The students at Paul PCS were asked to design and build a cutting-edge device to launch seedling trees and wildflowers (represented by marshmallows) into a field that had been devastated by a wildfire (represented by a target). As students share their design process and choices, they become aware that there are multiple solutions to every problem.
While many of the students built lever devices, some were inspired by the structure of a sling shot, and others by the structure of a catapult. Even those designs that did not meet the criteria of the challenge, had potential, both figuratively, and literally, as students explored how their devices stored energy (potential energy).
Discussing the process allowed students to reflect on their design choices and identify strengths and weaknesses of their device. The activity, which utilizes the Engineering Design Process, reinforces the idea that it is not about the destination, but the climb. Failure is an important part of engineering. It encourages improvement.