Published on March 8, 2016
Duration: 120 minutes (minimum) *For tips on how to break up your lesson over multiple class periods, see pg. 117 of the STEAM Student Set Teacher’s Guide
Introduce the lesson objectives and the concept behind the challenge: What are some inventions that you use every day that you couldn’t live without? What problems do they solve? Make a list on the board to capture student responses.
“Before these products came to life, they were just ideas. People saw problems in the world around them and they Created potential solutions first through brainstorming and prototyping their ideas, and then by testing and improving upon their creations to make sure it worked. This is a the job of a product designer and you’ve already been applying this process to make littleBits creations through the Invention Cycle. In this challenge, you’re going to take what you’ve learned so far and think like a product designer to invent something that helps someone else.”
Before jumping into the challenge, provide a quick review of the Invention Cycle framework and the format of the Invention Log (pg. 35 of the STEAM Student Set Teacher’s Guide). Ask students to Share lessons learned about Bits, the invention process and things they enjoyed or struggled with from previous challenges.
A. CREATE IDEAS For each of the prompt sections below, students will record their process and reflections in their respective Invention Logs.
What ideas do you have?
Prompt students to create a list (either as a class, or in groups) of ideas for a product.Start by thinking of an intended user (parent, neighbor, teacher, friend) and reflect on what their frustrations or difficulties are. For example, a neighbor that is hard of hearing might need a way to know if someone is knocking at their door. For additional brainstorming ideas, refer to pg. 36 in the "Invention Advisor" section of the STEAM Student Set Teacher's Guide (particularly the sections on Empathy and Experience Mapping).
Which idea seems best?
After making a list of 3–5 ideas, have students choose the issue that they want to work on. It could be the idea that sounds the most fun to solve, or creates the biggest difference in someone else’s life.
Students should frame their thinking in the following framework: I will invent a_______that______because_____.
What’s the “before” story?
What is life like now, before the proposed invention exists? Ask students to draw or describe the series of events before, during and after to show cause-and-effect scenarios. Be sure to consider the characters involved and the setting that the “story” takes place in.
What are the constraints?
Constraints are the limits and requirements that need to be considered in the invention process. Examples include time, materials, weight. Have students detail any constraints that they may need to keep in mind as they work. For younger students, you may choose to run this exercise as a class and have students record shared ideas.
What are the criteria for success? How will students know if their invention works? Describe the #1 goal for the invention. What qualities are important for the invention to have?
B. CREATE PROTOTYPE
For each of the prompts below, students will record their process and reflections in their respective Invention Logs.
How could Bits help you achieve your mission?
Instruct students to look through their available Bits and materials to see how they could (or couldn’t) help achieve their mission. If students get stuck, try snapping a Bit into a circuit or read through the Bit Index (pg. 7- 27 in their Invention Guide). If students’ initial ideas don’t directly translate to the function of the available Bits, check out helpful suggestions in "Concept Prototypes" on pg. 38 of the STEAM Student Set Teacher's Guide.
What does your first prototype look like?
Students create a drawing(s) of their first prototype, labeling Bits and any important features. A description of how the prototype is supposed to work should also be included. This is a time for students to dig into the Bits and materials and start to bring their ideas to life.
To meet the outlined NGSS standards, instruct students to fill out a new Remix section in their Invention Logs (pg. 11 and 12) every time a variable is changed and tested. If you are do not plan to adhere to the NGSS standards, allow students more flexibility and exploratory pathways during this phase of the design process.
PROTOTYPE # 2 (AND MORE...)
This is the opportunity to experiment with fixes and improvements. As students make changes to their inventions, make sure they are documenting in their Invention Logs how their prototypes are changing and the results (good and bad).
Getting feedback during the iteration process will help students make even better versions of their prototype. Pair up students so they each have someone else to test their prototype on (or ideally have the intended user try it out, if possible). Test the invention after a few improvements have been made. Have students ask the person what their favorite features are and what suggestions they have to make it better.
Continue the Remix phase (and remind students to Play with their updated inventions) until the prototype is able to meet the criteria for success, or until the allotted time runs out. If you need more advice on how to conduct and provide prompts in the Remix phase, read through the "Invention Advisor" section (pg. 36 of the STEAM Student Set Teacher’s Guide).
Wrap up the challenge by reflecting and tying together the story of the invention. Create a skit, a print or video advertisement to explain what they’ve invented and how it can help make life better for the customer. Share it with the classroom (or with the world!).
You may also encourage students to take their inventions further and recruit a product design team. Have students show their invention to friends or peers. How could a group of students, with different ideas and perspectives, work together to create an even better product?
Incorporate one (or more!) of the following extensions in the Remix section of this challenge to bolster your lesson’s NGSS applications:
MS-ETS1-4 Engineering Design: 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.
- Students define and iteratively collect data to explore the explicit connection between the invention and a physical or environmental interaction that may impact the design. For example, modeling the impact of friction on the ability of a wheeled invention to climb a slope, or the impact of an invention on human behavior. The storyboard in the Invention Log should be used and updated throughout the lesson for each iteration tested.