Welcome to the baby shark tank (TEST)

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Students will be able to: 1) develop an authentic test of a rapid prototype; 2) articulate the role of testing prototypes in the engineering design process; 3) give and receive feedback by engaging in a peer-review feedback protocol; and 4) instantly "publish" takeaways from the prototype testing process.

Big Idea

Designers test prototypes so that they can improve them. How might students engage in structured feedback protocols to understand and address the inevitable shortcomings of prototypes that they create?

FRAME: The importance of testing prototypes

Why do we want students to test their prototypes?

The purpose of testing a prototype is to assess how well a solution idea meets a user's needs.  Testing helps engineering design thinkers to refine solution by allowing them to better understand user needs. Testing, in other words, is a great opportunity to develop more empathy.  Students are better able to understand that in the engineering design process failure is inevitable and powerful.  Failure is actual a wonderful outcome, because it lead to improvement of solution ideas.

How might a teacher help students want to fail in engineering design classroom?

This is one of my essential "how might I" questions for the year.  My working idea is that integrating engineering design processes with citizen STEM opportunities, real-world scientific investigation, and community mapping will allow students to redefine success in their minds as an integral part of success and growth.  Within a classroom, one way that I actively work to build a love of failure in my class is to consistently and constantly narrate failure as a positive opportunity to learn. 

Testing, testing...

5 minutes

What will student do?

Students review their rapid prototypes from the previous day and answer the following prompt in journals: What is the best way to test your prototype?  How would you figure out if the prototype solves the problem you think it will solve?  Who will test your prototype? What background information does somebody need to know to give you useful feedback?  

What will the teacher do?

I will begin this exercise by emphasizing the importance of silent reflection at the beginning of the period.  In engineering design thinking, we start with many ideas before we narrow our focus.  As such, we want each member of a team to consider the best way to test a prototype so that teams will have many ideas at the start.  We want divergent thinking before we converge.  In practice, this means that I will actively push students within a group to more fully develop their ideas, especially when I notice strong contrasts.

Testing and feedback

12 minutes

Standards: SL.11-12.1

TEACHER RESOURCES: A clip from Shark Tank to be used as a starting point to norm understanding of the prototype testing and feedback process.

How will we transition from the opening activity to the mini-lesson?  (Italicized words represent teacher statements made to the class.)

Students will share-out their testing ideas in their lab table teams and select one idea that feels most  promising.    One member of each team will share out the group's chosen idea.  I will probe for feelings about this process.  Was it difficult to design a test?  Why?  Did any team need more information?  Is anybody uncomfortable with other students in the class evaluating your prototype?

Once students have had the opportunity to share these feelings, I will explain that the testing phase of the engineering design process allows us to make our prototype solutions better.  This means that we will all experience failure today.  And this is exciting.  It means we have an amazing opportunity to grow as designers.  Every time we fail we can make our ideas better.  This is what testing allows us to do.

What is the purpose of the mini-lesson?

Students need to understand the importance of testing prototypes and see how structured feedback might work.

We test prototypes in a couple of ways.  First, we let users experience a prototype.  We want to give some context so that a user understand why we created a prototype, but we want to allow a user to experience the prototype.  We do not need to explain all of choices we made in creating the prototype.  We are very interested in what our users think and feel about our prototype.  What do they do?  What do they say?  

Users will give us feedback in a couple of ways as well.  Structures for giving feedback are extremely important to this process.  Usually, testers will do this by asking clarifying questions or wondering about constraints.  A clarifying question is a question that gives a tester information that they need to give feedback.  

Today we are going to test our rapid prototypes by giving and receiving feedback.  Let's watch a short clip of this process.  I will show a couple minutes of this video, stopping when there is sufficient material for students to comment on what they have seen.

What points should students get from this clip?

 I will check for understanding by asking students about their observations.  What is the prototype that was tested?  What need does this prototype meet? What behaviors did testers display?  What behaviors did the presenter display?

Fast pitch!

8 minutes

Standards: SL.11-12.1SL.11-12.1c, SP2

How will we transition from the mini-lesson to the prototype testing and feedback phase? 

I will explain to students that we are going to have our own baby version of Shark Tank.  Every team will present a prototype to two other teams.  

What will students do?

Teams will have eight minutes to develop a brief presentation.  This is called a pitch.  What is the scenario used to develop the prototype?  What did we think user needs were?  And briefly, how do we think the prototype meets user needs?  Teams will also identify two pieces of feedback that they are most interested in receiving.  What are the two most important questions to ask users to understand their needs?

The pitch should be no more than two minutes long and teams will be encouraged to practice it at least once.

What will the teacher do?

My role in this process will be to help student teams develop each part of the pitch and to evaluate the two questions that they develop.

User feedback

25 minutes

Standards: SL.11-12.1SL.11-12.1cSP1SP2, SP8

TEACHER RESOURCES: The attached user feedback grid will be used by all pitch teams to capture feedback from three other peer teams.

What will students do?

Students will engage in the following feedback protocol:

  1. Student teams will meet with two other groups in two feedback rounds, each lasting 12 minutes.
  2. Each team will have a timer and recorder.
  3. Round 1: 1-6, 2-5, 3-4; Round 2: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6; 
  4. During each round, one team presents for six minutes and then the other team presents for six minutes.
  5. Presenting teams have one minute to pitch.  Feedback teams have four minutes to "play" with the protoype.  They may ask questions, identify constraints, and present alternative ideas. 
  6. While the feedback team explores the prototype, both teams will fill out the feedback grid for the presenting team.

Each group will receive two copies of the feedback user grid.  

What will the teacher do?

I will preface this activity with the explanation that teams should expect to feel rushed.  This is part of the process and is natural.  Otherwise, I will primarily model different stages of the feedback process to teams as needed (clarifying questions, identifying constraints, and so on).  Additionally, I will track time for teams even though each team has a timer.  I will announce when teams need to change roles and when a new round has started.

Rapid low stakes publishing

6 minutes

Standard: SP8

What will students do?

Each team will have one minute to share out the highlights from the feedback grids and describe how they think they can improve the prototype.  They are also encouraged to describe any feelings that came up during the feedback process.

What will the teacher do?

The share out is a valuable formative assessment.  It gives me information about students' comfort with giving and receiving feedback.  It also allow me to understand how well students are able to give and receive feedback that helps to improve a prototype.