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Know and use a deliberate design process | Designing a Solution | 3-5, 6-8

Student Objective

Students will be able to:
1. name the steps of a deliberate design process: The Engineering Design Process.
2. use the Engineering Design Process to create a unique solution to a common or individual problem.
3. generate ideas, test their ideas and create artifacts as solutions to a common problem.


*This instructional idea will most likely require more than one class period to complete

Step 1: Generate a connection and add context/relevancy for using the Engineering Design Process in real-life.

In this introduction, you want to give students the opportunity to connect with the lesson in a personal way. You will give a personal example of when you used a problem-solving process to create a solution to an issue in your life.

This connection should provide context to using the Engineering Process in a format that relates to their own lives.

An example of a connection you could provide.

Step 2: Discuss and learn the steps of The Engineering Design Process

There are a few suggested options for reviewing and discussing the steps of the Engineering Design Process:

  1. Review and watch this video about the Engineering Design Process and famous real-world examples of individuals using this process
  2. Use a pre-made chart [like this chart] and display the pre-made chart while going over each step
  3. Use one of the following powerpoint presentations to go over the steps of the design process. These Powerpoints also guide students through the process, providing prompts for each step.
    1. This presentation is suggested for grades 3-5: here. It provides scaffolds for promoting collaboration. It has a slide that offers each student a “job” in order to create structure within the small groups and give all students an opportunity to work. You can read more about how to use these “jobs” and promoting collaboration through this document: here.
    2. This presentation is suggested for grades 6-8, or with groups that are familiar with working together to build one product: here.

Step 3: Generate and Introduce a problem

Help the students generate a list of problems they may need or want to solve, or provide them with a problem you would like them to solve.

Help students generate a list of problems: Start by thinking about problems that characters in your books have encountered, situations that relate to some of your other units/themes, or things that you notice in your classroom or school community that need to be changed or improved. Some examples of these could include:

  • the bridge to Terabithia (in the book) was too dangerous (because it was a log): Could we build a stronger bridge?
  • the bags that civil war soldiers used were ineffective for their needs: Could be design a better bag?
  • difficulty filling up your water bottle at the water fountain (the water keeps spilling out the top): Could we design a solution that prevents you from having to tip the bottle over?
  • the hooks in the lockers or cubbies aren’t strong enough to hold their bookbags: Could we think of a way to make them stronger or fit more?
  • students are too loud in the hallways, distracting other students: How could we effectively help remind students of the rules?

Give them a problem: You could think of real positions or jobs that they may be interested that relate to a topic you are learning about (in science, social studies, math, etc). Then, think in what types of problems those professional would need to solve that directly relate to material you are learning in the classroom. For example:

  • If you are learning about forces and motion (friction, force, velocity, measurement, speed, etc.):
    • They could be race track designers working for Nascar. They have to design a race track that would allow their race car to go the fastest, the slowest, etc.
    • They could be toy makers. They have to build a toy that shoots an object the furthest.

Step 4: Create groups and review the Engineering Design Process in the context of the problem

Break the students in to small groups. It is suggested to begin individually or in a group of 2 students until students are familiar with working in larger groups to produce 1 product. Once they are familiar, it is suggested not to have more than 3 students in a group. These groups will work together to go through the design process and develop potential solutions.

Review each step of the design process and guide them through the first few steps of ask, imagine, plan and create.

Again, you can use the Powerpoints from Step 2 to discuss and guide the students through the design process in relation to the proposed problem.

  • Suggested for grades 3-5: here. Tips for promoting collaboration: here.
  • Suggested for grades 6-8, or with groups that are familiar with working together to build one product: here.

Step 5: Brainstorm, plan, design and test potential solutions

Have the students brainstorm potential ideas and then select one solution they would like to explore.

Some ideas of digital tools students can use to ideate (imagine) are:

  • Popplet, which requires limited accounts and students can create one project on each for free. Popplet can organize their different ideas and can be accessed by multiple students.
  • Jamboard, which is a collaborative whiteboard that students can use stickies to produce ideas.

Once they have selected an idea, they will begin to plan, build and test their solutions.

Some ideas of digital tools students can use to ideate (imagine) are:

  • Creately, which requires limited accounts and students can create one project on each for free.¬†This link is to a template for the engineering design process that students can fill out as a group and can be used to share their results.
  • Stormboard, which requires limited accounts and students can create one project on each for free. This link is to a template for design thinking that includes empathy (which may not relate to your topic).

Step 6: Share solutions

The students will share their solutions and the process they went through to design this solution.



This instructional idea introduces students to a design process by providing a structure that represents each step of the engineering design process. The students will use a variety of digital tools to assist in their planning. Students are also expected and guided through the process of developing, testing and improving potential solutions (or prototypes), even if their solutions do not succeed.

EdTech used in this activity:


Alternative Ed Tech you could use:

Popplet, Creately