students were instructed to read the design challenge/problem to
gain a better understanding of the task at hand (see Figure 2). At this
point, the teacher explained the criteria and constraints of the challenge and answered students’ questions about the overarching goal
of the lab. Students were also introduced to the design portfolios
(see Figure 3). They were instructed to use this portfolio, in addition
to a Google Slides presentation, to document all their ideas and
observations as they moved through the engineering design steps.
Step 2: Background research. Next, the teacher introduced
the essential characteristics of slime molds and the vocabulary associated with them, such as prokaryote, eukaryote, and plasmoid, to
help students better understand their own research later in the
design process. Students watched a short video about slime molds
and learned about their biological significance through interactive
instruction. Then the students were given time to use books and
online resources to learn about the characteristics of slime molds
and to document their findings in their design portfolios.
The teacher then led a class discussion about what the students
learned. (We recommend that the instructor makes sure that students understand that a slime mold is an amoeboid protozoan
and not a mold or fungus. Use this as an opportunity to further
explain the use of modeling in engineering, and help students
understand that slime molds do not carry infectious diseases, nor
do infectious diseases spread through protozoans. This is a good
time to review eukaryotic organisms and their properties. Students
should also know how slime molds spread.) Then students were
given a few minutes to explore the different construction materials
available to them. (It is important that students are familiar with the
size of a Petri dish and understand that their facility needs to fit
within the dish as one piece.)
Step 3: Brainstorm possible solutions. In order to ensure
that all students came up with their own solution first and to promote the idea of multiple solutions, students were asked to independently sketch a potential design solution for their quarantine
facility. Students were given a blank piece of paper to quietly
sketch their own idea. Students were expected to label all parts
of their facility and identify which materials they would use for
each part. Figure 4 provides examples of student designs.
Step 4: Select the best solution. After students developed
their individual solutions, they were placed into groups of three
or four. Students then presented their individual design solution
to their group members. After all the design solutions were presented, the group either selected one of the designs or created a
new design solution that combined aspects from several of the
designs. Students then drew and labeled their group’s best design
solution in their design portfolios. The teacher concluded the class
period by leading a class discussion about each group’s design solution, allowing the class to see that there was more than one possible
solution to the problem.
Engineering Design Lab: Day 2
At the start of the following class period, the teacher reviewed the
engineering design process and reviewed all of the lab safety rules
and expectations before students gathered in their lab groups.
Step 5: Construct the prototype. The rest of the class period
was devoted to the building of design prototypes, based on the
design solution that each group agreed upon in the previous class
period. The construction materials were placed in a central location
in the room, so that the teacher was able to supervise the use of the
materials and minimize waste. Figure 5 shows some examples of
student prototypes. The teacher was available to students to help
address design problems through guided questioning. When problems arose, the teacher took this time to emphasize the engineering
design process as a fluid and iterative cycle.
For student groups that finished construction early, they were
instructed to work on their individual design portfolios. Additionally, students were told that at the end of the unit, they would be
required to present their design project to the class. Therefore,
groups that finished construction early could also work on their
presentations. (One way to organize the presentations is to have
each group create a Google slide presentation in which they compile all their design portfolios and create one electronic portfolio.
A deadly disease outbreak is sweeping through the nation, making its way east and leaving mass
destruction in its path. Patient zero has not been located, making the source of the disease
unknown. However, it has been observed that when the disease is quarantined and not provided
with a new food source or host, it dies off and does not continue to spread. Quarantine facilities
are being constructed around the country to help combat the disease and promote the survival of
our nation’s population. Please consider building a quarantine facility yourself to join in the
• Use only the materials provided.
• The design must fit inside the covered glass culture dish.
• Quarantine facility must be open on at least one side to allow the facility to be placed on top
of the agar.
• Facility must exist as one piece.
• You must use a minimum of two different construction materials to help mitigate material
Figure 2. Design challenge and constraints.
Student Design Portfolio
Use the space to answer the questions in the lefthand column and to document your ideas and
observations throughout each step of the engineering design process. You can include diagrams and
Engineer Notes Design Process
What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
What are the constraints?
What are some important characteristics of slime
molds that might be important to your design
Brainstorm Possible Solutions
Draw several examples of your quarantine facility.
Label each part of your facility with the material
that you will use to construct it.
Select the Best Solution
Draw the design solution that your group has
Construct the Prototype
What were some of the challenges that your group
faced during construction?
What does your completed prototype look like?
Test the Prototype
What would make a design successful? Based on
these criteria, was your group’s design successful?
List some observations about your prototype.
Present Your Solution
List at least three things that you learned from
other groups’ presentations.
With the knowledge that you have from your own
design and from listening to other groups’
presentations, redesign your prototype.
Figure 3. Student design portfolio.