Published on March 8, 2016
Duration: 90 minutes (minimum) *For tips on how to break up your lesson over multiple class periods, see pg. 117 of the STEAM Student Set Teacher’s Guide
Introduce the lesson objectives and the concept behind the challenge: “You spend a lot of time in the school and in our classroom. How could you make it even better? Think of something that could be made easier, more exciting, or that you wish existed. Today you’ll be using your expertise to design an invention that makes school extra awesome. Perhaps your new invention will become an essential part of the classroom of the future!”
Before jumping into the challenge, provide a quick review of the Invention Cycle framework and the format of the Invention Log (pg. 35). Ask students to share lessons learned about Bits, the invention process and things they enjoyed or struggled with from previous challenges.
A. CREATE IDEAS: For each of the prompt sections below, students will record their process and reflections in their respective Invention Logs.
1. What ideas do you have?
Prompt students to create a list (either as a class, or in groups) of things (processes, objects) that they would like to improve, or wish existed, to facilitate learning or their daily experience in the classroom. If students are having a hard time thinking of ideas, suggest doing some interviews with classmates. For additional brainstorming ideas, refer to pg. 36 in the Invention Advisor section of the STEAM Student Set Teacher's Guide (especially the "Mine Students’ Interests for Inspiration" section).
2. Which idea seems best?
After making a list of 3–5 ideas, have students choose the issue that they think is the most important to solve. Maybe there is one issue that a lot people feel strongly about or maybe there is something a student/group finds particularly interesting or novel.
Students should frame their thinking in the following framework: I will invent a_______that______because_____.
3. What’s the “before” story?
What is life like now, before the proposed invention exists? Ask students to draw or describe the series of events before, during and after to show cause and effect scenarios. Be sure to consider the characters involved and the setting that the “story” takes place in.
4. What are the constraints?
Constraints are the limits and requirements that need to be considered in the invention process. Examples include time, materials, weight. Have students detail any constraints that they may need to keep in mind as they work. For younger students, you may choose to run this exercise as a class and have students record shared ideas.
5. What are the criteria for success?
How will students know if their invention works? Describe the #1 goal for the invention. What qualities are important for the invention to have?
B. CREATE PROTOTYPE: For each of the prompts below, students will record their process and reflections in their respective Invention Logs.
1. How could Bits help you achieve your mission?
Instruct students to look through their available Bits and materials to see how they could (or couldn’t) help achieve their mission. If students get stuck, try snapping a Bit into a circuit or read through the Bit Index (pg. 7- 27 in their Invention Guide). If students’ initial ideas don’t directly translate to the function of the available Bits, check out helpful suggestions in "Concept Prototypes" on pg. 38 of the Teacher's Guide.
2. What does your first prototype look like?
Students create a drawing(s) of their first prototype, labeling Bits and any important features. A description of how the prototype is supposed to work should also be included. This is a time for students to dig into the Bits and materials and start to bring their ideas to life.
To meet the outlined NGSS standards, instruct students to fill out a new REMIX section in their Invention Logs (pg. 11 and 12) every time a variable is changed and tested. If you are do not plan to adhere to the NGSS standards, allow students more flexibility and exploratory pathways during this phase of the design process.
PROTOTYPE # 2 (AND MORE...): This is the opportunity to experiment with fixes and improvements. As students make changes to their inventions, make sure they are documenting in their Invention Logs how their prototypes are changing and the results (good and bad).
Continue the Remix phase (and remind students to Play with their updated inventions) until the prototype is able to meet the criteria for success, or until the allotted time runs out. If you need more advice on how to conduct and provide prompts in the Remix phase, read through the Invention Advisor section of the Teacher's Guide (pg. 36).
Incorporate the following extension in the REMIX section of this challenge to bolster your lesson’s NGSS applications:
MS-ETS1-4 Engineering Design: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
- To fulfill this standard, students define and iteratively collect data to explore the explicit connection between the invention and a physical or environmental interaction that may impact the design. For example, modeling the impact of friction on the ability of a wheeled invention to climb a slope, or the impact of an invention on human behavior. The storyboard in the Invention Log should be used and updated throughout the lesson for each iteration.