Michael P. Smith
The fine print
Design prompt from Microsoft Education
Develop a hands-on lesson plan that aligns with the NGSS Science Standards for 3rd to 6th graders.
- Gather evidence and support for the implementation of a market ready product
- Seek feedback from all stakeholders (teachers, parents, students, Microsoft partner
- Convince Microsoft partner that the product proposal meets business goals
Defining the product direction
Imparts important lessons that aligns with scientific standards
Cheap, affordable, and easily assembled in a classroom
Not an ephemeral experience - affords experimentation
Ideation and downselection
Eliciting feedback from stakeholders
Stakeholder - Students
Stakeholder - TeachersSimultaneously we produced a video prototype with a shifted focus. We wanted to elicit feedback on the educational component of the activity and lesson design.
Aligning stakeholder feedback
In fourth grade we do an energy unit and this could perfectly tie into the unit, and actually work better than some of our existing science experiments... I would totally purchase this kit for our energy unit next year if you created it.
However, our partner from Microsoft strongly advised us to pursue either the turbine or the speaker, because he feared that the trebuchet activity would descend into chaos and detract from the educational value.
What we tested
What we learnedOur participants thoroughly enjoyed the activity, and the parents thought the experiment was both educational and fun.
- Adding and removing weights was time consuming but exciting
- The participants didn't find the digital visualization to be valuable
- The paper worksheet was redundant and ignored by all our participants
What we changedFor the next iteration of the prototype we would like to make the following changes,
- Change the weight holder to a bucket shaped design
- Provide visual assembly and operation instructions
- Digitize the tracking of trial data and variables and remove the paper worksheet
Validation in a real classroom
What we tested
What we learned
I would buy this for one trillion dollars!!
During the post-activity discussion, we conducted a quiz. The students demonstrated very clear understanding of the relationship between kinetic and stored energy. The overall experience was fantastic, and we received some very valuable insights.
- Students were able to assemble the trebuchet in much less time than we expected.
- The activity was a perfect fit for the 4th grade curriculum, as the students learned about stored & kinetic energy in class just 1 month prior.
- The pouch design was difficult to operate, resulting in frequent launch failures.
Richard usually struggles a bit with school subjects and isn't as engaged as the other kids. But he loves building, and it was nice to see him really brighten up today..
What we changed
- We decided to revert back to the cup design for launching projectiles due to operation difficulties.
- We need to include specific challenges and goals so the experimentation is more guided.
- The digital interface should allow the students to tweak and track the effect of different variables across trials.