SPIKE™ Prime with Python

Testing Prototypes

Explore the engineering design process

45 min
Years 7-9 OR Key Stage 3

Questions to investigate

How do engineers take an idea and make it into a product?


• Ensure SPIKE Prime hubs are charged, especially if connecting through Bluetooth.


(Group Discussion, 5 minutes)

Engage students in thinking about the design engineering process.

Engineers use a process called the design engineering process when they are trying to find a solution to a problem. Introduce students to the design engineering process. You may use your own preferred model or the one provided below:
• Define a problem
• Research the problem
• Brainstorm possible solutions
• Select the most promising solution
• Construct a prototype
• Test and evaluate the prototype
• Communicate
• Redesign

Ignite a discussion with students on how engineers use this process to design solutions to problems. Consider sharing examples.


(Small Groups, 20 minutes)

Students will use the design engineering process to build a bridge.

Present students with a problem to solve. Explain to students that they have been hired to construct a model of a bridge. The roadbed of the model, which is the large yellow technic plate, needs to raise above the table by 3 inches.

Ask students to record the steps of the design engineering process in their notebooks as they complete them. Together, complete step 1 by defining the problem. Students should identify that they need to build a bridge that has the roadbed 3 inches off the table. Identify other needs – like what should a bridge do – carry weight, not move side to side, and so forth.

Allow students time to complete step 2, to research the problem, as needed.

Students should record all ideas as they move to the next step, brainstorming possible solutions. Provide students with these constraints for the challenge:
• Students may only use the following elements from their set:
- Large yellow technic plates
- Technic beams
- Connectors or axles
• Students may not use frames.
• The roadbed must hold 2 unopened water bottles.

Have students select their best option and build their prototype.

Ask students to verify that their original model does not move side-to-side and can hold some weight. Start with 2 unopened plastic water bottles.

Have students take a picture of their first bridge prototype.


(Whole Group, 5 minutes)

Have students share their model and explain how they arrived at their final design.

Ask students questions like:
• What type of bridge could you build given the materials you can use?
• Why is planning prior to building important?
• What happened as you built? Did you have to change anything from the design?
• Why were you asked to verify that the model would hold the weight of the water bottles?
• What step were you completing when you added the water bottles?

Discuss with students that they were completing the test and iterate phase of their design when they were adding the water bottles. Students may indicate that their bridge did not hold the weight of the water bottles.

Discuss what is learned when this happens and what students can do next. Students should recognize that testing determines if a design works as intended or not. It allows the designer to investigate what needs to change or be fixed.

Prompt students to think about how to make the design better by iterating or making small changes based on the testing and then retesting to identify additional iterations needed.
Ask students questions like:
• Why is testing the model important?
• What can we learn from testing our model?
• What is a next step to take after testing the model and learning from that test?
• When do you know that the testing and iteration phase is complete?
• Did you see ideas from other teams that you might like to incorporate in your own design?


(Small Groups, 10 minutes)

Allow for further iteration of the design based on adding new materials.

Explain to students that a new material design has been fabricated and is available for use – the frame and any other pieces in the set. Tell students that they can use frames, but do not have to do so. Additionally, the customer has asked that the prototype hold 10 pounds.

Tell students to experiment with adding new technology to their design. Prompt students to consider if they have to start the entire process over or just begin in the middle. Discuss the process to follow as a group.

Allow students time to redesign their bridge with the new pieces. Remind students to test and iterate on their design to ensure it meets the expectation of holding 10 pounds.


(Group Exercise, 5 minutes)

Teacher Observation:
Discuss the program with students. Ask students questions like:
• How well did your first prototype work?
• Why was testing your design so important?
• How does an engineer move from idea to prototype?

Have students answer the following in their journals:
• What did you learn today about design engineering and the importance of testing?
• What characteristics of a good teammate did I display today?
• Ask students to rate themselves on a scale of 1-3, on their time management today.
• Ask students to rate themselves on a scale of 1-3, on their materials (parts) management today.

Teacher Support

Students will:
• Brainstorm ideas and develop solutions to a problem.
• Program a model.

• SPIKE Prime sets ready for student use
• Devices with the SPIKE App installed
• Student journals
• Unopened water bottles

2-AP-15 Seek and incorporate feedback from team members and users to refine a solution that meets user needs.

MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
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.