Motorized Toy Project Launch (Lesson 1)

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SWBAT work collaboratively as engineers to design, test and launch a new motorized toy.

Big Idea

What does it take to develop a new toy? Sample the engineering design process from RFP (Request for Proposal) to product.

The Need for the Lesson

Students will see how the engineering design process is applied to the design, testing and marketing of new prototypes.  We have done some fun mini lessons to learn about the engineering design process. Engineering Challenge - Saving Freddie, Engineering Challenge - Scribble Bots and Engineering Challenge - Watercraft are certainly a fun way to reinforce the engineering design process. But how does this apply to the real world? In this series of lessons students explore new product development. The lesson series begins with an introduction, then follows the new product process from the RFP (Request for Proposal) to the pitch of the student designed toy.

Investigation Preparation & Summary

20 minutes

Students will learn and use the vocabulary of engineers, defining problems, constraints and criteria for success. Students will experience the integration of skills across the curriculum as they delve into the project. (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.) Students will be asking the question and solving the problem - What toy design will best meet the marketing goals of MTI (Motorized Toy Company) and how will we develop it? (SP1 - Asking Questions and Defining Problems)

Students collaborate to design and implement a solution to the Request for Proposal letter sent from the fictitious toy company - MTI. (MS-ETS1.2 - Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.) Students will examine various gear ratios to determine which best meets the criteria and constraints of the problem defending their choice using data collected. (SP7 - Engaging in Argument from Evidence)

Students will construct and test multiple gear ratios and use the data collected to make and informed decision about their final product. (MS-ETS1.3 - Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.) Students must analyze the data they have collected. Some student groups may not actually meet the performance requirements set forth by MTI (Motorized Toy, Inc.) and may have to justify their choice of a gear ratio for the toy based on their interpretation of the best fit according to their data. (SP4 - Analyzing and Interpreting Data)

An important understanding for students in that engineering is an iterative process. They will build and test multiple gear ratios models to determine the optimal performance of the motorized toy. (MS-ETS1.4 - 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.) (SP2 - Developing and Using Models)

After implementing their successful solution, students will create a short video to promote their new product (WHST.6-8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.)

The project models for students how scientific research, collecting data about gears and their performance, and societal desires in the form of the project request from Motorized Toy, Inc., theCrosscutting Concept of Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World.

This PBL is based on the curriculum developed by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) AWIM (A World in Motion) Motorized Toy Project. The original curriculum has great lessons and takes about 8 weeks to complete. The program is outstanding. My modifications are designed to allow the project to be completed in about 3 weeks. The time line allows students to experience a taste of the entire engineering design process required to bring a new product to market.

Kits are available for purchase on the SAW AWIM website - here. If you can partner with an SAE member, the member can apply for one new kit each year for your school. The form to apply for a free kits is here. I have partnered with an SAE member for several years and have three kits that allow me to run this project with all my classes at once.

A complete materials list for this project can be found in the resources section.

The NGSS Evidence Statement publication for middle grade engineering was used as a guide for verifying that all engineering standards could be observed in the Motorized Toy Project series of lessons. This video briefly explains that process.

All NGSS Evidence Statements for middle school can be found here.


Students in Action

45 minutes

I explain to students that we are beginning an engineering design project based learning unit today.

I have developed a timeline for this project. We will review together at as a class so that you understand the expectations. Your team will be responsible for the target dates on the timeline. Many groups will be able to move at a faster pace than what is outline here. You want to be that team. The target dates are the due dates, If you do not complete the tasks by the target dates, your project is behind schedule.

Timeline created from Excel Template

A copy of the timeline is in the resource section.

Note to teachers - You can click on each of the title sections for the associated lesson.

Request for Proposal (Lesson 2)

Tomorrow you will be give a letter from MTI (Motorized Toy, Inc.). MTI is a toy company looking to launch a new motorized toy. They are seeking input from a team of engineers. You are the teams.

Corporation, Name, Logo and Slogan (Lesson 3)

Your team will form a corporation. You will need a corporate name, logo and slogan. Your new corporation will create a poster to be posted in the classroom with your name, logo and slogan. To help you manage the project and keep your paperwork together, each team will receive a binder. You will need a 8.5 x 11 cover for your binder, also with your corporation name, logo and slogan.

Team Resumes (Lesson 4)

There are three major roles for team members. You will have a chief engineer. The chief engineer will take the project lead during the training, building and testing phase of the project. You will also have a chief designer. The chief designer will take the lead to create the corporation poster and binder cover as well as skin you will create for your motorized toy. Your team will also have a chief marketing officer. The chief marketing officer will take the lead when your team creates a 1-3 minute promotional video for your motorized toy and when the team researches similar toys on the market. Taking the lead does not mean the rest of the team sits back and does nothing. You will all participate in each phase of product development. The lead simply means that one team member is going to lead that portion of the project. 

Some teams may have more than three people. In that case you can have co-leaders for each phase of product development. There may be a team with just two people. You can each take a lead role and share the responsibilities for one of the jobs.

Each team member will create a resume. We will have a short resume workshop later this week to help you get started.

Research Similar Toys (Lesson 5)

Do not stress too much over this task. You are looking for three similar toys from three different websites. Why? You need to show that your toy design is marketable. The similar toys do not have to be the same type of toy. A similar themed toy is appropriate.

Learning About Gears - Training (Lesson 6)

Your team will need to demonstrate that you are qualified to build the motorized toys. There are two activities to complete. You will show that you understand gears and gear ratios. When your team is ready, you will participate in a short workshop to start your training.

Building & Testing (Lesson 7)

You will be building and testing 9 different gear ratios. You will time each one for a distance of 1 and 2 meters on a flat surface. Then you will test each gear ratio on an incline plane at 15 and 30 degrees for one meter. You will record the results. These results will be used to determine the best gear ratio for you final product. When your team is ready to start building, you will participate in a short workshop to help you assemble your first gear ration.

Designing A Skin for Your Prototype (Lesson 8)

A large tissue box fits nicely over the chassis of your motorized toy. Your team will decorate the tissue box to show MTI what your new toy will look like when you are done.

Preparing the Pitch (1 - 3 Minute Video) (Lesson 9)

This is a short infomercial that pitches your toy for MTI. We will have a short workshop later to explain what tools to use for the video. 

I assign teams and hand out the corporation binders (they have a team number that will be associated with the motorized toy kits) with the timeline slid into the back cover. I remind each team that they are responsible for referring to the timeline daily to stay withing their due dates.

I tell teams to begin brainstorming their corporation name, logo and slogan.