The SAM Blog

Design Challenge for 5th Graders Sees Success on Many Levels

Design Challenge for 5th Graders Sees Success on Many Levels

“This project got them excited in a way they hadn’t before!” Rob van Nood shared about his latest challenge. As a push-in teacher using a cart for his supplies, Rob only gets about 45 minutes per week with each grade level. However, With a little planning, and support from the SAM Labs STEAM and Maker Solutions, Rob was able to carve out enough time to help his students shine!

It all started with an email to Emily Deffenbaugh, SAM Labs Product Owner, asking if SAM Labs would consider being a part of his final project for the school year with 5th graders. 

She quickly agreed and the challenge was presented to students during a short video from Emily. Students were asked to design and build a product prototype using SAM Labs blocks and 3D printed parts. It was completed over a 7-week period with students spending 45 minutes each week on their projects. The accountability and authentic nature of this SAM Labs challenge, got students excited about the process of making.

During week 2, after brainstorming for just 10 minutes in carefully calibrated teams, a product idea was agreed upon and sketching and designing began. Creative ideas like a color changing flashlight were born.

Listen to students explain their flashlight idea.

Over the next week, models were made using paper or clay to see how dimensions and measurements down to the millimeter would work with SAM Labs blocks in the STEAM Solution.

By week 4, it was time to design the 3D models. Students completed tutorials in Tinkercad and started designing and building. Each team member was required to have some experience exploring and creating in the program. After 3D printing, students reviewed and measured their product with calipers to adjust design as needed. Rob noticed, “Once they saw their products printing, even the least motivated students were engaged!”

The next class period was spent coding the SAM Labs blocks using flow-based coding in SAM Studio to make the prototype come to life. Students used SAM blocks like the tilt sensor block in innovative ways, to create step counters and more.

Listen to a student explain the code behind their step-counting watch.

Then, came testing the code, creating product packaging, and practicing the presentation were completed over the final weeks.

When the 8th week finally came along, students were eager to present to the SAM Labs team, including the founder and CEO, Joachim Horn. The SAM Labs team was blown away by the creative prototypes. Everything from a watch with a heat sensor to a remote car controller, and  color changing flashlights to a disco box for partying anywhere were presented.

Listen to students describe the purpose behind their heat sensor watch.

Through trial and error and teamwork, each team was successful. In addition to the student academic growth, this challenge was an authentic opportunity for students to tinker, design and build.  It also pulled in some students who had previously not felt as motivated or engaged.  “When kids started to see their ideas come to life on the 3D printer and knew they had to present to a group of professionals their interest and motivation completely changed,” stated Rob proudly. 

Rob’s patience, planning, and trust in the process allowed for an amazing end of the year challenge in 5th grade at Catlin Gabel School, and SAM Labs was glad to be a part of it.

Have a look below to see some of the final prototypes created!