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Use Technology to Solve a Local Problem

Grade Range
4th-8th
Group Size
3-4 students
Active Time
8 hours
Total Time
8 hours
Area of Science
Energy & Power
Key Concepts
Problem solving, engineering design process, internet of things, sensors
Learning Objectives
  • Design a solution to a local problem that uses technology

Overview

How can technology and the internet help us solve some of the world's most pressing problems? Your students might not be ready to tackle global poverty or world peace, but they can start small by identifying a social problem in their local community. In this lesson plan they will design a solution to a problem of their choice that uses technology. It could be anything from a GPS-enabled dog collar to track lost pets, to an app that notifies local food banks when people have extra fruits and vegetables in their gardens. Note: the lesson focuses on the engineering steps required to identify a problem and conceive of and design a solution. Educators can choose whether or not to expand the lesson to build working prototypes.

This lesson is one of three independent lesson plans inspired by Global Problem Solvers: The Series. You can read more about the series and the lesson plans available from Science Buddies here.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
3rd–5th grade
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem.


6th–8th grade
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.
3rd–5th grade
ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.


6th–8th grade
ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions.
3rd–5th grade
Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World.
Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits, decrease known risks, and meet societal demands.


6th–8th grade
Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World.
The uses of technologies and limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Developed in partnership with Global Problem Solvers: The Series   sponsor logo Cisco Global Problem Solvers

Materials

Optional: if you want your students to build prototypes or mockups of their designs, you will need craft supplies such as:
  • Construction materials like cardboard, wooden craft sticks, clay, etc.
  • Craft materials to decorate like pipe cleaners, markers
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Glue

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Grade Range
4th-8th
Group Size
3-4 students
Active Time
8 hours
Total Time
8 hours
Area of Science
Energy & Power
Key Concepts
Problem solving, engineering design process, internet of things, sensors
Learning Objectives
  • Design a solution to a local problem that uses technology

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