Author: sgriffin (page 1 of 2)

Grade 10 Science: Motion & Stability

Grade 10s recently completed a Motion & Stability unit in the Design Center where they “applied science and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force upon a macroscopic object during a collision” (HS-PS2-3).

Beginning with an inquiry into the way NASA landed their 2005 Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars, students completed an abridged design cycle to rapidly generate divergent ideas for a device that would reduce the force of a descending object.

Once in the Design Center, students were introduced to the “drop zone” platform where their designs would be tested, as well as the process of recording data. Working in small teams, they then began making prototypes using simple materials.

Make, test, improve, repeat!

The project emphasized the collection and analysis of data to inform design refinements – essentially students had to demonstrate that iterations of their device improved over time in response to scientific data.

Among the highlights of our time together in the lab was the students’ wide range of creative ideas, as well as the ways in which they were able to link scientific principles with their design process.

Celebrating HS Design electives

HS Graphic & Product Design, and Design Studio have performed extremely well this semester under unusual and at times difficult eLearning circumstances. While it was extremely disappointing not to be able to utilize our excellent Fab Lab space, equipment, and personnel, the upside was that students rose to the challenge of focusing on conceptual development and graphic presentations. Please take a moment to appreciate some of the excellent design work our HS students have produced this semester!

Digital Self Portraits

Technically this project was completed just prior to the lockdown, but it is significant for the fact that the skills students developed in this task created a strong foundation for later graphic presentations. All design students were tasked with introducing themselves to the cohort by creating a vector self-portrait and presenting their strengths, goals, and interests as designers.


Most of us engage with typography every day, yet many people give no thought to the typefaces they read or apply. For this unit, students in Graphic Design and Design Studio researched a specific typeface, then applied their assigned typeface (along with their acquired knowledge of it) to the design of a page layout. Around this time, students also created typographic illustrations (“glyphs”) to highlight some of the characteristics of their type. Students’ works were collated to form a booklet which we hope could be useful for any budding graphic designers in the school!

Download the full booklet here

Wearable Product

Design Studio and Product Design students spent the second half of the semester developing concepts for wearable products. The design problem: “how can a wearable product help to improve the life of a specific user during the COVID-19 lockdown?” Students were encouraged to focus on a specific aspect of the pandemic – from health, safety, and sanitation, to fitness, fun, or socialization. Using household objects as inspiration and/or prototyping materials, the range of different concepts and directions explored by the students has been truly impressive. Unfortunately, this was an occasion where we would’ve loved to continue our design process by fabricating physical products, although students coped well with limited physical resources, and came through with impressive ideas nonetheless.

Food Truck

Design Studio and Graphic Design students spent the latter portion of the semester developing concepts and pitching graphics and branding for a food truck business of their choice. Students worked through an in-depth process of generating ideas, logo development, and branding “mockups” and the results were impressive, to say the least. From classic burger, taco, and coffee trucks, to fictional sci-fi concepts and everything in between, we had a lot of fun creating and sharing some amazing graphics work.

Thank you

Finally, a big thank you to all of our design students (and families) and ISB team for their creativity, flexibility, and persistence during a difficult, but no less inspiring time. As we know, the best design work often emerges to solve problems under the most challenging situations. We are all super excited to see you next year in our very own design centre!


G4 Engineering: Pulley design challenge

As part of Grade 4’s Engineering design unit “making good better”, students have been working in teams to complete a pulley design challenge. In this 3 lesson sequence in the design lab, teams select from 3 different scenarios, then plan and engineer pulley solutions to their chosen challenge. Students must continually reflect on their role within the team and how to “make good better”.

Download the slides here

G4 Engineering team challenges

To get us prepared for the main engineering project, Grade 4 will run through a sequence of short challenges, on a rotation, each day for the first week of the unit. At the end of each challenge, teams should run through a reflection protocol to share what the activity was, what they got out of it and what they might do differently next time. The order that the challenges are completed in doesn’t matter.


Activity 1: Toothpick tower

Image sourced from FlatIcon

Which team can create the tallest tower using only toothpicks and modeling clay? This engineering challenge is simply about making the tallest tower possible. The team with the tallest tower at the end, wins the challenge. There are a few simple rules:

  • 2 minutes at the beginning of the challenge is set aside for planning, discussion and sketching. No building is allowed until the teacher invites you to begin
  • You may only use toothpicks and modeling clay and the hight of the tower is measured from the base of the tower to its top
  • Reflect: What did your team do well? What can your team improve on next time? What was your role in the team? What can you do better next time?


Activity 2: Paper clip challenge

Image sourced from FlatIcon

Your task for this challenge is to create a new design for a paper clip. You may use card, wire, or other materials provided. You must practice using the pliers and other tools safely.

  • In your group, look closely at the examples and sketch different ideas for a new version
  • Work with your team to decide on the best ideas to prototype
  • Test your new design. How many pieces of paper can it hold together? What changes can you make to improve its performance?
  • Work with your team to decide on the best overall design
  • Pitch your design to another group and let them know what you would like feedback on. Is your new design an improvement? How? Then listen to the other groups’ pitch and offer them feedback on their design
  • Reflect on the activity and your final design









Activity 3: “Secret” paper airplane

Image sourced from FlatIcon

In this challenge, you will work with a partner. Sitting back-to-back, one person must instruct the other on how to fold a paper plane, in 2 minutes.

  • For the instructor: choose one of the designs or use your own technique
  • Carefully guide your partner through the specific steps and listen to their questions
  • For the maker: carefully follow the instructions and ask specific questions if you need to clarify
  • Test your plane in the designated area
  • Reflect: Was the plane the same as what the instructor intended? Why/why not? How could your plane be improved? What could you do differently next time to make the process and result better?

Image from “Fold’n’Fly” – click to see instructions : )

Activity 4: Catapult challenge

Image sourced from FlatIcon

In this challenge you will work with your team create a catapult to shoot a projectile into the target area(s). You may use the examples provided to guide you or make your own design. You may test your design 2 times and refine the design before the final test.

  • Look at the examples shown and sketch out a plan
  • Create your prototype using the materials available
  • Test your design up to 2 times in the testing area
  • Perform the final test and record your results
  • Reflect: How did you make your catapult go from “good” to “better”? How did you contribute to your team’s success? What do you need to improve on?

Activity 5: WeDo

Image sourced from FlatIcon


In this task you will use a Lego WeDo kit and the WeDo iPad app. Work as a team and follow the instructions in the app to complete a series of different WeDo engineering projects. Once you have completed at least 2 from the activity library, try to create a whole new invention. Perhaps you can team up with another group and create an invention from 2 WeDo kits!


Activity 6: Rescue pulley (Design Lab)

Image sourced from FlatIcon

In this challenge you will work in groups of 4 to lift an Edison robot from the ground to the workbench. 2 People are responsible for designing a pulley and the other 2 people are responsible for designing the carrier structure. The successful design will lift the Edison from the ground to the bench. Can you program the Edison to drive onto the carrier and then onto the bench??

  • Discuss the problem with your team. Select team members for each part of the task
  • Sketch and communicate different options for the design – how it will work, what it is made from and how it will be constructed?
  • Build and test the prototype
  • Demonstrate the prototype to another group. What would you like feedback on? Record the feedback from the other group
  • Give feedback on the other group’s design
  • Return to your design – will you take the feedback on board or reject it? How will you improve your design?
  • Reflect: How did you contribute to your team’s success? Why are pulleys useful? How many ways are pulleys used in everyday situations?



G4 Engineering Design

How can we, as engineers, use what we know about design to address a real-world problem?

An engineer is someone who designs machines or structures to solve problems.

How can you work as an engineer to:

  1. Identify everyday problems that affect someone you know (that engineering could address)?
  2. Create a machine or structure that addresses the problem you identified?

Design Process Journal

In this unit we will download and edit the Design Process Journal to document our engineering process. This will help our creative process and ensure that all of our thinking and making is shown. You can download the journal here, or ask your teacher for a copy. Follow your teachers’ instructions on how to edit the journal on your iPad using Pages.

Unit guide

The unit is structured in 3 stages – Define & Inquire, Develop & Plan, Create & Improve. (Note: this is covered in the design journal).

Stage 1: Define & Inquire

  • What problems can you identify (big or small) that engineering could address? Use design thinking, interviews & observations to identify real problems you might like to address
  • Write a Design Brief – this is where you specify the problem, and how you intend to address it
  • Research the problem, gather a range of inspiration from various primary and secondary sources, and explore examples of how similar problems have been addressed by engineers
  • Use Seesaw to reflect on this stage and set goals for the next stage

Stage 2: Develop & Plan

  • Generate as many divergent ideas as you possibly can (sketching, brainstorming, etc)
  • Identify the strongest potential solutions to your problem and add more detail to the concept(s)
  • Select your best idea and make a detailed plan – materials, measurements, construction techniques, timeline, etc
  • Use Seesaw to reflect on this stage and set goals for the next stage

Stage 3: Create & Improve

  • Begin creating a physical prototype as early in the process as possible
  • Test your prototype – preferably with your intended audience
  • Gather lots of feedback from your audience, peers, teachers, etc
  • Use the testing results and feedback to identify ways to improve your design – make a revised plan
  • Create a refined version of your design and repeat stage 3 as many times as you can
  • Use Seesaw to reflect on this stage

Reflect & Share stage

  • Reflect on your entire journey as an engineer:
    • Tell the story of your design process
    • How did your final design address the problem that you identified in your design brief?
    • What were the biggest challenges? How did you fail during your process? What did you learn from your failures?
    • What were your biggest successes? How did you know you were on the right track?
    • What would you do if you could keep working on this project? What would you do differently if you could start over?
    • What was the most helpful feedback you received and why? How did you support other Grade 4 engineers in this project?

Parent Design Workshop

Recently we held a workshop for ES parents to learn more about ISB’s Design Process. We had a great turnout of parents interested to learn about design thinking, generating ideas and developing concepts in the design lab. Parents worked in teams to develop concepts for sustainable lunchbox designs for our students. It was wonderful to see our parents diving into the challenge and we were blown away by the quality of their concepts! Thanks to all of the parents who were able to attend.

You can download the slides here.

G4 – Ballon Car Challenge 2018

Hello Grade 4!

Your Design Challenge for today is to create a car that travels the quickest/furthest distance possible using balloon power.

There three main considerations that will help you achieve the best speed & distance:

  1. Light weight
    Make your car as light as possible. Carefully plan and select the lightest materials you can find. Analyse every aspect of your car to make it as light as you possibly can. Don’t add anything to your car that is not necessary!
  2. Low friction and aligned wheels
    Ensure that your wheels are rolling freely. There should not be any glue, tape, clay or anything else obstructing the wheels because this will slow down your car. Your wheels should also be aligned. This means they are all facing the same direction.  If they are not aligned, your wheels will work against each other and slow down your car.

    Make sure you sketch and plan wheel designs before you start making them so you are sure that your wheels are a low friction design and aligned!


Plastic bottle balloon powered car design

Sketch for balloon powered car design

Balloon car with CD wheels


Plastic bottle car design:


Cardboard car design:


More examples here!


  • You will work in a team of 3 people. Make a name for your team!
    • One person per team is responsible for taking pictures and videos
    • One person per team is responsible for sketching the design concepts
    • One person per team is responsible for recording all times and distances travelled by your car
  • Make a labeled sketch of how you think your car design will look and work
    • Your sketch must be approved by your teacher before you begin making your car
    • You should update your sketch each time you make a major change to your design
  • Use the materials supplied in the basket. You may use other materials available in your classroom (check with your teacher)
  • Test your car’s speed and distance on the space marked out in your classroom
    • Use the iPad timer and record your times/distances on the sheet provided
  • Each team is allowed one visit to either Mr. Jerry or Mr. Sam for technical support

We will learn about problem solving, teamwork, and the design process as well as potential & kinetic energy, friction and resistance, and measurement.


Mr. Manley 
Mr. Blohm 
Ms. Grant 
Ms. Williams 
Mr. Flanagan 
Mr. Gregory 
Anthony Hou 
Justin W 
Justin S 
Yi Jia 
Sam X. 
Sam I. 
Michael C. 
Michael Z. 



Good luck,

Mr. Sam and Mr. Jerry

Hour of Code 2018

Hour of Code is an annual event for schools organised by, a group that seeks to promote coding around the world, particularly supporting women and minorities. Typically, Hour of Code takes place in the first week of December, but the 200+ activities are available to explore anytime. It could be a good opportunity for you to increase the amount of coding you include in your teaching, or just to have options for fun end-of-year activities.

If you are interested in exploring Hour of Code with your students, we recommend you:

  • Have a group discussion about which students are interested in coding and what they may know already – perhaps skilled students could lead novice students
  • Take a look over the HoC activities library and offer students some choice about what/how they wish to learn
  • Consider incorporating robotics such as Edison (UES), MangoBot (LES) and Lego Mindstorms (UES-HS) either in-class or in the design lab(s)
  • Talk to anyone in Ed Tech for more specific ideas linked to your units

Outside of the library, there are other ways to explore coding with your students, including:

Happy coding and let us know if you would like any help or suggestions!


Grade 5: Extending arm with grabber

Grade 5 homerooms have been visiting the Design Lab to create an extending grabbing arm. Students have enjoyed following the sequence of steps to build the basic arm, then developing their own concepts for the grabber, depending on what they wish to pick up. In the testing phase, different objects are assigned points depending on how difficult they are to pick up. Students also have an opportunity to refine their design’s durability and performance with other materials and techniques.

G5 Extending Grabber slides

In the future, this activity could be developed further with links to math concepts, for example investigating the different acute and obtuse angles created by the arm. This design is really a prototype which could be further developed with lego Mindstorms or more advanced making techniques.

Grade 4: Earthquake-proof building

As part of Grade 4’s Earth Changes unit, a number of homerooms have visited the Design Lab to take part in a design challenge. Using limited materials, students are given the problem of how to design a building concept that will survive Mr. Jerry’s Earthquake Machine©.

G4 Earthquake Building

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