• Danielle Boyer, Founder

Teaching the Design Process

Today I had the opportunity to launch my first session of the Engineering Design Club, featuring (mostly) 6th-grade students who are curious about STEM. For those who are not regular readers of my blog, my name is Danielle Boyer and I am the main instructor of this class, the founder of The STEAM Connection (what you're reading this post on), a STEM educator, and inventor. I had such an exciting time introducing the design process and meeting the kids today as well as also having an interview with the University of Michigan (to work with them on some STEM projects) and also had the honor to be featured on the STEAM up the Classroom podcast. Extremely productive day! Here is what we learned about in class:


The Design Process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, and Share.

Skills learned:

-The design process, that it has a wide variance of applications

-Expressing ideas through a drawing

-The SOLIDWORKS App for Kids (CAD)

-Prototyping skills

-Presentation and coherent speaking skills

Every Kid Gets a Robot in the SOLIDWORKS App for Kids

1. Empathize - A problem and why it matters It can be difficult to wake up in the morning because the alarm on a phone is easy to turn off, even while half-asleep. This makes life harder and a solution would help many.

2. Define - What to do

Make a phone case/device prototype to help someone wake up on time.

I chose this problem to get a diverse range of solutions, and the kids creations ended up being extremely awesome and different!


3. Ideate - Come up with ideas

Come up with ideas to solve the problem, and draw them out. Then, using the SOLIDWORKS App for Kids, CAD the drawing.


4. Prototype - Materialize your idea

Start to build your idea using a phone case as a base.

5. Test - See if the idea works Does it work? Test the prototype with a phone inside of it and see how well it works.

6. Share - Tell others about your ideas

Share how well your design met the prompt through presentation.

We divided kids into groups of two to create their designs, and they came up with some remarkable and effective creations! What inspired me to pursue this activity was an alarm clock that has wheels on it and runs away in the morning. To wake up, you have to chase it around. I wanted to see what creative applications the kids would come up with, so I gave them access to many different crafty materials as well as their own phone cases. And creative results we did have!

My favorite thing about this activity was teaching the kids the SOLIDWORKS App for Kids, my absolute favorite program to teach kids to CAD! This was the first time most of them have ever heard of Computer-Aided Design, let alone actually use it. We will be working on it more in the future as there is still much to learn.


Here are their designs!


Team 1

Team 1 solved the design prompt by using Velcro stickers to make latches that connected to a panel covering the phone screen (to protect it) to make it more difficult to turn off your alarm in the morning. They decorated with eyeballs and a smiley face.


Team 2

Team 2 solved their design prompt by making a pouch with a sticky back so that when you go to grab the phone, your hand gets stuck. After the pouch gets stuck to your hand, you have to unclip and take the phone out of the pouch; by the time that this has happened you would wake up.


Team 3


Team 3 solved their design prompt with a more intense approach... with pokey cut zip-ties to punish you for trying to turn your alarm off whilst half-asleep.



Team 4

Team 4 designed a box to attach that attaches to your ceiling to make it more difficult to turn your alarm off. They put Velcro stickers on the back so that once you've accessed the box, you can just take your phone out and go on your merry way.


Team 5

Team 5 tried out a couple of ideas, but ultimately learned about time management when not being able to finish their final project. They cut the ends off of their rubber phone case and wrapped it in cardboard and duct tape to make a pouch.



Team 6

Team 6 made a (extremely difficult to open) zip-tied pouch with a Velcro phone case on the inside. While testing, it is the most effective in delaying the ability of being able to turn off the alarm while not harming the phone.


Overall, I absolutely loved this activity and cannot wait to use it as a springboard to be able to build robots, learn about 3D-printing, and more!

© 2020 by Danielle Boyer.