Design Challenges for All – The Tech Challenge in your classroom

The Tech Museum of Innovation has over 30 years of experience implementing their proven Design Challenge Learning (DCL) model in The Tech Challenge, the museum, and through lessons and professional development for educators. Design Challenge Learning engages students in the design process to solve a relevant real-world problem. Students build their skills in collaboration, perseverance and critical thinking through an open-ended design process that results in an original, team-driven solution. These practices allow students to build their skills and confidence as problem solvers as they create unique solutions. This lesson connects with The Tech Challenge, an engineering design challenge offered annually to engage all students in 4th-12th grade. The workshop highlights ways to integrate engineering design into the classroom curriculum, connecting with NGSS and building educator confidence with open-ended design for students in K-12.

Design challenges are a great way to engage all students, especially those that don’t already see themselves as STEM capable, and gives students an opportunity to showcase different skills. The open-ended challenges provide them with a sense of agency and can build confidence that expands to other content areas.
With NGSS implementation educators need an expanded toolkit for teaching engineering and integrating it into other content areas. This workshop can help lay the foundation with a fundamental methodology that they can adapt for their needs and setting. This workshop is applicable to science educators grades 3-12 and curriculum developers who are looking for ways to integrate engineering design into OST and in-school time.
Presenting parties are seasoned design challenge learning educators from informal education, have worked to develop many types of challenges that explore various science concepts and provide frequent professional development with educators of various level.s

Our “Solve the Fall” design challenge is based on the 2018 Tech Challenge “Drop and Dash”. In this session, students design a device to safely deliver emergency supplies to a remote location. Educator teams will do the challenge, using the same materials and process as their students so that they understand the impact of the engineering design process, as well as being able to envision how the lesson could fit into their curriculum.

By the end of this session, participants will come away with:
• A clear understanding of the Engineering Design Process and strategies for integrating this process into their instruction.
• Confidence to implement Design challenges in their learning settings.
• Knowledge of the connections between Design challenges and NGSS K-12 engineering progression.
•Time to plan their next steps in implementing design challenges
•A toolkit of resources facilitating design challenges, and design challenge lessons

The facilitation guides included in these (free) resources are in pdf and video format (samples can be found at and have been distilled from the Tech’s major education, museum exhibit and professional development programs. These resources were tested with educator focus groups in summer and fall of 2018 and include how to “frame a challenge”, facilitate brainstorming, prototyping, sharing solutions and coordinating materials. These guides are intended to aid educators in implementing as well as developing their own design challenges.

Workshop Flow
5 min – Introduction
Presenters introduce themselves and share session goals

30 min – Design Challenge
Design Challenge: Presenters introduce the design challenge including criteria, and constraints. Participants work in teams to build a physical solution to the design challenge, testing, iterating and reflecting as they go.
Presenters lead testing and share out by team.
Presenters will level up the hands-on activity by challenging participants with working designs to improve their designs while meeting additional constraints.
Participants share out and discuss during group testing regarding their process, design, and the changes they would make for future iterations

10 min – Reflection
Participants reflect on their team’s design process.
Presenters share one model of the engineering design process. Participants map their process
Participants Discuss with your table or partner: What skills can your students build through this process?
Share out
Presentor to connect engineering design to 21st Century skills, careers and standards if needed.

15 min – Design Process and Mindsets
Presenters introduce mindsets and design process, discussing how to support both of these in the classroom.
Participants discuss with their teams and then as a large group. Presenters and participants share observations and connections between design process and the graphic [nonlinear, iterative, repetitive, open to many types of thinking and multiple intelligences] Possible questions for discussion include:
Why did you start where you did?
Did everyone start in the same place?
How did you feel doing this process?
Have you done something like this with your students? What was their experience? Include observations and connections between design process and the graphic [nonlinear, iterative, repetitive, open to many types of thinking and multiple intelligences]

15 min – NGSS Connections
Presenters lead discussion surrounding the Scope and Sequence of Engineering in NGSS (provided) and how they can be worked into participants’ current curriculum.
Presenters highlight specific DCIs connected with this lesson.
Participants read through Scope and Sequence of Engineering in small groups and reflect on the ways in which it evolves across grade bands, then work together on differentiation based on grade level and setting.

15 min – Closing Reflection
Presenters guide conversation reflecting on educators practices and experiences from the workshop activity and plans for implementing engineering design challenges in their learning setting.
Participants share in small groups and then as a room:
Next steps to implement design challenges in their classroom the classroom curriculum.
Duration: One session, Multiple sessions, One class period leading to a longer project
Initial thoughts on the project
Connections with a connect standard (if applicable)