, you may find things that work and others that don’t. So, after testing, make sure to ask yourself: How could you improve the prototype?
Then, improve your holder using what you’ve learned. Once you have a new version, test it again to see if your changes worked!
Want More Challenge? Try This!
Once you’ve created a can holder or any type of prototype, you can share it with others. They can help you to think of new ideas and look for ways to make your prototype even better.
And that’s it! You’ve completed a design challenge from the Senior Think Like an Engineer Journey! You’ve learned about the Design Thinking Process and used the steps to engineer a prototype of a soda holder that isn’t harmful to animals.
If you had fun with this design challenge, check out the other activities in the Think Like an Engineer Journey. Or, explore more about engineering and computer science with the Robotics badges.
Adapted from the Design Squad® Global "Harmless Holder" activity. © 2017 WGBH Educational Foundation. Design Squad is a registered trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation. and Design Squad Global is a trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation.
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