Mousetrap Problem





Name of Activity Mousetrap – Problem
Author Terry Greene, Merredith Portsmore, Abe Gissen
Keywords Engineering Design Process, problem, research, brainstorm, mousetrap, motor, sensor
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will use steps of the Engineering Design Process to learn about a problem; Identify the Problem, Research the Problem, Brainstorm Possible Solutions. Students will be able to describe the need for mousetraps, different type of mousetraps and possible ways to trap a mouse.

The design challenge is for the students to work as a class to design and build a mousetrap sculpture that has at least nine movable parts, which are connected together. Small groups will work on each part. Each part must use one motor and one sensor.

Lesson Objectives: To understand the steps of the Engineering Design Process
Materials Needed: Mousetrap Game by Milton Bradley
Poster of the design process
Easel with plenty of paper for drafting
Preparation and Set Up: Set up the classroom for easy classroom discussion.
Make a poster of the Engineering Design Process to use as an aid.
  1. Have the students play the Mousetrap Game by Milton Bradley.
  2. In a large group, discuss engineering:
    1. Ask if anyone knows an engineer.
    2. Ask what an engineer does
    3. Discuss what engineers do and what kinds of jobs use engineers.
  3. Display the steps of the Engineering Design Process. Go over each step on the poster and explain that, over the next few weeks, students will use all the steps; working like engineers to complete a challenge.
  4. Discuss the Mousetrap Game
    1. Ask individuals to share their favorite part of the game.
    2. Make connections to simple machines.
    3. Ask students how an engineer might have been involved in designing the game.
  5. Present the design challenge
    1. Tell the students that they are engineers working for a toy company.
    2. They have been asked to design a new toy to be modeled after the Mousetrap Game.
    3. The design challenge is for the students to work as a class to design and build a mousetrap sculpture that has at least nine movable parts, which are connected together. Small groups will work on each part. Each part must use one motor and one sensor.
    4. Explain that the students have already completed steps 1 and 2 of the Engineering Design Process
      1. Identify the Need/Problem
        1. By listening to what the teacher has assigned as the design challenge.
      2. Research the Need/Problem
        1. By playing the game.
  6. Have student brainstorm possible solutions (step 3 of the Engineering Design Process). Draw on math and science to articulate the solutions in two and three dimensions.
  7. Use an easel to record ideas and brainstorm possible ideas for different parts of the mousetrap.
  8. Try to make a list of about 25 possible parts of a mousetrap.
  9. Save these ideas for Day 2.

Day 2:

  1. Review the brainstorming session the class participated in on Day 1.
  2. Explain that the next step in the Engineering Design Process is to Select the Best Possible Solution to the Problem.
  3. Brainstorm a list of criteria for the mousetrap with the students.
  4. Go through the list of original parts and cross out ones that do not meet the criteria.
  5. Set up teams of students (usually 2 works best).
  6. Have each team talk about the different parts and decide on 2 – 3 that they would like to build.
  7. As a large group (whole class), decide which team will build which part of the mousetrap and record this on the easel.
Reference 1ideascriteria-1.doc
Reference 2ideascriteria.doc
Reference 3.doc
Online Reference(s)
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Mousetrap

Build a Chair for Mr. Bear




Name of Activity Build a Chair for Mr. Bear
Author STOMP
Keywords Bear, Mr. Bear, build, chair, problem, solution, design
Subject and Grade Level Simple Machines, K, 1, 2, 3
Time 2 Hours Total
Lesson Objectives: - Ask students to design a sturdy chair that keeps a stuffed bear seated upright
- To expose students to the full engineering design process and allow them to practice their building techniques
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machine kits or other LEGO building pieces
- Engineer’s Planning Worksheet
- Engineer’s Final Report Worksheet
- One stuffed bear per group
For the extensions:
- Extra LEGO building Pieces
- Mini Post-It Note Pads
- Mini Drinking Cups
Preparation and Set Up: Optional:
Research different chair designs and print out pictures to facilitate discussion on
how different types of chairs are designed and why chairs are designed differently for
different purposes. For example, office chairs are designed differently then recliners because
they have different purposes.Teacher Background:
Sturdiness is an important consideration when engineering any design. Furniture
(such as a chair), bridges, buildings, cars, etc. have to be sturdy for safety and other
reasons. Engineers always test their prototypes for sturdiness before any real construction
can begin. This highlights important steps of the Engineering Design Process; Test and
Redesign after a failed test.
  1. Review previous activities and emphasize the important lessons learned from those activites especially sturdy building and different pieces in LEGO Simple Machine kits.
    1. note: this lesson follows nicely after Building Sturdy Towers activity and/or the Sturdy Shapes activity.
  2. Introduce the engineering challenge for this activity using the Engineering Design Process
    1. Identify the Problem: Mr. Bear needs somewhere to sit that is sturdy and will keep him sitting upright.
    2. Research: As a class, think about some different chairs and how a LEGO chair might be similar. (provide optional chair research).
    3. Brainstorm: Have student partners think about how to build a chair and how they will work together.
    4. Choose and Plan: Have students fill out the Engineer’s Planning Sheet. Have each partner circle the par that they will build.
    5. Create: Have students design and build. Review piece that may be helpful such as the beams, pegs, bushings and axles.
    6. Test: Explain to the students that their design needs to pass three tests:
      1. Drop Test: The design must survive a drop from the ankle.
      2. Fit Test: The bear must fit in the chair.
      3. Sit-up Test: The bear must sit upright.
    7. Redesign: Have students redesign after failed tests until their design is sturdy and usable. Help students think of ways to make their chair sturdy (overlapping beams, strong shapes, etc.)
    8. Share: Have each student fill out an Engineer’s Final Report Worksheet. Come together as a class, let each student briefly share their chair and discuss:
      1. Difficulties encountered by students and how they fixed them.
      2. One complement and one question for each chair.
Extensions or Modifications: - Build a foot rest for Mr. Bear
- Build a cup holder for Mr. Bear
- Build an easel for Mr. Bear
- It might be helpful to have a chart to keep track of which students have passed which tests
Sample Image 1
Sample Image 2
Sample Image 3
Sample Image 4
Sample Image 5

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