Where's the evidence? Students are working to develop a new toy they must pitch to MTI (Motorized Toy, Inc) as an addition to their product line of toys. In order to create a successful pitch, student product development teams must have research to back their claims. In this lesson, students will build and test several iterations of their product in search of the best design to present to MTI.
This is lesson seven of the Motorized Toy Project
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 lesson 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.
I meet with student design teams as soon as they are ready to begin the building and testing phase of the Motorized Toy Project. The teams are learning to self-manage their progress so teams reach this point at various times usually within a couple of days of each other. Once students see other groups have made progress, they too kick it into gear (pun intended) to make it to the next milestone on their timeline.
It is important to meet with each group and review the assembly process. The first build or two is tricky. Actually there is some frustration for most groups. They need to follow the schematics accurately and attend to precision so the gears turn smoothly. Students quickly learn that there are no short cuts in the building and testing process.
I have setup multiple testing locations for students. There are two stations to test the motorized toy on a flat surface and one station for testing the motorized toy on the ramp.
It takes three students to test at each station. At the flat surface test station, one student starts and stops the motorized toy another is responsible for timing and the third records the results. At the ramp test station the student team must first measure the angle of the ramp. One student will start and stop the motorized toy, another student will time the progress of the toy and the recorder will also hold the ramp in position for testing.
Motorized Toy Flat Surface Testing
Measuring the Angle of the Ramp
Testing on the Ramp - Meter Stick Used to Measure Distance
This video takes a look at the data collected by a student design team.