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Design Challenge: Design Thinking Edition

Design Thinking is a framework for ingenuity. Use this design process to solve a problem in your classroom or your community.

Introduce Challenge

Challenge: Create a solution (i.e. build a prototype) to solve an actual problem. The problem you'd like to address might be one from your classroom or something in your community. Want to see examples of solutions from other teachers and students? Keep reading!

Required Sketch of Your Idea: Before you start building you must sketch your idea out on paper and discuss it with your team. You are more likely to have success when you invest wisely in the planning phase.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is an approach to addressing challenges in a thoughtful and fun way, where you get to apply the 4Cs -- collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication –- to your own work as you develop new solutions for your classroom, school, and community.

If you are new to design thinking, check out this video and read this short article from Edutopia.org.

Projects Built by Teachers

Check out some amazing project examples from teachers just like you!

Anti-Water Waster - In our house is an alleged water waster who leaves the faucet running for excessive amounts of time. This Anti-Water Waster is designed to be a gentle reminder to said water wasting individual. CLICK HERE to view the Instructables of this project including video of this invention in action.

Cardboard book made interactive w Makey Makey

Interactive book - Designed and built by two middle school technology teachers. While flipping through the book you can touch certain points on the page to hear a sound that enhances the story.

Cardboard clock

Interactive clock designed by three elementary school teachers to help young students learn how to tell time in increments of 5 minutes. For example, when you push on the "1" you'll hear "5 minutes after". When you push on the "2" you'll hear "10 minutes after".

Constellation teaching tool - Built by one person who works as a museum educator. Use the stylus to touch "stars" on the piece of paper to learn if they are part of a particular constellation. If that star is part of a constellation then the recording will identify the constellation.

Below is the back of the constellation teacher. Each constellation hole on the front of the prototype relates to a particular piece of aluminum foil on the back.

foil and paper with alligator clips

Special Populations Communication Aid - Designed and built by one person who works as a museum educator. This workshop participant works at the Orlando Science Museum where once a week the museum invites children in the community with special needs to visit. This tool is designed to help children who are nonverbal communicate their needs with greater ease.

Photo Booth Requiring Teamwork - Designed and built by one person for a school fundraising event. Each person holds the conductive aluminum tape on the sides of picture frame and then they hold hands which activates the Mac Book's photo taking app. This workshop participant was planning to decorate the picture frame with school colors and other branding.

cardboard frame held by a man and a woman

Coin Counter - Counting money is a very important practical math skill that we use in our daily life. Learn on how to program and build a coin counter using Makey-Makey and Scratch. CLICK HERE to read the Instructables which includes video of this project in action. NOTE: This invention was created by a teacher working at home by herself during the online Makey Makey Invention Literacy Workshop.

Cardboard coin counter with foil and computer

Sociable Syllables Activity Pad - created as an Assistive Technology teaching tool for Hard of Hearing students. CLICK HERE to read the Instructables and view video of this project in action. NOTE: This invention was created by a teacher working at home by herself during the online Makey Makey Invention Literacy Workshop.

poster with paragraphs and images hooked to alligator clips

Tree Cross Section Teaching Tool - Designed and built by one person who works as a museum educator. This teaching tool shows the cross section of a tree and when you touch various areas on the cardboard you'll hear various types of audio recordings including questions, science facts, areas of further inquiry, and more.

Whack-a-Mole (Banana) Game - Designed and built by two high school teachers. One person focused on writing all the code (in Scratch) while the other person built the actual device.

Running Race Game - Designed and built by three teachers. One teacher focused on writing the code for the game (using Scratch) and the other two focused on building the game playing devices. This game required two players who competed with each other. As they ran on the game pads the "Sprite" (small figure in Scratch) floated to the top of the screen. The person who ran the fastest for the longest period of time caused their Sprite to float to the top faster (and win).

paper pencil and computer on a messy desk

Learn to hold a pencil properly - Designed and built by three teaches in Lansing MI. One of the teachers works with Pre-K and Kindergarten students and she needed a device that would help students learn to hold a pencil properly. The teachers found a short piece of PVC pipe and then added conductive tape in such a way that you're able to play notes on a digital piano when the pipe (used in place of a pencil) is held correctly. If you hold the pipe incorrectly then fewer notes are played. Programming not required for this project.


Kindergarteners are learning to read, so this librarian created a word matching game based on a favorite book and created an Interactive Word Wall so children could touch the word to hear if they were matching the right word to the correct image.






More Resources

Check out this post for more Inspirational STEAM Resources and Projects!

 Coloful cardboard tubes with Googly Eyes


Time Investment


  • Makey Makey
  • Makerspace Supplies


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