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Lesson 7:  Sketch & Prototype

Kids Drawing

Let's do this!

After brainstorming and thinking about solutions to your problem, you need to make your solution in order to test it and get feedback on how well it works.

What is Sketching and Prototyping?

TASK 1: Papa's Mechanical Fish
Meet Lodner Phillips (AKA Papa).  He lived near Lake Michigan in 1851 and spent MANY years building a machine that would take he and has family underwater.  While this story is fictional, the author, Candace Fleming, based the details in her book on research she did on this eccentric inventor.
This tale is not just about a submarine. It’s about perseverance, the creative impulse and the unwavering faith of a loving family.  ~ Candace Fleming
Lodner phillips.jpg
User:  Papa's family
Need:  A way to see the fish underwater
Problem statement:  Papa needed a way take his whole family underwater to view the fish.


Did Papa's first submarine called Whitefish 1 work?  Not exactly.
It almost worked!
prototype 1.JPG
It almost worked!
Papa's first attempt at a submarine had some new ideas, such as:
  • A way to breathe underwater.  How did he manage this?
  • A way to steer the submarine - how did he do this?
  • What went wrong with his first test with his machine?

Whitefish #2

Prototype 2.JPG
Did Papa's 2nd machine work?  Not really.  What happened?
Whitefish 2 included improvements based on what failed in the first machine:
  • Big enough for 2 people
  • Wooden fin on top
  • Propeller in back to move machine
  • Bike pedals to power it
  • What went wrong with machine #2?
Prototype 3.JPG
Whitefish #4
Whitefish 3 included many details Lodner learned in his previous test:
  • Big enough for 3 people
  • A plunger to make it go up and down
  • A steering wheel to make it turn left or right
  • Levers instead of pedals
  • Covered in waterproof copper
Whitefish #3
It almost worked!
It almost worked!
Heading 5
Did Papa's 3rd machine work?  It is getting closer to what he needs it do be, but he needs to make another sub.
Did Papa's 4th machine work?
Whitefish 4c.JPG
Whitefish 4  worked!  It had:
  • Room for 7 people
  • Air-cooling system
  • Air-compression system
  • Air-purifying system
  • Steam boiler for engine
  • Headlights
  • Carpet & comfortable chairs
  • Porthole windows
Papa worked very hard on each of his machines.  Each Whitefish is called a PROTOTYPE.  He learned something each time his prototype failed.  Consider the problems he had with each Whitefish and how he changed his machine until he came up with the BEST solution.  When you consider many ideas, test them, redesign the idea, it is called ITERATION.  Think about the iteration Papa did while making a submarine that could take his whole family into Lake Michigan to watch the fish in this chart.  That's a LOT of thinking, but it paid off in the end.
Mechanical Fish graphic organizer.JPG
Task 2: What is a SKETCH & PROTOTYPE?
Now it is your turn to try to design a solution for a user.  But where to start?
Once you use you understand the user's problem you can SKETCH the solutions you are considering.

What is a SKETCH?

A sketch shows what your brain is thinking.  A sketch can be . . .
  • Messy 
  • Parts labeled (misspelled words are okay!)
  • Shows other people in the group what your solution might look like
Robot clean your room.jpg
Robot designed to help clean room
Rubber band car.jfif
Rubber Band Car with parts labeled
Once you have considered many ideas for your solution, you can make your first PROTOTYPE.
What is a PROTOTYPE?
Design Squad video for prototypes.JPG
  • Why did the students make 2 or 3 different prototypes as they worked on their solution?
  • What did they learn after each prototype?  Prototypes should look like your sketch.
  • Help you explain your idea to others
  • Test your idea to see if it works
  • Get feedback from your user - What do they like?  What do they not like?
  • Allows ITERATION:  Gives you the opportunity to make your prototype better with each one you make!  
  • It is okay if the first ones are messy.  Remember to Fail Fast in order to get to your final prototype.
  • Your final prototype should be neat, but it does not have to actually work.  It is important that it gives the user an idea of how it would work.
Task 3: Time to Practice
Design Thinking Challenge
  1. Find your "elbow partner" who is the USER
  2. Have him or her select one item from the chart below that he or she NEEDS or WANTS
  3. Interview your USER about what they would really like to have in their new device.
  4. SKETCH your idea
  5. Use the materials provided to you from your teacher and create a PROTOTYPE that matches your sketch.
  6. Ask your USER what he or she thinks about your invention.  What does she like?  What does she not like?  How could you make it better?
Design thinking graph challenge.JPG
Click to download or enlarge
Design Thinking Graphic Organizer.JPG
Your turn!
Design thinking graphic organizer 2.JPG
new squirrel.JPG
Are you ready to sketch your idea for your solution?
Are you ready to create your first prototype?
Add information to your digital slides or logbook to record the progress you made today on your invention.
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