Challenges Archives

Winter 2018 Challenge: Shiloh

Summary of book

 This is the story of an eleven-year-old boy, Marty, who finds a stray beagle, Shiloh, in the West Virginia hills near his house. Marty learns that Shiloh belongs to a local man named Judd Travers who abuses his hunting dogs. Marty does not want to return Shiloh to Judd Travers, so he tries to conceal him and care for him in the woods near his home. After a German shepherd attacks Shiloh, Marty’s family discovers Shiloh and makes Marty return him to Judd. Marty then arranges to work for Judd Travers in exchange for Shiloh.

Sampling of problems from previous students

  • Shiloh is not safe in the pen Marty has built for him in the woods
  • Marty wants to keep Shiloh’s pen in the woods a secret
  • Marty has to do difficult manual labor for Judd

Sample solutions designed by students

  • Small scale models of dog pens to protect Shiloh and keep him secret
  • Simple machines for Marty to build a dog pen or to do hard work for Judd

Winter 2018 Challenge: The Relatives Came

Summary of book

 Summertime came and so did the relatives from Virginia. They packed up their car and drove all day and night to visit with family. When the relatives came, the house was bursting at the seams! They ate in shifts, and when bedtime came there were people sleeping everywhere—squeezed into beds and spread out all over the floor! The relatives stayed for weeks and weeks, and after helping tend the garden and fix broken things, they packed up their  car and headed back to Virginia.

Sampling of problems from previous students

  • There aren’t enough beds for everyone to sleep on
  • There isn’t enough room for everyone to eat together
  • Cookies fall off of the table
  • Suitcases fall off

Sample solutions designed by students

  • Bunk beds to fit more relatives
  • Large table to fit all of the relatives

Challenge winners

 

Fall 2017 Challenge: Poppy

Summary of book

 Poppy and her family were living happily in their home, protected by the great owl, Mr. Ocax. One day, Poppy disobeys Mr. Ocax’s orders and ventures into the forest to protect her family. Her dangerous journey takes her across a creek and through the forest, which she must do without being spotted by Mr. Ocax and the other animals. Throughout the book, Poppy faces obstacles that students can solve through engineering, while keeping in mind the constraints she and the characters might have. For this Novel Engineering book, students may want to create a structure to protect Poppy and other mice from Mr. Ocax, one to help her cross the creek, or even a device to help Mr. Ocax catch Poppy.

Sampling of problems from previous students

  • Poppy needs protection
  • Poppy needs help crossing Glitter Creek
  • An efficient way to get the salt for Ereth
  • Mr. Ocax can’t catch Poppy

Sample solutions designed by students

  • A house to protect the mice from Mr. Ocax
  • A raft to help Poppy cross the creek
  • A trap to help Mr. Ocax catch Poppy

Challenge winners

Fall 2017 Challenge: Weslandia

Summary of book

Wesley is very different from other boys his age. He refuses to conform to their fashions and interests, which leaves him bullied and with no friends. Building on what he’s learned at school, Wesley decides to build his own food crop and found a civilization over summer break. The wind blows seeds into Wesley’s garden which grow into enormous plants like he’s never seen before. Wesley names these plants “swists.” He uses their parts to create food, clothing, shelter, sports, and his own civilization: Weslandia. At first, Wesley’s former tormenters are scornful, but Wesley allows them into his civilization and by the end of the summer they become friends.

Sampling of problems from previous students

  • Wesley needs to take care of his swist plants by watering and harvesting them
  • Wesley needs a way to easily travel up to, down from, and between platforms he has made up in his swist trees
  • Wesley needs a shelter that protects him from rain and poor weather

Sample solutions designed by students

  • A zip line to transport Wesley around Weslandia
  • A rain-proof shelter to protect Wesley in bad weather
  • Portable stairs to help Wesley harvest the swist fruit
  • An irrigation system that allows Wesley to easily water his crops

Challenge winners

Summer 2017 Challenge, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Summary of book

Nine-year-old Peter Hatcher would have a perfect life if it weren’t for his two-year-old brother, Fudge. Fudge gets into everything, throws tantrums all the time, and never gets in trouble for anything. During Peter’s months in the fourth grade, Fudge’s antics continue: breaking his front teeth after falling off the jungle gym at the local playground when he tries to fly, vandalizing Peter’s group school assignment, disappearing on his family at a movie theater, and swallowing Peter’s beloved pet turtle.

Sampling of problems from previous students

  • Fudge is able to get out of his crib
  • Fudge breaks his front teeth after jumping from the jungle gym at the local playground
  • Fudge runs off from the family when they are sitting in the movie theater
  • Fudge swallows Dribble, Peter’s beloved pet turtle
  • Fudge gets into all of Peter’s things, even when his parents put a chain on Peter’s door.

Sample solutions designed by students

  • Pulley system to raise a cage so Fudge cannot get the turtle
  • Containers with special locks to protect Peter’s stuff
  • Lock system for his door that allows Peter and his parents to enter room, but prevents 
Fudge from entering
  • Alarm system to alert Peter if Fudge is entering his room
  • Toy feeder to distract Fudge and keep him in his crib

Spring 2017 Challenge: Muncha Muncha Muncha

Summary of book

After lots of work planting and hoeing, Mr. McGreely is excited to eat the vegetables from his garden, but one morning discovers that his tender crops have been gnawed on by something. Suspecting bunnies, he builds a small wire fence to keep out the thieves, but the rabbits simply hop over his fence the next night and help themselves. Mr. McGreely gets angrier and angrier as one deterrent after another fails to keep his garden safe. For this Novel Engineering book, students may want to help Mr. McGreely prevent his crops from being eaten by the bunnies, or alternatively, students may want to help the bunnies get into the garden. This text offers a rich context, character personalities, and choices that offer legitimate constraints for students to consider when designing solutions to the problems. The problems and the imbedded constraints also offer testing situations and parameters.

Sampling of problems from previous students

  • The bunnies can hop over a low fence
  • The bunnies can dig under a tall, wooden wall
  • The bunnies can swim across a deep, wet trench
  • The bunnies want the vegetables
  • The bunnies have a difficult time getting past some of the obstacles

Sample solutions designed by students

  • A catapult to get the bunnies over a fence
  • A pulley system to move the bunnies and the vegetables over obstacles
  • An alarm system to let Mr. McGreely know when the bunnies are around
  • A drill that makes holes in the fence

Challenge Winners

  

Bunny Catapults from Hesston Elementary, KS and Robot Bunny Guide from Lynch Elementary, MA!