Category: Design (page 1 of 2)

FA7 Entrepreneur Project: Be a Changemaker

Teaching Entrepreneurship may be the most integrated and authentic project one could teach in schools.  So many different concepts, skills, and knowledge students learn in order to be an entrepreneur (successful or not).  Students learned about making a business plan, market research, finances, advertising, communication, and most importantly grit and perseverance.

For the culminating task for this project, students designed and created a product or service that filled a need or want of a specific target audience.

At the end of the unit, students pitched their business ideas and products to a panel to convince the school/PTA to continue to sell their product in the future to our community.


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?



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

Grade 3 Load-bearing structure

Grade 3’s introduction to the Design Lab has been a challenge to design a load-bearing structure. They must plan and develop a structure using limited materials (and time) that supports as many steel ball bearings as possible.

As different homerooms have done the activity, Jerry and I have had to adjust some of the parameters because the students have been good at finding loopholes in the problem – making the challenge too easy in some cases. For example, we had to stop students from making “water towers” (by attaching popsicle sticks  to the sides of the cup like legs) because this was too strong and easy to make. After a couple of these adjustments, the challenge feels just right, and students are having to find more creative solutions.

Design Lab Load-bearing Tower

Grade 3 Space & Place

Grade 3 are currently working on their Space & Place unit, which focuses on the following NGSS standards:

5-ESS1.1 – Support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth.

5-ESS1.2 – Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

As part of the unit, students have been working on a sequence of activities in the Design Lab, including:

  • Constructing scale models of planets in the solar system
  • Constructing a scale model of the distance between planets in the solar system
  • Design Challenge: Mars landing module

To Scale: The Solar System”

Design Challenge: Mars Landing Module

Students examined the “Curiosity” Mars rover mission and explored some of the factors affecting the landing of the rover. Their design challenge is to create their own version of the landing module. Their craft needs to safely land a rover on the surface of Mars – in this case the “rover” is an egg that needs to land (without breaking) in the “drop zone” 2 storeys below – aided by their module design.


  • Students must work to a budget, meaning they need to be intentional about the materials they use
  • The egg must not break during the final test
  • The module must land in the “drop zone”

“7 Minutes of Terror: Landing the Mars Rover”


G3 Space and Place

Precious Plastic

Why is plastic waste a problem?

It seems like every day there is a new story on the global devastation of plastic pollution. Sadly, the more we learn, the worse things seem to be. Here are some of the reasons plastic is threatening ecosystems all over the world:


  • Plastic is everywhere and seemingly used in everything, including packaging, most textiles (clothes, fabric, carpet etc), cosmetics (microbeads).
  • 50% of all the plastic we use is thrown away after a single use. This includes items such as water bottles, grocery bags, straws etc.
  • Currently, only 5% of the plastic we use is reclaimed/recycled.
  • 10 metric tonnes of plastic pollution wash into the Pacific Ocean every day – from L.A. alone.
  • In the last 10 years humans have produced more plastic than all previous time put together.
  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).
  • Our clothing contains a large amount of plastic which also contributes huge amounts of landfill and pollution as it breaks down. People now keep clothes for a far shorter amount of time than ever before, choosing to throw them away when they become bored, instead of repairing clothes that become worn out.
  • Plastic never goes away, it just degrades into smaller and smaller pieces which end up in waterways (including drinking water), habitats all over the planet, food chains, and, humans. The current estimate for ocean plastic of 5 trillion particles is believed to be a “major underestimation”.
  • We still don’t really know the direct risk of plastic contamination to humans.
  • In spite of all this, the production of plastic is actually increasing.
What can we do?

Reduce – Reuse – Recycle (+Repair!)

The best way we can have an impact on plastic pollution is to not use the plastic in the first place (reduce). We can do this by taking greater responsibility for our purchases and habits:

  • Use reusable water bottles, lunch containers, coffee cups, shopping bags, drinking straws
  • Be prepared to not buy something if there is an excessive use of plastic packaging.
  • Be more considerate about our purchases such as clothing – how long will you use the item for before it is thrown away?
  • Spread knowledge about the danger of plastic pollution
  • Get involved – follow #preciousplastic, #plasticpollution and many other social media tags and profiles for details about sustainability, clean up activities

When we collect and prepare our plastics for recycling, we become more aware of our consumption. We start to pay attention to the types of plastics we are using and rethink some of those purchases – perhaps switching brands or even not buying the item any more. These are some added benefits of recycling our plastics.

Recycling our plastic waste into items like bowls, lamp shades and furniture is a wonderful way to repurpose plastic into something usable and learn more about the impacts – but this only treats the symptom of the problem, not the cause, which is too much consumption of plastic!

What is Precious Plastic?

Precious Plastic is a global community of hundreds of people working towards a solution to plastic pollution. Knowledge, tools and techniques are shared online, for free.

In early 2018, ISB was able to set up our own plastic recycling station using the plans and expertise from Precious Plastic – we even had one of their representatives, Mathias, spend a week with us to teach us some techniques.

How does it work?

The easiest plastics to recycle are #2, #5 and #6. This is because they tolerate a range of different of heating and manipulation techniques without producing noxious fumes. In the future, other plastics may also be recycled at ISB but these would require specialised equipment.

Step 1: Collection

There are currently collection bins located around the school, including the design labs, different hallways and classrooms. Please ensure that the plastic items are labeled with the correct number and are clean.

The most common examples of plastics we can recycle are:

  • Milk bottles
  • Bottle caps
  • Shampoo & detergent bottles
  • Take away containers
  • Lots of other containers – always check the number!
Step 2: Sorting & shredding

The items are taken to the Fab Lab, sorted into similar colours and shredded, then the shredded plastic goes into tubs ready to be used in different design projects. One great thing about shredding the plastic is that it takes up much less space – so a full tub of plastic containers can be shredded down to around 1/20th the volume.

Step 3: Making

There are several techniques we can apply in the Fab Lab to create designs from shredded plastic:

Oven melting

We can put different plastics in the oven where it is melted and can be moulded into different forms such as bowls, jewellery, etc.


An extruder is a bit like a sausage maker! Shredded plastic goes in, then it is heated and forced out as a molten thread. It takes some practice, but the technique can be used to make bowls, baskets, hats, lamp shades, etc.


This machine allows melted plastic to be casted into different forms by pouring the plastic into a mold. Using this technique we can produce furniture, phone cases, key chains, statues, etc.

What can we make with recycled plastic waste?

There are lots of different things we can make using our Precious Plastics equipment in the Fab Lab:

  • Decorative bowls (not suitable for food)
  • Plant holders
  • Lampshades
  • Jewelry & fashion
  • Keychains
  • Coasters & tiles
  • Furniture

To get inspired, follow #preciousplastic (and variations) on social media




Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists

Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends

22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It)


Grade 5: Biomimicry Claw

Some of the Grade 5 classes are investigating how to create a “grabbing claw” that mimics a bird of prey’s talons. This activity comes at the end of their Biomimicry Unit which saw students explore the many ways scientists and designers use nature as inspiration to solve problems. Below are some photos of 5JP students creating their grabbing claw designs.

You can view the lesson plan here. The claw design activity comes from PBS LearningMedia.


Grade 4: Balloon Powered Car Challenge

Hello Grade 4!

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


  • 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, Mr. Geoff 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.

Good luck,

Mr. Sam and Mr. Jerry


Plastic bottle balloon powered car design

Sketch for balloon powered car design

Balloon car with CD wheels


Plastic bottle car design:


Cardboard car design:

HS BEAD Math Project

Class feedback session

Students in the Business, Engineering, Arts and Design (BEAD) Math class were given a design challenge to either:

  1. Design a game OR
  2. Design an accessory

A prototype for a personalized “Guess Who” style game for a Grade 3 class to practice their language and mathematics skills

These products had to have authentic purposes and students needed to find their own clients.  Students followed the ISB Design Process and continually sought feedback by connecting with their clients to improve their prototypes.

Students learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to vector draw

Ines designing jewelry for her mother.

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