An Overlooked Problem Meets a Solution

By Anthony Truss, August 2, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Technology

Lesson Time

A semester, or about thirty forty-minute class periods


This unit is designed to fit into 7th Grade "Engineering, Innovation, & Manufacturing" curriculum. ________________________________________ This unit will address the following topics/issues: • Group working skills (Social Development) • The engineering process • Concept of innovation • Elements of design • Awareness of the manufacturing realm and its impacts (positive and negative) • Product awareness (Where do the things I buy come from?) • Material processing • The manufacturing process, and its various elements

National Standards

Standard 3. Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections between technology and other fields of study Standard 4. Students will develop an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology Standard 8. Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design Standard 9. Students will develop an understanding of engineering design Standard 10. Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving Standard 11. Students will develop the abilities to apply the design process Standard 12. Students will develop the abilities to use and maintain technological products, and systems Standard 13. Students will develop the abilities to assess the impacts of products and systems Standard 19. Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use manufacturing technologies

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Text Types and Purposes:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.A Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.C Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.A Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.B Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.C Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.D Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.E Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.F Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

English Language Arts Standards: Reading Informational Text

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. 

English Language Arts Standards: Science & Technical Subjects 

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.5 Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.6 Analyze the author's purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


Students will: • cooperatively work in groups to complete specific tasks and assignments • define the term engineering • define the term innovation • understand and use concepts and elements of design • define the term manufacturing • understand and explain the positive and negative impacts manufacturing has on a national and global level • understand and explain why products are manufactured in various locations • safely process various materials and understand their fundamental properties • have a positive impact on their selected problem, and successfully provide a plausible solution


• Computer with Internet access (research purposes) • White-board or Chalk-board • Manufacturing equipment (Tools to cut, form, separate) • Budget ($$) (for material purchasing) • LCD projector (if possible, for idea sharing) • Digital Camera (for problem identification)


Materials needed for this unit will vary each and every time the unit is delivered. The goal is for students to identify a need in the school, community, or any other location; and to come up with a reasonable method for solving that problem. This unit is geared towards "Engineering, Design, and Manufacturing" so a solution would need to be something that could be manufactured by the students with the available lab resources.
Materials necessary for the solution can be purchased once the students figure out what the solution is.


Innovation Invention Manufacturing Manufacturing Cell Process Procedure Assembly Solution Engineering Design C.A.D (Computer Assisted Design, Computer Assisted Drafting, Computer Assisted Drawing) Kanban Manufacturing Model J.I.T (Just In Time) Manufacturing Model Prototype Safety Fixtures


Set-Up • Set up the classroom to promote classroom discussion with a chalkboard or something to write ideas on in the center. • There must be space for manufacturing the solution. • Basic manufacturing equipment is needed. Teacher Presentation and motivation • Have an LCD projector and screen with a computer that has Internet access hooked up for presentation purposes; this will allow you to use the Internet and other multi-media sources to explain the situation, challenge, and purpose of the unit. • Present problems and then solutions to common everyday things the students have prior experience with, for example: The need for transportation was met with the solution of the locomotive; The need for water was met with water filtration and plumbing systems. Explain to the students what they will be doing for the entire unit, and how they will be solving a problem they have identified by manufacturing a solution in class. (Motivation)
Step-By-Step Process • Present and demonstrate the connection between problems, and manufactured solutions throughout history, followed by a possible enrichment assignment as homework. • Present methods for identifying problems, following a small assignment of your choice for identifying problems. • Give students the task of finding real problems in the community, school, or possibly even on a larger scale. • Have students present problems they found to the class. Brainstorm other problems aloud as a class. • Discuss possible solutions for the problems discussed, and eliminate problems that cannot be addressed through manufacturing (as this is a manufacturing themed unit). • Choose a solution (not a design) for a problem that is within your ability, and school's resources. • Begin to discuss "design", "innovation", "design process", "engineering process." • Instruct students to research the problem. They cannot begin working on the solution until they understand the problem and who/what it affects. Each student should interview at least two people affected by the problem for homework. • Have students present their research findings to the class. • Design the solution. • Brainstorm, critique, possibly combine, and choose a design • Discuss the materials, tools, time, and other resources needed to manufacture your chosen solution and start to tie in manufacturing concepts and terminology (ask students to keep a terms list for new defined terms so they can refer back to it when needed) • Order materials using students as helpers, and have some order materials with you; this will empower the students, and make them feel that this is no ordinary lesson • Plan arrival times of materials with students, and estimate time needed for particular steps within the manufacturing process • Address safety issues with individual processes, and demonstrate processes prior to student use. • Quiz students on safety procedures and processes prior to student lab work • Generate a "Prototype" • Test the prototype, and tie in "Input, Process, Output, and Feedback" The Universal Systems Model • Create fixtures for the manufacturing process if needed • Manufacture the product • Deliver the product • Examine the product’s effectiveness • Discuss any need for improvements • Review the whole process and collectively generate a presentation of the efforts and outcome


Throughout this whole assignment / unit careful observation of each student is crucial. In 7th grade, besides curriculum goals you are looking for: • Social development • How students overcome hardships with group work • Social interaction • Role assumption • Classroom dynamics Through observation of the goals above, each student will participate in this unit through their assigned roles, which will be measured by amount of contribution and effort. A basic rubric could be presented and handed out prior to starting the lesson to ensure that all students understand what is expected of them. Because of the vast amount of skills needed for this unit, each student will use their strengths to contribute; differentiated instruction will be present for any student who has difficulty with their given task. Differentiation of assignments for individual students of need must be transparent as possible to eliminate any peer issues common in 7th grade.
At the end of the unit, the class collectively generates a presentation of efforts, which each student will contribute to and receive a grade for.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Throughout the unit enrichment activities are endless: • Digital photography of the design process with a packaged report • Further research in manufacturing methods • Further research in design, innovation, and invention • Additional sketches using CAD and 3-D modeling software • Additional research and case study on the use of the manufactured solution within the area of need, and find what impact it has had in that area

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