Junior Automotive Design Badge Activity
Design a Vehicle To Help Someone You Love
Explore some of the steps creative designers take to create a vehicle as you sketch and sculpt your own vehicle that solves a mobility problem for a customer of your choice.
Time needed: 60 minutes
- Vehicle Design Guide
- Junior Vehicle Diagram
- 2+ large sheets of paper
- 4 oz. (1/2 small pack) or more of white modeling foam (not foam beads), modeling clay, or dough
- Extra modeling foam, clay, or dough
- Tools for sculpting the foam/clay/dough, such as rolling pins, cookie cutters, dull plastic knives, hard materials with patterns, etc
- A pair of scissors
- Scrap paper
- A pencil
- Optional: Tracing paper
A vehicle is a machine, like a car, truck, or motorcycle, that moves people or things from place to place. The kinds of vehicles people need are different depending on what the people do, where they live, and what they need to transport.
Automotive design teams have a very cool job imagining and creating the future of mobility. They solve problems like traffic congestion, pollution, and injuries from car crashes. They do this with the help of new technologies like sensors; different kinds of fuel; artificial intelligence; and stronger, lighter, and more environmentally friendly materials.
Creative designers are the people who create new vehicles. They choose everything from the color of the vehicle to the shape of the headlights. It’s a big job to design a vehicle, so there are many people on the design team who focus on designing different parts of the vehicle.
For this activity, you’re going to design a brand-new vehicle that solves a mobility problem for a customer, the person who will be buying the vehicle. You’ll brainstorm what your customer wants and needs before you sketch and sculpt a vehicle model.
Part 1: Meet your customer.
Automotive designers use market research, which means conducting interviews or surveys to gather a lot of information, or data, about their customer. They can use the data to look for trends and find out what different groups of people want in a new vehicle.
Market research is an important part of designing a vehicle. It helps designers make vehicles that are useful, safe, and something people want to buy. For example, they might find out that people want a car that uses less gasoline or would love a purple truck. Whatever it is their customers want, designers want to know!
You have four options for your automotive design challenge. You can choose to design:
A vehicle for someone who uses a wheelchair
A new and innovative school bus for a driver and students
A vehicle for a camp counselor and campers
A vehicle that solves a different mobility problem for any customer of your choice
For the first part of the activity:
Look at the information about each customer and check the box for the customer of your choice on page 2 of the Vehicle Design Guide.
Read through the data on page 2 of the Vehicle Design Guide about your customer once more, thinking about what your customer wants and needs—it’s a starting point for your design.
Pretend to be your customer. Ask yourself the “Market Research Questions” and the “Likes and Dislikes Questions” on page 3 of the Vehicle Design Guide.
Write down how you think your customer would answer each question. Sketch any ideas on a blank sheet of scrap paper.
Part 2: Create your design criteria checklist.
Now that you’ve brainstormed what your customer wants and needs, you’ve gathered a lot of data! When you think about data and use it to make decisions, that’s called data analysis. This is something creative designers do: they find out what their customer wants and needs and use it to create the criteria for their vehicle.
Criteria are the things a product, such as a car, needs to have. All vehicles need some of the same parts—like an engine and wheels—to make them move. Automotive design teams also add other parts, or design features, that make the vehicle even more useful or fun, or different from other vehicles. For example, heated seats are great to have if you live in a cold place. Cupholders and places to charge cell phones are helpful for people on the move.
It takes an entire team of creative designers to create a vehicle. For example:
The interior creative designer imagines what will go inside a new vehicle. They design parts like the seats, dashboard, and inside of the doors.
- The exterior creative designer adds criteria about the outside of a vehicle, like its body shape, doors, wheels, and windows.
- The color and trim designer chooses the colors inside and outside of the vehicle, decides on the fabric or material used for the seats, and creates any other decorations for the vehicle.
Automotive designers make sure their cars are safe—that's important for drivers, designers, and everyone involved. For example, they might choose materials to strengthen the body, look for ways to make the seats and dashboard better at protecting people, or design windows that won’t shatter.
They also want their vehicles to be sustainable. Sustainable products are usually better for the environment. For example, automotive designers might think of ways to reduce pollution, make the vehicle go farther with less fuel, or use renewable materials in their design. Vehicles may be made in a way that creates less pollution by using cleaner forms of energy and more eco-friendly materials.
For the next part of the activity:
Analyze your customer data from Part 1. Ask yourself questions like: What did you learn about your customer? What do they want or need? What could be useful for them as they move from place to place? What could make the ride more exciting?
Look at the criteria checklists on pages 4 and 5 of the Vehicle Design Guide. What required parts do you see for the vehicle interior? What required parts do you see for the vehicle exterior? What does each part do? If needed, check out the Junior Vehicle Diagram to find out more about each vehicle part.
Pretend you’re each type of creative designer described above (interior creative designer, exterior creative designer, and color and trim designer) and use your data to brainstorm special features for your vehicle.
Add any special features for the outside of your vehicle to the “Criteria for the Exterior” checklist on page 4 of the Vehicle Design Guide. Add any special features for the inside of your vehicle to the “Criteria for the Interior” checklist on page 5 of the Vehicle Design Guide. Then add colors, materials, and any other decorations to either checklist.
Once you’re done adding features, look at your two checklists of design criteria and identify any criteria that make your vehicle safe and sustainably made.
Add any new ideas you have for parts or features that help your vehicle with safety or sustainability. Put a star next to any design criteria you already have that help protect people or the earth.
Want More of a Challenge? Try This!
If you want more of a challenge, add other criteria to your checklist. For example:
- Design the right vehicle for the terrain. Consider how your vehicle would operate in different environments. Add criteria that will make your vehicle good at moving in different places, like on rocks, through sand, or in a city with lots of traffic and little space.
- The future of mobility is changing fast! Concept cars are vehicle designs that showcase a new style or technology, like a new form of propulsion or a futuristic new feature. For example, designers might create concept cars that can drive themselves or use different forms of energy to make them move. Add criteria to make your vehicle a concept car of the future. For example, would the vehicle still have four wheels? Would it be able to drive itself? How is it powered?
Part 3: Sketch your vehicle.
After creative designers have an idea for a new vehicle, they sketch many different pictures of it. They’ll draw the exterior of the vehicle and the interior. If there’s a special feature or part they want to showcase, they might sketch a picture of that, too. This helps creative designers to think about every part of their design.
Once designers have their ideas drawn on paper, they can share their sketches with their teammates. The team can work together to look over the sketches, ask questions, identify any problems, and exchange ideas to make the design even better.
For the next part of the activity, use your imagination and criteria in the Vehicle Design Guide to:
Draw the vehicle exterior.
Draw the vehicle interior.
Optional: Draw a detailed picture of your favorite design feature.
If you need ideas, check out the tips for sketching on page 6 of the Vehicle Design Guide.
Part 4: Sculpt your vehicle
Sketches are a great way to show people your ideas, but they’re flat, or two-dimensional (2D). A model, made of clay, wood, or some other material, lets people see your design’s shape in 3D. Each model helps others to understand the design in a different way. The model might be of the entire car, the interior, the exterior, or even a particular part or feature.
The team might create models digitally on a computer, with the help of technology like a 3D printer, or use a material like clay or wood. For example, a digital sculptor uses computer programs to model digital versions of their designs.
Next, you’re going to be a clay sculptor! That’s a person on the design team who sculpts models of the vehicle out of clay.
For the next part of the activity, pretend to be a clay sculptor and:
Use your criteria and sketches to create a sculpted model of your vehicle.
Once your foam, clay, or dough dries, add color and trim to your model vehicle with markers (if you can)!
If you need ideas, check out the tips for sculpting on page 8 of the Vehicle Design Guide.
And that’s it! When you imagine what the customer wants or needs, you're doing what a creative designer does. You used what you learned about your customer to create a list of the design criteria, including all the important parts and special features for your vehicle. Then you used your criteria to sketch and sculpt your vehicle.
If you had fun doing this, you might want to continue designing vehicles with the Junior Automotive Engineering three-badge series.
Troop Leaders: The instructions for all badge steps are available free of charge in your Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit.
Girl Scouts at Home activities have been adapted from existing Girl Scout programming and optimized for use at home during a period of social distancing.
Adapted from Steps 2–5 of the Junior Automotive Design badge. Contact your troop leader or your local Girl Scout council to become a Girl Scout member and learn all the requirements needed to earn the badge.
Made possible by a generous grant from General Motors.