Under the Lights: Wearable Device Designer - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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Aidan Mullaney
Aidan Mullaney
Aidan Mullaney is the Instructional Manager for the GE/Celtics Brilliant Play Lab. His primary role with the Fab Foundation is developing and delivering curriculum for the middle school mobile lab. Aidan facilitates career-related activities with a focus on STEM in… Read More


Students are introduced to the Engineering Design Process through a rapid prototyping activity. Each step of the EDP will be addressed while creating a prototype device using craft materials. This lesson will prepare students for future curriculum in the BCP Collection, with Essential Skills integration. This lesson is structured in the 5E Instructional Model.

NOTE: Digital fabrication tools are not used in this lesson. This lesson serves as an introduction for future use of digital fabrication tools.

What You'll Need

Flashlight Materials (1 set per group)

  • LED bulb (3mm)
  • Button Battery (3V)
  • Copper Tape (¼” thick)

Additional Materials

  • Masking Tape/Aluminum Foil (x1 sq. ft.)
  • Tongue Depressor (x1) or Popsicle Sticks (x2)
  • Binder Clips (x1)
  • Pipe cleaners/String (x2)
  • Straws (x2)
  • Rubber bands (x1)
  • Popsicle sticks (x2)
  • Cardboard/Notecard (x1)
  • Any additional craft materials of your choice

Computers (Internet)

The Instructions

Establish the Activity

Introduce students to the Engineering Design Process and Essential Skills

Instructors will begin the lesson by presenting a problem.

Students will work in groups of 2-3. The class as a whole will find several solutions to the problem.

Before using any digital fabrication tools, start with an engineering design process activity.

Discuss key points of the engineering design process:

  • (Empathize) Identify, Research, Develop Solutions, Select Solution, Prototype, Test, Communicate, Redesign.

Discuss Essential Skills that might be used throughout this process:

  • Teamwork, Perseverance, Agility, Goal Setting… Leadership

Problem: Basketball, or any activity outdoors, is more difficult to play at night under limited visibility.

Challenge: Create a wearable, light-up device that allows you or an individual to participate in this activity at night. Devices can focus on visibility, safety, or style.



Generate interest in the activity by allowing students to generate the problem they want to solve.

Identify (5 minutes)

Identify the problem together, as a group:

  • “What is the activity intended for this item?”
  • “Where on your body would you wear this device?
  • “How would you interact with this device?”

At the end of this step, hand out the Flashlight Materials. Additional Materials can be displayed buffet style at the front of the room or in the center of student tables for later in the activity.


Ask probing questions about the materials and previous solutions to the problem to direct student investigations.

Research (5-10 minutes)

Look through your Flashlight Materials. Ask students “What materials do you have at your disposal? How can you use these materials? Why might these be helpful in solving our problem?”


Guide students through planning and explaining their proposed solutions individually and as a group.

Ensure students have an understanding of how a simple circuit operates.

Show students an instructor-created example device made out of the same materials. Allow students to research its strengths/weaknesses and create a list of these qualities.


Develop Solutions (5 – 10 minutes)

With the materials from your Flashlight Kit and available Additional Materials in mind, have students sketch or diagram multiple ideas that could solve the problem their group identified. Students will have 5-10 minutes to draw these designs. They do not need to include all available materials in their design. Students may use partners, peers, or the internet as a resource to brainstorm their sketches.

  • For groups struggling to think of a device, instructors may suggest a simple flashlight design. However, it’s important to note this is not the only possible problem.
  • At this step of the process, instructors can look for evidence of student’s understanding of simply circuitry.


Select Solutions (2 minutes)

Allow students to discuss the designs they sketched with their group members. Groups should decide which model you want to begin to prototype, or combine models, and continue with one design in mind.



Allow students to apply their plans to create their prototype devices.

Prototype (10 minutes)

Using Flashlight Materials provided, students have 10 minutes to construct the selected device that will solve their problem.

Give students access to the Additional Materials at this time.



Students will assess their own learning and group process skills by asking open-ended questions about their prototype devices.

Test (3 minutes)

Direct students to try on the device themselves or with a group member and analyze the following:

  • What are the strengths/weaknesses of the design?
  • Is it easily removed?
  • Is it comfortable?
  • How long can it be used without adjustment?


Communicate (5 minutes)

Tell students to find another group and swap creations.

In groups, students should ask the following questions about the other’s creation:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder? Why?


  • What problem was the other group trying to solve?


(Additional questions you may ask if time permits:)

  • How did they use the materials to solve the problem? Did they use them in surprising or unexpected ways?
  • Why do you think it might work? Why might it not work? How can you tell?
  • How does their design inspire you? Using their design as a starting point, how could you make their design more effective at solving the problem?


  • Get together with the other group(s). Allow each group to share their identification of the original problem and the “what” their device was attempting to solve.


Redesign (5 – 10 minutes)

Students have 5 minutes to make their construction more effective.

  • DO build on the solution they came up with to the problem that they identified.
  • DO NOT simply add your solution to their construction.

After 5 minutes:

  • How did you build on what already existed?
  • Did your modification work to solve their problem?
  • What problems did you encounter throughout this Design Process?


Students should return to the original construction. As a group, they can discuss:

  • How did the other group build on your design? What do you see / notice / wonder?
  • How does their modification increase the effectiveness of your solution?
  • What surprises you about what the other team added to your construction? What can you learn from their addition?
  • If you were to try and build a new solution to the problem, what did you learn here that would help make your next solution even better?

Allow students to thank the other group for their contribution to solving the problem they identified!



  • (MS-ETS1-1): Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • (MS-ETS1-2): Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • (MS-ETS1-4): Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
  • (Fab-Safety.1): I can safely conduct myself in a Fab Lab and observe operations under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.

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  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
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