Are paper airplanes a nuisance in your classroom? They don't have to be! Those distractions can be a constructive learning opportunity: use them to teach your students about the engineering design process. In this fun lesson, you will be the "customer" ordering a paper airplane, and your student teams will be engineering companies that will manufacture planes. Before they start making planes, they need to define the criteria and constraints of this engineering problem.

NGSS Alignment

   This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:

  • 3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

This project lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account. Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World. Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits, decrease known risks, and meet societal demands.