Innovating with Form and Function

Format
Let's Talk Science

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Students use their understanding of form and function to design an innovative object or device.

Summary

  • Students will recognize that the form of an object or structure is determined by its function
  • Students will identify problems or needs in their schools and homes
  • Students will use innovative thinking and collaborative skills to design and build an innovative object or device that could solve a problem in their school or home
Specific Expectations for Ontario

Grade 7 Science, Understanding Structures and Mechanisms, Form and Function

1.1 evaluate the importance for individuals, society, the economy, and the environment of factors that should be considered in designing and building structures and devices to meet specific needs

2.4 use technological problem-solving skills and knowledge acquired from previous investigations, to design and build a strong and stable structure that serves a purpose

Setting the Stage

Innovations and inventions occur when individuals recognize a problem and then design and develop a solution to address it. Innovators identify the function that they want their creation to serve and then make decisions about its form, including the size, shape, and materials they will use. Recognizing that familiar objects and structures that surround them were all developed in this way, often through years of collaboration, empowers students. Students develop an understanding of how their values and strengths can help them be innovators and realize that they have the ability to address large and small issues in their communities. By gaining experience through creating innovative solutions that consider function and form may inspire students to pursue a career that involves design and creation. 

In this lesson, students consider how function determines form in many common structures and objects. Next, students identify needs in their school and homes and design innovative objects or devices that address these needs. Students reflect on the form and function of their creations throughout the design process. Finally, students share their innovative creations with their classmates.

This is lesson 2 of 3 in a set that can be used sequentially or as standalone lessons. The suggested sequence for completing these lessons is:

  1. Noticing Form and Function in Our Lives
  2. Innovating with Form and Function
  3. Careers with Form and Function

Materials & Preparation

  • Innovation Plan Reproducible (1 per student) [Google doc] [PDF] - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • Optional: Materials students could use to build their objects or devices. These will depend on availability and students’ designs but may include materials like cardboard boxes, tape, scissors, or markers.

What To Do

Part 1: Introduction 

  • Teachers could begin by asking students to imagine that they are getting ready for school in the morning. Teachers could ask students to create a list of all of the objects and devices that they use to get ready for a day. Teachers could have students share some of their ideas and record them in one column of a T-chart. Student suggestions might include objects such as a toothbrush, shower, car, bus, bike, bed, spoon, or a door. 
  • Once students have created a list, teachers could ask them to identify the specific function that each of these objects or structures serves. Teachers could record these functions in the other column of the T-chart. For example, a toothbrush helps you clean your teeth. 
Siblings brushing their teeth
Siblings brushing teeth (Source: DGLimages via iStockphoto).
  • Teachers could point out that all of the objects and structures students listed were invented by someone. Because we use them so regularly, we often forget that they were created by people. Teachers could invite students to imagine their morning routine without some of these inventions. Teachers could tell students that they could be a part of creating or innovating an object or structure that becomes a central part of people’s daily lives. 
Design sketches for a razor
Design ideas for an electric razor (Source: kurtcan via iStockphoto). 

Optional: If students already have a strong understanding of the relationship between form and function (from completing the Let’s Talk Science Noticing Form and Function Lesson or another activity), this can be skipped. If not, teachers could add a “form” column to their T-chart and ask students to describe the form of each listed object. This may include describing the object’s shape or size, and the material it’s made of. Teachers could then ask students how each object’s form helps it serve its function. 

Part 2: Design and Build an Innovative Object or Device

  • Teachers could tell students that they will be creating an innovative object or device using what they’ve learned about form and function. First, students will figure out what function they want their object or device to serve. Next, they will think about the type of form this object or device needs to have to serve this function. 
  • Teachers could give students some of the following examples of innovative objects and devices and discuss the problems they might solve. 
    • A candy shoot that safely gives Halloween candy during a pandemic
    • An automated dog bowl that releases food at a certain time every day
    • A waste disposal solution for a school cafeteria
pet food and water station
Self-feeding pet water and food station (Source: DipakShelare via iStockphoto).
  • Students could follow the Design & Build process to create their objects or devices either individually or in small groups. Students could generate a list of problems or needs they’ve noticed in their school or home either as a class or in small groups. Students might consider issues such as accessibility, climate change, public health, or many more. Students could then choose one of the problems that could be addressed by creating an object or device. 
    • Note: If students will be completing this task collaboratively, groups could be formed based on shared interest in solving a specific problem or creating a specific type of innovation.
  • Students could design their object or device by answering the questions on the Innovation Plan reproducible either individually or in groups. 
  • If sufficient time is available, students could proceed to construct a prototype solution and share with the class. If the time is not available for a complete design and build, teachers could have students pitch their initial designs to their classmates through short presentations or videos.
     

Details

Assessment

  • Teachers could assess students’ collaboration and problem solving skills by observing them designing their objects or devices. 
  • Teachers could assess students’ ability to communicate their ideas from their responses to the Innovation Plan reproducible and their pitches to their classmates. 
  • Teachers could engage students in self-assessment by having them complete sentences like “I know that I can help make changes because…”

Assessment

  • Teachers could assess students’ collaboration and problem solving skills by observing them designing their objects or devices. 
  • Teachers could assess students’ ability to communicate their ideas from their responses to the Innovation Plan reproducible and their pitches to their classmates. 
  • Teachers could engage students in self-assessment by having them complete sentences like “I know that I can help make changes because…”

Extensions

Teachers can use this lesson to introduce students to the concepts of form and function. 

Teachers can use this lesson to introduce students to careers that involve form and function. 

Teachers can use this resource to learn more about how to support students in identifying problems that they may want to solve through innovation.

Teachers can use this resource to learn more about how to support students in generating ideas in the design process. 

Teachers can use this resource to learn more about how to support students as they design and test their innovations. 

Extensions

Teachers can use this lesson to introduce students to the concepts of form and function. 

Teachers can use this lesson to introduce students to careers that involve form and function. 

Teachers can use this resource to learn more about how to support students in identifying problems that they may want to solve through innovation.

Teachers can use this resource to learn more about how to support students in generating ideas in the design process. 

Teachers can use this resource to learn more about how to support students as they design and test their innovations. 

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