Elements Of A Technology System

3 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT use elements of a technology system to solve a problem.

Big Idea

Teamwork, design, redesign, and testing define elements of a technology system. Testing early and often strengthens student skills and emphasizes creativity, practicality, and collaboration.

Bell Ringer - What Is The Engineering Design Process?

5 minutes

What is the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Before Viewing the Video:

I ask students to use their Science Journal (Notebook) to record three (3) things they learned from the video. I ask students to glue a copy of the Chart-Elements of a Technology System into their journal for future reference. Using a Science Journal is best practice because it provides a place for students to write their thoughts, questions, notes, and even draw illustrations. 

The video discusses important elements of the Engineering Design Process (EDP) such as: Ask Questions, Research the Problem, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test and Evaluate, and Improve. I explain to students that we will learn the EDP is iterative(repeats), but that today's challenge is not iterative, due to time constraints.

After Viewing the Video:

I ask students to discuss and share facts that they recorded in their journal. Some answers may include:

  • The EDP is like the Scientific Method.
  • The EDP is a cycle and you repeat until you get it just right.
  • The EDP has many steps to the process.
  • The first step is to ask a question.

The Marshmallow Challenge

30 minutes

The Marshmallow Challenge

This lesson introduces students to the Engineering Design Process (EDP)—the process engineers use to solve design challenges. Students work in teams to solve the challenge by designing the tallest structure that will safely hold one large marshmallow. Although this challenge is not iterative (repeats), it still provides opportunity for students to work through many steps of the EDP.

This timed challenge teaches cooperative thinking and teamwork. It also shows the benefits of testing early and often in engineering. Additionally, it allows students to learn collaborative skills. The challenge may also be used to show the strength of certain shapes (triangles) and the difference in strength between tension and compression for string and spaghetti. I know that students struggle with design in a collaborative environment. Some students take over, some sit back and watch, while other students become very competitive. I circulate the classroom during the challenge to ensure teamwork and collaboration in a trusting environment.

In this lesson, students are given a finite list of supplies: one marshmallow, 20 strands of spaghetti, one meter of masking tape, and one meter of string. Students are given a time limit (15 minutes) and instructions to design and create the tallest structure that will hold a marshmallow on top. There are no other directions, pictures, or instructions. Many students struggle with time management, finite resources, and/or their partner's personality during the challenge. Circulating the classroom and monitoring each group with help to mitigate these situations.

This lesson focuses on a variety of standards:

NGSS SP(#1) states to ask questions and define problems. In this lesson students will determine what questions have yet to be answered with the marshmallow challenge and define constraints and specifications for a solution.

NGSS CCC (#2) Cause and Effect which states that cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. In this lesson, students analyze the relationship between their actions designing the challenge and the actual outcome and engage in argumentation starting from a student's own cause-effect explanation of the challenge.

NGSS CCC (#6) Structure and Function which states structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials and how materials can be shaped and used. In this lesson students visualize, create a model, and apply their understanding of structure and function of the materials used in the challenge.

NGSS MS-ETS1-2 which states that evaluating competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. Students have limited time and resources to meet the criteria and constraints of the marshmallow challenge.

Note: Each lesson in this unit, Master Disaster, works towards mastery of the NGSS MS-ESS 3-2 which states students will analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Ticket Out The Door

5 minutes

I use an exit slip because it's best practice. It is a formative assessment strategy that quickly tells me if my students understand the lesson.

I use a variety of strategies because students learn in different ways. This Ticket Out The Door provides a differentiated approach for students to write about their understanding of the lesson. I ask students to chose one of the three options to respond to: something they have learned in the lesson, a question they have about the lesson, or a question they think someone else might have about the lesson. By giving options it differentiates the thinking and responses while also being  a valuable tool for ELL and Special Education students. 

Some student responses include:

I learned about the engineering design process.

I learned teamwork today.

I learned that it's hard to build a fragile structure in 15 minutes!