Problem Solved!: Design Solutions

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 17, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One to two fifty-minute class periods


Problem solving is an essential component of the design process. In this lesson, students will learn about charrettes, which are creative problem solving processes used by design professionals. They will also view a video that highlights a problem solving design exercise that asks students to create a safe method of transport for an egg. As a final activity, students will explore Cooper-Hewitt's People’s Design Award Web site, which gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs, as they investigate the role of problem solving in the world of design.

National Standards


Students will:
  • conduct Internet research on charrettes
  • create a class presentation
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups
  • investigate problem-solving design solutions


  • “Design Problem Solved!” handout
  • internet


  •   Computer with Internet access


Building Background Activities
Activity One: Exploring Charrettes
The purpose of this activity is to introduce the role of problem solving in the world of design. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Ask each group to take notes on charrettes using the following resources:

2. Ask each group to share its findings with the class in a brief presentation.

3. Ask the students if they know of any other disciplines that use a method similar to a charrette for problem solving.
Steps for Learning
Activity One: Introducing Design in Action
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to learn about the varied components of the design process. 1. As a class, watch the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum's video entitled “Scrambled or Over Easy?” at The video describes a group problem solving exercise to design a safe mode of transport for an egg using a piece of drawing paper and a rubber band. After viewing the video, ask your students to brainstorm answers to the following questions:
  • Why do you think this project was created?
  • What can you learn about design from this project?
  • How would you solve this design problem?
  • What do you think students learned from participating in this project?
  • What constitutes good design?
  • What role does problem solving play in design?
2. Divide the class into small groups. Give the students a copy of the “Design Problem Solved!” handout (attached). 3. Ask each group to present its choice of objects to the entire class.
4. Lead a class discussion comparing the different examples the groups selected, and how problem solving is integral to the design process.


Ask your students to respond in writing to the following question:
  • How is problem solving an essential component of the design process?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Design for Kids
Ask your students to explore the Australian Children’s Television Web site at, which focuses on design and problem solving for children ages 8-12. Have the students write a brief paragraph describing the connection between the design process and the Web site activities.
  1. I remember doing something similar to this project. The goal was to create a contraption to protect the egg that was dropped approximately 30-40 feet above ground. That was fun! I like your project lesson due to its relevance and intentionality. I encourage you to carry out the design process in its entirety for transporting an egg.

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