Grade Range
9th-12th
Active Time
2-3 hours
Total Time
2-3 hours
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Engineering Design
Learning Objectives
  • Design and build a ball-launching machine based on specified criteria
  • Iteratively test and modify the machine to improve its performance
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

Overview

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 elementary school and middle school versions of this lesson plan are also available, as is a Spanish language version of the basic challenge.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • High School - Science & Engineering Practices
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation's design to ensure variables are controlled.

Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects.
ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts. (HS-ETS1-3)
Structure and Function. Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.

Materials

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) 1 10
2 oz paper or plastic cup 10 3
Wooden craft sticks (4 ½" or 11.5 cm) 10 1
Wooden pencils (circular or hexagonal cross-section, approx. 7–8" or 18–20 cm length) 10 1
Paper (printer/copier paper, not construction paper or cardstock; letter or A4 size) 10 1
Rubber bands (size 32, 3" long unstretched and 1/8" wide) 10 2
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") 1 10
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)
ItemQuantityNotes
Ping pong ball 1  
Ruler or measuring tape 1  
Scissors 1  
2 oz paper or plastic cup 1 Used to build the wicket

Wooden pencils 2
Rubber or plastic eraser (approximately 2"x1"x1/2") 1
Modeling clay, Play Doh®, or homemade dough. Enough to fill the 2 oz cup halfway
Table 1. Materials allowed for the 2020 Fluor Engineering Challenge.

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Grade Range
9th-12th
Active Time
2-3 hours
Total Time
2-3 hours
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Engineering Design
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Learning Objectives
  • Design and build a ball-launching machine based on specified criteria
  • Iteratively test and modify the machine to improve its performance
Free science fair projects.