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Making Engineering Move!


Core National Curriculum links

Science, Computing, DT, Maths

Other National Curriculum links

History - Chariots / Geography - vehicles for difficult terrains

Main engineering principles

  • Pupils embrace and learn from failure


About a lesson


Creative problem solving

EDP stages

Imagine, Plan, Create

Resources required

Junk materials: card, straws, lollypop sticks, tape, glue, plastic cups etc.

Summary of activity

Design, test and refine a moving vehicle for different purposes.

To open the activity

Introduce a cross-curricular challenge involving vehicles, for example: 'Moon Rovers' / 'Sand Buggy' / 'Chariot'. Show images of existing designs and allow exploration of 'real-life' moving vehicles to explore design elements that make them move effectively. Encourage discussion of / drawing of, design features if there is time.

The main activity

Pupils to collaborate to design and build a junk model of their vehicle that hits four design criteria:

1. It should be able to hold the mass of a 'passenger' (a Lego figure / tennis ball etc).
2. It must move (preferably in a straight line) following a single push.
3. It should travel the furthest distance.
4. It should be aesthetically pleasing.

The junk-modelling is designed to encourage experimentation and creative problem solving without the fear of 'getting it wrong' or 'wasting' more expensive D&T resources at this stage.

Each model can be tested according to the design criteria, and depending on the cross-curricular focus, more time can be spent on aspects such as measuring mass or distance, exploring the forces / friction involved in the investigation and so on.

Challenge and support

Keep it open-ended! The four-part design challenge means that most tasks will succeed and fail at something. Mixed groups work very well, allow the more practically-minded pupils to thrive, and encourage the more-able to 'think outside the box'.

To finish the activity

Following testing, pupils can come to their own conclusions, linked to either general problem solving, specific EHoMs or a cross-curricular topic. This lesson can then be turned into a longer term project, by which the pupils deconstruct and re-build their junk models, before deciding on a final design which can be build using more sturdy materials.

Learn from me (what worked well for us)

Flexibility helps. Try to stand back and let the pupils explore for themselves. You will be surprised what some come up with.

Links for pupils


Links for teachers


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