Eighth-grade Technology Class students at Somers Middle School were challenged to design, build, and test a vehicle that could travel a length of rope across the room like a ski lift.
“We had six ideas on paper, and we just combined them,” said Isabella Collins.
Every ski lift design must accomplish multiple goals: carry a passenger, including a realistic seatbelt, have propulsion, be easily clipped on and off the line, and make it to the top of the ski lift in the fastest time possible for their design. The whole process means students may have to redesign and problem-solve new possibilities with their group multiple times before getting a design that works.
“This is my first design. I haven’t tested it yet, but I like the way it came out,” said Vivian Hernandez, who is working independently on her vehicle.
After designing a vehicle that works, the students must reflect on their model to determine if it can be made to run faster, whether that’s by using lighter materials for construction or a different form of propulsion. Propulsion could be by battery, balloon, magnets, pullies, motor, or rubber bands.
“We tried balloons first, but it didn’t work. Then we tried the propeller,” said Isabella. “Now we’re trying to make it lighter with Styrofoam,” added her partner, Natalie Snyder, referring to the vehicle that they’ve successfully powered by a motor.
The challenge is designed to utilize the learner profile by encouraging students to think critically, take risks, reflect on their successes and failures, and communicate effectively with their peers.