Teach your students about the engineering design process with this fun lesson plan. They will design and build a ball-launching machine to knock down a target. Optionally, they can enter their designs in the
2020 Fluor Engineering Challenge
for a chance to win a cash prize for your school! Teachers, note that
versions of this lesson plan are also available, as is a Spanish language version of the basic challenge.
This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
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.
Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:
|Science & Engineering Practices
||Disciplinary Core Ideas
|Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions.
Undertake a design project, engaging in the design cycle, to construct and/or implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints.
Optimize performance of a design by prioritizing criteria, making tradeoffs, testing, revising, and retesting.
|ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions.
A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.
There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem.
ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution.
The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution.
PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer.
When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time.
|Structure and Function.
Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.
Systems and System Models.
Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.
If you want to enter your device in the
2020 Fluor Engineering Challenge, you can only use the materials listed below. Each item has a maximum allowable quantity and a point cost (each) that will be deducted from your score. Note that you can cut the materials, but costs are not prorated; e.g., if you cut a piece of paper in half and only use half of it, it still costs 10 points.
|Construction Materials |
|Item ||Maximum Quantity ||Point cost (each)|
|Cardboard (max size 12"x12" or 30x30 cm)
|2 oz paper or plastic cup
|Wooden craft sticks
(4 ½" or 11.5 cm)
|Wooden pencils (circular or hexagonal cross-section, approx. 7–8" or 18–20 cm length)
(printer/copier paper, not construction paper or cardstock; letter or A4 size)
|Rubber bands (size 32, 3" long unstretched and 1/8" wide)
|Cardboard tube (1 unit = 1 paper towel roll or 2 toilet paper rolls)
||2 units ||9 per unit|
|Roll of clear adhesive tape (Scotch® tape or equivalent, 1/2" or 3/4" width, max length 500")
|Duct tape (up to 90 feet total, no more than 2" wide)
||90 feet ||20 (if any used)|
|Tools and Testing Materials (no point cost)|
|Ping pong ball
|Ruler or measuring tape ||1 || |
|Scissors ||1 || |
|2 oz paper or plastic cup ||1
||Used to build the wicket|
|Wooden pencils ||2 |
or plastic eraser (approximately 2"x1"x1/2") ||1 |
or homemade dough.
||Enough to fill the 2 oz cup halfway |
Materials allowed for the 2020 Fluor Engineering Challenge.
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this lesson plan.
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
- Design and build a ball-launching machine based on specified criteria
- Iteratively test and modify the machine to improve its performance